It's funny how fate plays out. The original solid-lifter LT-1 350 of 1970-72 was a bridge between the all-out small-blocks of the '60s and the tamer L82 powerplant that ushered in whatever smog-motor performance Chevy offered from 1973-79.
The original LT-1 was probably the most potent Mouse motor from the factory, cranking out 370 gross horsepower (Corvette; 360 in the Camaro Z28) and 380 lb-ft of torque. It could rev like crazy, but it still made a ton of grunt down low.
Fast forward to 1993. The next-generation small-block arrives, dubbed LT1. While the L98 Tuned Port Injection engines were great performers for their era, they redlined at a rather pedestrian 5000 rpm. The LT1 (minus the hyphen) revved to 5700 and made 50 more horses than the best L98s. The 1996 LT4 made 330, thanks to a new cam, heads and other goodies.
Though it was released with much fanfare, it turns out this modern Mouse was just another stopgap measure. For 1997, the LS engine series was introduced, and when hot rodders saw how far superior it was to its predecessor, the LT1 was relegated to afterthought status by most. But not all.
The father and son team of Tom and David Norquest have taken the oft-ignored LT1 to another level. Thanks in part to a dose of Nextel Cup SB2 cylinder heads, this car makes 760 hp at 7500 rpm naturally aspirated and 1,040 hp with the activation of an NX Direct Port nitrous system. To make these impressive numbers, Norquest sent the block off to Lon Moyer at Second Street Speed in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, where Moyer punched out the cylinders .030-over and lengthened the stroke to 3.875-inches (with a Callies Stealth crankshaft), bringing displacement up to 396ci. Diamond Racing 13.5:1 compression pistons and a Cam Motion solid roller camshaft (.690/270 intake; .720/280 exhaust at 0.050) round out the rotating assembly.
It was David who bought this Z28 new back in 1995, and it was a natural choice for the young man. The Camaro was the king of the ponycars back then, with 275 hp and a 6-speed transmission. Even Ford SVT's fancy 4-cam 4.6 Mustang Cobra struggled to keep up when it came out the following year. It wasn't just power, though. The Z28 was a superb handling car, which meant a lot in the Norquest family. After all, Papa Tom was an avid road racer back in the '70s.
With those racing roots in mind, the Norquest men decided to build the car as a dual-purpose machine-on one side of the spectrum, the Z28 would be able to go down the quarter-mile, and at the polar opposite end, the Norquests would have a vehicle that could hit the road courses with little change in setup.
The power meets the pavement, drag and road course, through a G-Force Transmissions-built T56 6-speed, and the Norquests have two rearend setups-one destined for quick e.t.'s, and the other for corner-carving. The drag setup is a Burkhart Racing 9-inch Ford rear with 35-spline axles, and the road-racing version is a Moser 12-bolt with a 3.89 gear and a TruTrac limited-slip. On the track, the Camaro rides on Bogart D-10 17-inch wheels wrapped in sticky Kumho Ecsta V700 rubber (315/35/17 front, 335/35/17 rear). At the strip, the ponycar rocks Bogart DragonFly 15x3.5s at the front with MT Sportsman rubber, and 15x10s out back with Hoosier QuickTime Pro DOT-approved drag tires on the rear.
The Norquests spared no expense on the suspension side of things either, an area that called on the collective knowledge of both father and son to get right. Up front, the duo added a tubular K-Member along with tubular A-arms. Hyperco 1.5-inch drop springs assist QA1 12-way adjustable shocks, along with a sway bar from BMR. At the rear, a similar setup is employed-Hyperco 1.5-inch drop springs and QA1 12-way shocks, with the added tunability of BMR adjustable rear control arms and a BMR adjustable Panhard bar.
The rear also carries the big end of a Spohn adjustable torque arm. All the pieces in the suspension are highly adjustable, allowing the Norquests an easy transition from the street to the strip to the road course. The father/son team even added a custom brake setup for each application: for road racing purposes, the Camaro houses Baer 4-piston front calipers that clamp down on Baer Eradispeed rotors. At the rear, similar Baer rotors are slowed with stock Camaro calipers. For the dragstrip, Aerospace front calipers replace the Baer units to slow the Camaro down after a quarter-mile hit. Speaking of which,its best pass to date has been a 10.15 at 134 mph on motor alone.
The show car-quality of the build takes nothing away from the fact that it can tear up all sorts of man-made surface-on the street, at the strip and at the road course. The Norquest boys had a smorgasbord of friends help on the build, including Ken Kissinger with all the custom fabrication work and the rollcage; Tim Eckhart of Eckhart's Auto Body for all the paint and bodywork; Phil Frazier with the EFI tuning; and Doug Van Tigelen of Van Industries with powdercoating.
In the end, however, it was the vision of both Norquests who made the Camaro what it is-a no-holds-barred super Chevy.