These days, custom Camaros are a dime-a-dozen. Since the demise of Chevrolet's famed F-body in 2002, Camaro fanatics and musclecar builders have been taking more classic first-gen Camaros and turning them into rolling works of art. Consider how the only "new" Camaros being built these days are coming from Dynacorn. East Coast to West Coast, North to South, custom builders have been playing an almost endless game of hardball to see who could create the most eye popping F-body to hit the streets. With the debut of the concept Camaro in 2006, the game of who could build the hottest Camaro seemed ready for extra innings, until GM sent this '69 to the plate.
The story begins with Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. Known as a car collector and musclecar nut, Reggie wanted to build the ultimate '69 Camaro with the classic looks of the most popular Camaro ever on the outside, with the latest in GM/Chevrolet high-tech performance inside.
Enter GM Performance Parts. The crack team of Bow Tie performance designers at GMPP was preparing to launch its new LSX engine block. Based on the LS engine series architecture (keep reading for more on this engine), GMPP wanted the appropriate vehicle to show off this new Earth-shaking powerplant. With the new concept Camaro taking the automotive show circuit by storm with its retro '69 looks, and Reggie's interest in building a '69, the plan became obvious. Working from GM Design Center artwork from David Ross, they would take a '69 from Reggie's car collection, and the specialists at GM Performance Division would revamp the chassis, suspension, brakes, and interior. Meanwhile, GM Performance Parts got the drivetrain ready, and together, they put together the hottest Camaro since the ZL1 first appeared in 1969. From start to finish, General Motors' employees built the entire project in-house.
The heart of this power hitter is the new GMPP LSX engine block, designed in part by six-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion, Warren Johnson. Based off the highly successful LS engine series, this block is a high-nickel content iron casting with six-bolt mains, precision CNC machining, siamese bores, and battleship-like construction. With a max bore size of 4.250-inches and a max acceptable stroke of 4.500-inches, this new block makes the LS engine the new powerhouse in GM performance.
Some might wonder why the new engine is iron instead of aluminum. When designing the engine, GM wanted engine builders to be able to use traditional displacement enlarging techniques to create big cubic inch monsters based on small-block architecture of 454 ci or larger. The LSX block features a thick deck and strategic cast-in strengthening to support high-horsepower turbo, supercharged, and/or nitrous-oxide combinations. (To find out more about the LSX block and what makes it so spectacular, check out the in-depth story in this issue on page 75.)
To make the Reggie Camaro even more special, LSX block #001 was selected for the engine build, along with a pair of prototype LSX heads. The LSX heads are based off the LS7 7.0L V-8 heads found in the C6 Z06 Corvette. The heads feature six head bolts over the standard four (for a total of eight additional head bolts per head) of the LS series for increased cylinder head sealing in boosted applications. Handling intake duties is a new GMPP four-barrel intake manifold designed to match the rectangular ports of the LS7-style head. Available from GMPP, this manifold allows engine builders and enthusiasts to run a carburetor on an LS7 crate engine.
To make sure the motor was built perfectly, and could handle all the horsepower possible, GM enlisted the aid of Warren "The Professor" Johnson. For those few of you who have been living under rocks for the past 30 years, Warren Johnson has been racing NHRA Pro Stock since the class began in the early 1970s. He's the owner of numerous NHRA records, including being the first Pro Stock driver to go over 180 mph, and later 190 mph. The Professor knows all about going fast, especially since he builds all of the engines that power his and his son Kurt's Pro Stock entries.