When the fifth-generation Camaro finally hit dealer lots in 2009, it was clear that GM had designed a winner. Its brawny lines turned heads on the street, and new buyers bought them in droves. GM also delivered the goods when it came to the powertrain. The stock 6.2 V-8 in the manually-equipped LS3 SS model pumps out an impressive 426 horsepower and 400 horsepower in the automatic transmission-backed L99 version. That bump in power from the fourth-gen days comes in handy since these new models are over five hundred pounds heavier. Despite the Camaro putting on some weight, many owners have been able to click off low-13-second runs in the quarter bone stock with both combos.
Earlier this year we picked up a 2010 Camaro SS/RS packing the L99 engine and 6L80E automatic transmission combo. We looked for one with the slushbox because of all the time we spend in bumper-to-bumper Chicago traffic. New to us, but already sporting 6,800 miles, we just had to take advantage of the late spring weather this past April and made a bunch of bone stock passes at Great Lakes Dragaway. So just a week after purchase and armed with solicited (and unsolicited) advice on how to run strong times with this car, it took only 7 passes for us to click off an impressive 13.15 at 106.77mph, cutting a 1.95 on the stock Pirelli tires. Subsequent track outings netted similar times, but none better than that 13.15. And predictably the car slowed down as we headed into summer. Low 13’s were easy when it was 65F, but mid 13’s have become the norm now that’s it’s routinely in the 90’s. And once it got warm, our invincibility turned into apprehension when a C6 or other quick ride rolled up on us. More power was needed.
We came up with a list of four mods that we thought would hopefully get our Heavy Chevy deeply into the 12’s, but keep it commute-friendly. An air intake always tops our list when we start digging into a new car, so we went ahead and procured one from the folks at Cold Air Inductions. Highly popular with the fifth-gen crowd, it’s easy to understand why. It’s very easy on the eyes and testing has shown it’s one of the best designs on the market. We also nabbed a ported throttle body from Bo White, well known cylinder head and throttle body porting expert. We then sourced a Powerbond 25% underdrive crank pulley from Scoggin Dickey Parts. With past combos we sometimes saw as much as a 10 horsepower gain just from this swap. Basically the smaller crank pulley will drive the accessories at a lower rate than stock by reducing parasitic drag. Turning to the exhaust, we considered a number of scenarios, including keeping the stock manifolds. But based on our past experience with LS engines, they’ve always benefited quite a bit from headers. We asked Summit Racing what they would run, and they suggested Kooks 1.75-inch long-tube headers and high flow catalytic converters. Thoughts then turned to running an axleback exhaust and replacing the factory “jerry can” mufflers, but we held off, curious on how Heavy Chevy would sound with the OEM H-pipe and mufflers and also how well it would dyno.
1. Somewhere under those plastic covers lurks 400 horsepower stock. The stock airbox is a compromise between performance and sound attenuation. Note the big air silencer. Stock it was sometimes hard to tell the car was running.
2. The stock exhaust features two sets of catalytic converters. Luckily the aftermarket makes high flow catalytic converters that not only meet emission requirements but they help free up some horsepower.
3. The factory exhaust manifolds do a solid job, but at the end of the day there is power to be made with headers and it would be great to gain some bottom end grunt.
4. Jim Moran dyno’d our Camaro stock, and here is the sheet. 314.95-rear wheel horsepower is in line with what we’ve read on the web. Check out the wavy dyno graph. Jim said it was so hot that day that the ECM kept pulling timing.
5. The folks over at Cold Air Inductions spent a lot of time designing this air intake system, and it shows. The tube is ceramic-coated inside and out to minimize heat transfer, and the air filter (their own design by the way) is housed in an insulated unit that does not allow any hot air from the engine or radiator to enter the inlet tract.
6. The Powerbond underdrive pulley is noticeably smaller than the stock crank pulley. One install trick is cutting the stock belts off rather than spending a bunch of time fussing with them. Besides we don’t plan to go back to stock. Some installers will move or remove the radiator for the install.
7. The Kooks long-tube headers and high-flow catalytic converters are made from 18 gauge, 304 stainless and will never rust, perfect for our daily driver Camaro. While we thought about running some shorty headers, it was ultimately too hard to resist the superior scavenging capabilities of headers like these. We’re looking for increases in mid- and lower-RPM power too as well as peak gains.
We called over to Speed Inc., located just 30 minutes from downtown Chicago and asked Tony DiVito, service manager, to arrange a time to swap in our go-fast goodies and then tune the car. Founded in 1999 by Tom Izzo, Speed Inc. is highly regarded both locally and nationally and has even had customers ship them cars from as far as Saudi Arabia. No stranger to fifth-gen Camaros, veteran technician Dan Marks did his magic and had all the parts swapped in just less than four hours along with a fresh set of spark plugs. Header swaps on a new Camaro are a breeze as we’ve shared in the past, and in most cases you don’t even have to remove the steering shaft. The crank pulley is buried at the bottom of the engine compartment and it took a bit of finesse to get it out. The throttle body and cold intake swap both took under 30 minutes. Dan then reconnected the battery, cranked the key and the car fired right up.
