Let's face it, engine swaps are officially the rage. Again. For years, the ultimate goal of any gearhead was stuffin' the latest, greatest powerplant where it never was from the factory. Think monster 409s and 427s mounted into Tri-Fives. Fuelie 327s slammed into first- and second-gen Novas. Gargantuan 454s into early Chevelles.
These devil-in-disguise motor transformations are part of the heritage that corresponds to the current trend of "hybrid" Bow Tie machinery. And we're not talking alternative fuel. We're talking about LS-powered, fuel-injected ground pounders. Cars that look tame and docile on first glance, but that really pack a wallop under the hood. And while the ricer-types continue to grind out every last horsepower of a four-banger into tiny Japanese imports, the American muscle-faithful have taken a different tact, especially with the breadth of options any Chevy owner has in terms of a perfect mill that can tear the heart out of any of the Rising Sun-crowd's creations.
Furthermore, and in keeping with this month's theme of affordable alternatives, there's nothing more eye-catching than seeing a tired, neglected automobile like a second-gen Camaro morphing into a no-holds barred, badass street machine. Let's face it, these F-bodies had a lot going for them from the factory-good looks, above-average handling, nice interiors. All they lacked was horsepower.
John Cosey recently completed work on his 1976 Camaro, and showed off his disco-era machine at the Year One Experience in Braselton, Georgia. The story behind Cosey's Camaro is actually a very interesting one. The car was first purchased back in 1990 for a whopping $800, when Cosey decided it was time to own one of the bicentennial-year machines. Little was done to the car before he sold it to his brother-in-law, Brent Castell. Castell, in turn, did little modification to the car, and 10 years later, in November 2003, the Camaro was put back up on the block to be sold. Who should appear but Cosey, this time with four crisp hundred-dollar bills (that's right, $400; we told you, affordable alternatives), and purchased the Chevy for a second time, although at this point the car had no powertrain. However, this gave Cosey the perfect opportunity: he had his old ride, without a motor or transmission, and the starting canvas to begin building something different-something that would turn heads, make great power, and be entirely drivable.
Work on the newest iteration of Cosey's Camaro began in December of 2003. For power, Cosey decided to do something different and sourced out a crate Chevy LS6 straight from GM Performance Parts. He also picked up the venerable 4L65E transmission that mates well with the LS6. This powertrain combo is the heart of the Camaro. However, in 2003 there was little in the way of aftermarket support for this type of swap. It wasn't a motor/car combination that showed up on the radar often. The biggest obstacle for Cosey and his brother-in-law Brent (who aided in the entire build) was cutting the stock crossmember in order to mount the engine, as well as notching for the stock exhaust manifolds, A/C compressor, and Vette-specific oil pan-all important parts that were retained. Cosey also added a FAST intake manifold and a 78mm throttle body, but he figures power output is probably close to the stock LS6 numbers (405 hp at 6000 rpm, 400 lb-ft at 4800), as the car has yet to make an official dyno run, yet.
"We've made plans to take the car down to a shop in Orlando," Cosey informed us. "We're going to try and get every last ounce of power out of the car. Personally, I think it can make just a bit more."
Cosey didn't stop with the motor swap either. He continued by customizing the car's appearance as well. While similar vintage Firebirds were blessed with stylish Endura bumpers front and rear, Camaros made due with giant chrome railroad ties with black rubber moldings. Regardless, the rubber pieces are now impossible to find, so Cosey decided on a different route. He and Castell painted the bumpers body color and agreed that 2-inch body side-molding would fit perfectly on them. Cosey also mentioned that he doesn't have to worry about the rubber coming out anymore, either. A 2-inch cowl hood and a stunning Victory Red paint job also contribute to the looks of the Camaro.
Cosey also added some interior adornments, including a brushed-aluminum console that matches perfectly with the Covan's Classic brushed gauge cluster. The Camaro rides on Budnik 17x8 wheels, cloaked in BFGoodrich G-Force T/A KDWS rubber.
This owner has truly created a machine that embodies the "stealth" approach to getting power and drivability-without worrying about credit card interest rates, or taking out a fifth mortgage. The Camaro is especially appealing to his youngest son, Ethan.
"Every time he sees me coming up the driveway, he just goes crazy," Cosey said of his 5-year-old son. Ethan is considered the "racing baby" of the family, as he was born a few hours after leaving a weekend-long trip to the dragstrip. "He's definitely going to have the bug."
For now, Cosey plans on just enjoying the car and giving Ethan rides around town. That doesn't mean there aren't some ideas looming on the horizon.
"I've thought about maybe an Air Ride setup, or maybe even some disc rear brakes. But for now, I'm just going to have fun with it."