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Chasing a Camaro Legend, One Bolt-On at a Time

Brandan Gillogly Jul 22, 2016 0 Comment(s)
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When HOT ROD drove their 1967 Camaro test car for it's third performance installment in 1967, it wasn't using the 350ci small-block it had when it left the factory, and it wasn't using the same transmission or tires either. By that time, the car had been tested, tweaked, and tested again and was hiding a big-block V8 under the hood. It also wasn't the same 396 that came optional in Camaros later in 1967, it was a blueprinted monster engine. Testing different tunes and even flywheels, the Camaro put down a best time of 11.85 seconds with a trap speed of 119mph. It was an incredibly impressive feat by 1967 standards, even considering the race tires and single-digit fuel economy the rowdy, 310-degree cam and 4.56:1 gears delivered.

Almost 50 years later, the sort of modifications that our editors made wouldn't really be possible for a street-driven car—at least, not legally. There's also no current production big-block to source, as the most powerful Camaros leave the factory with the same displacement as their SS brethren, but with the addition of a supercharger, as was the case with the fifth-generation, upcoming LT4-powered, sixth-generation ZL-1.

04 Edelbrock Camaro Dyno 660x440 2/17

After being impressed on the strip with a completely unaltered 2016 Camaro, our bench-racing minds started to scheme. How close could we come to an 11.8-second pass in a 2016 Camaro while keeping everything as close to stock as possible? And, more importantly, without destroying its driveability and street legal nature.

11 Edelbrock Camaro E Force 660x440 3/17

The best we'd run with a 2016 Camaro SS six-speed was a 12.4-second e.t. after spending an entire day at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona. The stock tires weren't doing the LT1 justice, although we brought Pro Mod driver Jeff Lutz to squeeze every bit of potential from the showroom-stock small-block Chevy ponycar.

With Edelbrock's test car, a 2016 Camaro SS, we had only a single—albeit large—bolt-on. OK, so it's an E-force supercharger with its associated intake manifold, charge cooler, and plumbing, but technically it's only one part number. And it does bolt on. It just happens to give the Camaro 580 hp to the tires. Everything else about the car was left untouched, from the heads and cam to the exhaust, gears, and tires. We even took the supercharged car on a weekend road trip and managed 20 mpg overall.

When we ran our 12.4 e.t. in the factory 2016 Camaro SS, we stacked the deck in our favor. We had cool weather, a pro driver, and a sticky track. When we returned to Famoso in the late spring of 2016 we had a good track, although the 90-plus-degree air temps and even hotter track surface temps meant we had our work cut out for us.

We put Edelbrock engineer Stephen Ruiz behind the wheel. He'll admit he's no drag racer; he's more comfortable on a track with turns. He is a quick learner, though. With his rookie pass in the Camaro, he posted a high-12-second time on the scoreboard. Even though the calibration is done for the E-Force supercharger, Ruiz wasn't going to turn down an opportunity to collect data. He's still an engineer, and the Central Valley heat was a good test of the supercharger's cooling system. After a quick drive, he was back to the starting line, 5 minutes after his first run. Ruiz began chipping away at his time.

08 Edelbrock Camaro E Force 660x440 4/17

As the afternoon got hotter, the track got greasier, yet the Camaro got quicker. Well, actually it was mostly Ruiz who got quicker. After trying different launch rpm, staging depths, and tire pressure, he was recording 2-second 60-foot times with just a bit of tire spin, very respectable considering the conditions. That still put us a tenth of a second behind our times we recorded in the factory Camaro in the first 60 feet of the track. Mid-12-second passes gave way to repeated, back-to-back, low-12-second passes as the shifts came close to the rev limiter. The few of us gathered at the track knew it was only a matter of time before the scoreboard would light up with an 11, but time was not on our side. The safety crew would be packing up and heading out. It was a "you don't have to go home, but you can't race here" sort of situation. We could take all the photos we liked after the medics left, but there would be no passes for a timeslip. With about 10 minutes on the clock, Ruiz had time for two passes. A solid launch and quick shifting got him to a 12.0, the best pass of the day! After a quick cooldown drive in the staging lanes, the car was back to the line. Trying to squeeze just a bit more out at the start cost a few thousandths of a second, and the scoreboard lit up a 12.1. The 11-second e.t eluded us on our day at the track, but the timeslips tell the tale. The launches had to be easier than the factory car, which can light the OE rubber with little more than an off-idle launch, and the torque from the supercharged LT1 can easily overpower the traction. It charged hard after the eighth-mile mark and delivered consistent trap speeds in the mid-120s that would have had it gaining on the best-ever pass of the 396-powered 1967 Camaro. If we took the day's best 60-foot, best eighth-mile time, and best trap speeds, we had all the makings for an 11-second pass. Here we are bench racing again; that always gets us into trouble.

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