The supercharged Camaro ZL1 is one heck of a factory offering, but most enthusiasts just can't plop $60,000 down at the local Bow Tie store, no matter how good it is. What's the less well-heeled Chevy guy to do? ProCharger delivered one answer to us recently. It purchased a used 2010 Camaro, added its new i-1 programmable boost supercharger, and sent it to Florida. We scheduled a track day to see if one bolt-on could get us ZL1-type acceleration.
What, you may be asking is a programmable-boost supercharger? It's the latest innovation from ProCharger, a supercharger company with a long history of them. Rather than having to change pulleys to increase or decrease power, the i-1 comes with three factory-supplied boost programs from the factory and allows you (or your tuner) to create your own custom programs. There's an optional touch-screen programmer available that allows you to switch between modes, including a valet mode should you have to hand your pride and joy off to someone who don't trust with over 600 flywheel horsepower.
When we first laid eyes on the i-1 at the 2012 SEMA show, we were intrigued by its potential. The i-1 can increase the power of a stock LS3 Camaro (or Corvette) by nearly 200 rear-wheel horsepower with no other modifications. The car we tested went from 373 rwhp to 568 with just 7.5 lbs of pump-gas-friendly boost. Compare this to the ZL1 test car we had on our office DynoJet earlier this year, which made 509 rwhp, and you can see the i-1 gives you better-than-ZL1 power.
Ken Jones, the president of ProCharger, drove the car you see on these pages from the company's headquarters in Lenexa, Kansas, to our office in Tampa in the heat of July. We sampled this F-body on both the roads around our office and PBIR. We're here to tell you this is one impressive piece of technology. Our test car (a 2SS with a manual transmission) drove like an unmolsted Camaro until you jumped on the throttle. Then things happen in a hurry. Your every fiber will let you know this Camaro is anything but stock. Unlike some centrifugal-style blowers, there's little-to-no lag. The boost comes right in, pinning your head to the seat, even in 90-degree tropical Florida heat. Trust me, we didn't baby the SS. It was at full operating temperature with the A/C on when we drove it. There was no sign of detonation no matter how often or hard we hammered it. All we got was torque, horsepower, tire-spin, and acceleration. Lots of acceleration.
According to ProCharger, i-1 blowers feature exclusive billet impellers The programmable boost is delivered by a durable variable ratio transmission design, with a rugged dry hybrid drive. The i-1 is the result of four years of intensive R&D and rigorous performance testing, and it's the i-1 is available with ProCharger's optional three-year supercharger warranty. All i-1 supercharger systems come complete, and are backed by ProCharger and its network of dealers.
While gaining nearly 200 rwhp on a bone stock car is quite the improvement, the i-1 can support up 900 (or more) horsepower if you have a modified engine. According to Jones, “You can turn up the boost on the i-1 just like any of our other blowers. We've made 870 flywheel horsepower on the engine dyno with a lightly modified LS2 motor and the i-1, at approximately 14 psi and with a relatively conservative redline and tune. We rate the i-1 at 900 HP, but the numbers/analysis indicates it can produce over 925 HP on a well-matched motor."
In theory, Jones says, the i-1 is technically capable of 30 psi, but in reality given the size/flow of the motor it would typically be installed upon, it would be rare for it to be operated at more than 20 psi. Installation by an experienced technician should not take more than a day, though it takes two extra hours to install versus a traditional ProCharger.
At The Track
For testing, we brought the Camaro to our new test facility, Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Florida. Not only is the strip here first-rate, but there's an awesome road course as well with a back straight that's (gulp) six-tenths of a mile long! For our purposes, we concentrated solely on the drag strip.
As we noted earlier, the engine on this 2SS is bone stock, right back to the mufflers. It did have a Spec Stage 3 clutch and Mickey Thompson drag radials (305/45R18). The odometer read just over 30,000 miles—8,000 of which have been added since the blower install. Boost was programmed to 7.5 psi across the board and the rev limited was bumped to 7,200 rpm. No question raising the boost level to 10 psi would have had a significant impact on horsepower, but experience told us that we were at the safe limits of the factory pistons and rings. If you've got a built bottom end, you could no doubt enjoy 10 psi and a truly demented amount of pump-gas horsepower.
We made our passes every 30 minutes or thereabouts, so there were no prolonged cooldowns. It was 88 degrees and humid when we started our testing, and it would get a lot worse. The first run with a 2,000 rpm launch resulted in an 11.951 at 121.76. Raising the rpm helped the elapsed time fall to 11.895/121.59 (the 60-ft time went from 2.009 to 1.942). Getting a little more aggressive on the third launch saw the engine bog a bit, but the car ran a blistering 11.788 at 121.96 (1.967 60-ft).
Speaking of blistering, it was now 91 degrees with 64 percent humidity. The track was hooking like mad—perhaps more than the car could handle. With the 28.90-inch tall sticky tires out back and only 3.45:1 gears, when we raised the launch rpm to 4,500 rpm the car bogged so bad the driver's nose almost hit the windshield. The big Camaro slowed to a 12.054/121, with a 2.134 60-ft. The secret to driving a street driver on drag radials and not much rear gear with a stick is usually to quickly trade feet. Don't dump the clutch and mat the throttle. If you can feed throttle and release the clutch so you've got the tires on the edge of adhesion, you'll probably get your best times.
Which is what happened. Despite running at 2,100 ft corrected altitude, by launching the car at 3,000 rpm and trading feet, our 60-ft time fell to best-yet 1.91 60-ft and an 11.799 at 121.31.
Satisfied we'd gone as quick as we could for conditions, Jones had ProCharger's Control Systems Engineer Ryan Konen increase the boost to 7.9 psi across the board. The result was a best-of-day 11.768 at 120.67 (1.908 60-ft). This is impressive performance by any standard, but consider that we tested a manual-equipped 2012 ZL1 last summer under similar conditions at the same track and it ran best of 12.243 at 116.19. Our i-1 mph was a full 5.5 better than the ZL1. That speaks volumes for the efficiency of the ProCharger blower. Don't let anyone tell you all boost is created equal.
What price glory? According to Jones, the base i-1 kit for the Camaro is $8,995. The touch screen controller adds $395 if you order it at the time or purchase (add $100 if you get it later on). Expect to pay between $800-$1,000 for installation. The extra install time adds to the labor cost if you are not comfortable handling the installation yourself.
The next generation of supercharging is here now.