Jim Moran is the tuner at Speed Inc. and uses HP Tuners for ECM tuning. He takes a two-pronged approach, both tuning cars on a Dynojet dynamometer as well as well as on the street. Jim shared with us that cars modified to this level and beyond will benefit from tuning because the air fuel will be off as a result of the changes. He also adds and takes out timing advance as needed. But the tuning is not limited to the engine, in fact he spends quite a bit of time going through the transmission controls, adjusting torque management based on the preferences of the customer as well as things like shift points, downshift characteristics and (when asked) turning off AFM. Jim also revised the cooling fan controls, turning the fans on sooner for us. We also elected to raise the shift points in Sport mode.
The dyno sheets tell the tale, the car picked up over 50-rear wheel horsepower from four bolt-ons and ECM tuning, which is more than we picked up on a previous fourth-gen Camaro build. Quite anxious to hit the track, we picked up the car and hit the track two days later. Still shod with the same stock Pirelli tires, we were able to squeeze in a few runs at Great Lakes Dragaway during one of their events. Our 13.15 had been run in 400 DA weather, so upon hearing that the DA was close to 3,700 we had no idea how well the car would run though it felt strong on the highway.
We’ve established a routine for getting the car ready for runs, and it starts with airing down the rear tires to 25 psi. Next the engine cover is removed as it could hamper our efforts to cool off the engine. Previously we’ve had to wait as long as 45 minutes to cool the car down before making a run, but now with revised tuning the fans come on sooner and the car was ready in only 30 minutes. While pulling into the staging lanes the traction control is turned off, otherwise the ECM would go nuts during our burnout and subsequent quarter-mile pass. Since we are still running stock radials fore and aft we take care to drive around the water box so as not to drag water up to the line. We then back up to the front of the water box, do a short burnout to get some heat into the tires and clean them off. The gear selector is put into Sport mode to take advantage of the custom programming. Pulled up to the starting line, staged the car, the tree came down, and we let ‘er rip. The pass felt strong and the slip confirmed it, Heavy Chevy had cranked off a 12.74 at 108.6 and cut a 1.92 short time on stock tires! We were able to sneak back in and make two more passes, and while the car didn’t run a quicker elapsed time it did hit 109.55 mph. We’ll be running the car as much as possible in order to get that time down to 12.5 or quicker, but so far have only bested that by a few hundredths (12.72 at 110.6 with a 1.96 sixty at 2,200 DA), so stay tuned.
8. Check out that Cold Air inductions setup, looks great right. Bill Hylton over at CAI is all about the details, so the system is designed to keep the incoming air as cool as possible. There is another strength of this sealed box approach. We’ve heard other systems that just had a partition between the air filter and the rest of the engine compartment, and honestly the engine noise can be just as loud as the exhaust with those other designs.
9. Nothing like Gen IV MAF setups, this Camaro mass air flow sensor is held in by a few screws, and swaps into the new air intake in seconds. We’ve read on the web that some MAF’s are strong, and some are weak. We checked and ours would be a strong one. We’ll have to do some investigating and research on this.
10. The Powerbond pulley looks almost OEM nestled cozily next to the alternator. We elected to use an ARP crank bolt because (unlike a GM bolt) it can be re-used. The air conditioning belt is stretch-to-fit and is the hardest part of the install.
11. Tony pitched in and helped finish up the exhaust install, though the other guys conspicuously put their eye protection back on and stepped back a few feet.
12. Look at those Kooks long tube headers. They fit great and slid right in.
13. The Kooks high-flow cats mate up easily to the stock H-pipe, and we re-used the stock sleeve clamp. This is truly a bolt-in and go system.
14. Jim Moran got to business and strapped the Camaro on the dyno. Jim made a number of pulls, and adjusted the air/fuel and timing advance to maximize performance, but kept an eye on knock retard and the inlet air temperatures. Interestingly, the car is only a bit louder than stock at idle. At part throttle it gave off a raspy growl, and at wide-open throttle it had a tuned exhaust note like a C5 Z06.
15. And there you have it; the car gained 53-rear wheel horsepower and 74 foot-pounds of torque. Check out that air fuel ratio, nice and safe.
16. Two days later we managed to get some runs at Great Lakes Dragaway during their busy Saturday program. We’ve experimented with warming up the stock Pirellis and they do hook better after a short roasting of the hides. We bettered the 1.95 60-foot time we had run stock, netting a 1.92 this time. The boards lit up and told us what we wanted to know, 12.74 at 108.6, an e.t. reduction of four-tenths in humid summer air (and still going).