During the long and tedious process of building a race car from scratch, everyone inevitably reaches the same painful conclusion: When your car finally starts looking like a car again, the fun is just getting started. In other words, a project that looks like its nearing completion, from the outside looking in, is actually nowhere close to ripping off WOT passes at the track. That’s precisely where we’re at with The Purp, GMHTP’s in-house ’95 Camaro drag car. The interior is gutted, the rollcage is in, the chassis is buttoned up, and the motor and trans are itching to go play, but much of the grunt work has yet to be completed. Nothing’s been plumbed, there’s nowhere to sit, all the wiring is still in boxes, and the bulk of the safety equipment is MIA. We need to pop the big red transbrake button like a greasy teenager needs to pop a big red pimple, and fortunately, we have friends in high places that feel our pain. We’re talking about Judson and Linda Massingill of the School of Automotive Machinists. After hearing our sob story, they offered to lend a hand in putting the finishing touches on The Purp. Shortly thereafter, being the deadbeats that we are, our Camaro was on a truck heading for Houston (big thanks to Intercity Lines, Inc!).
Anyone who’s been following the late-model GM scene for more than a week has probably heard of SAM. The school’s cutting-edge vocational program churns out the top race engine builders in the country, many of whom go on to work for elite shops like Hendrick Motorsports, John Force Racing, and Warren Johnson Enterprises. In fact, The Purp’s 720hp LSX small-block was built by Bryan Neelen and Pecos Loughlin of Late Model Engines, both SAM graduates. In addition to conceiving incredibly powerful engine combos, the SAM crew has earned a reputation for building some of the fastest late-model Camaros in the country. The school’s iconic orange ’99 Camaro SS runs 8-flat at 170 mph—thanks to a 435ci LS motor that makes 1,058 hp—and has four LSX Shootout Series All Motor championships to its credit. The shop’s ’98 Camaro street car used to run high-9s on pump gas, but SAM swapped out its 500ci LS2 for a 427ci combo last fall and proceeded to run 200-plus mph at the Texas Mile. Oh yeah, SAM also has a 2012 COPO Camaro that’s already run deep 9-second passes. Needless to say, The Purp is in very good hands.
Considering that it’s been nearly a year since our last story on The Purp, here’s a quick recap of what the project is all about. Several years back, Editor Scott Parker bought a battered and worn-down ’95 Camaro V-6 for $500, and decided to go racing in NMCA’s LSX Real Street class. Despite rules that mandate a stock-style suspension, race weights of 3,150 pounds and higher, and either 10.5-inch slicks or 275mm drag radials, the heavy hitters in this competitive class run mid-8-second passes. To keep pace with the forced induction boys, we had Late Model Engines in Houston build us a 451ci LSX motor stout enough for a boatload of nitrous, but still good for 720 hp in naturally aspirated trim. After gutting the car of all non-essential creature comforts, we installed a Chassisworks rollcage, BMR Level 2 front and rear drag suspension, Strange S60 rear end, Aeromotive fuel cell, and Strange brakes. After bolting a killer Century Transmission Powerglide to the 451 and dropping it in, The Purp sat dormant for several months until SAM came to the rescue.
To get the project one big step closer to completion, this month we’re putting the finishing touches on the chassis by installing the brake lines, line lock, transmission cooler, shifter, Lexan, and seats. The SAM crew has really turned up the wick on this project, so stay tuned for stories on the nitrous, safety equipment, electronics, wiring, and track testing in the near future. Last but not least we have to give a huge shout out to SAM technician Dustin Rush, and Judson and Linda Massingill for stepping up to help with this project.