Editor's Note: Typically, Super Chevy doesn't follow along on outside projects-you're lucky if they don't turn out to be complete disasters-but in this case, the offer was too enticing. Frank Serafine, owner of Prodigy Customs in nearby Apopka, Florida, and builder of our November 2009 cover cars, and John Parsons of II Much Fabrication, asked if we'd be interested in covering this build of a 200mph Camaro g-machine that'll run 8s in the quarter and be totally streetable. We figured we'd go along just for the heck of it.-Jim Campisano
In this issue we start our first of many build installments on our Project Unfair Camaro. Over the next dozen months or so, we will cover the complete build from start to finish. And when we are done, we will run Project Unfair at major Pro Touring and challenge events around the country. Super Chevy Shows, of course, Optima Challenge and Optima qualifiers, and Goodguys are all on the list. The final schedule of events will come later.
This is a full-on effort to build the fastest all-around Pro Touring car on the planet. That is a pretty lofty goal, especially when you see exactly what we mean by all-around. This is not only going to be a great Pro Touring car. It'll be one that can compete on a high level against the world's greatest on autocross, road race, slalom, and streetabiliy. Quite honestly, with the incredible array of aftermarket parts available, it is pretty easy for anyone with the wallet and resources to build a car to do everything mentioned extremely well.
We are throwing a couple of extra requirements on our "all-around best" project by doing some of things other g-machines cannot or have not done. For example:
(1) 8.99 dragstrip times. No one has done it yet. The suspension is the big limiting factor. Suspensions designed for handling do not hook and go at the dragstrip very well. In the spirit of being "Unfair," we will be using a two-pulley method of boost for our engine, taking our mild-mannered, 700-horse pump gas motor to a 1,200hp, high octane fuel-snorting monster. Additionally, we will be using a dual-mode suspension that within a couple hours can be converted from killer road race/autocross set-up to a killer dragstrip set-up. You will learn about the suspension in a future article.
(2) 200 MPH Maxton Mile standing run. Again, a suspension change, and pulley change on our blower will give us the power and traction needed to blow past the 200 mph barrier and more.
Project Unfair has gotten its name for many reasons. In the spirit of the Mark Donohue book, "The Unfair Advantage," we pay tribute with a few unfair tricks of our own. A literal team of engineers and some of the Pro Touring community elite are working on unfair tricks we can use. A few of these Unfair Advantages have already mentioned above. And many more will be released as we can continue. But of particular importance now is something we are doing in this step-by-step article.
When laying out the build plan, we decided it was important that we build Project Unfair with as many off-the-shelf products as possible. This means reducing massive fabrication projects to a minimum. We want this project to be something you at home or your builder could duplicate with available aftermarket parts. Some of these parts are already available and other components being developed for Project Unfair will also be available to you soon. We think that is important.
One of the procedures we are doing that is "Unfair" is to raise the factory reproduction floor to lower the body-channel the body as is it called-to gain a lower stance. This stance will look very sinister, but also help with aerodynamics and lower the center of gravity all while maintaining complete suspension travel and best geometry.
Channeling, in most cases, requires eliminating all factory flooring, hand forming and bead rolling, all new floor panels, and redesigning every mount and provision. If you brought a car into our shop, a full custom fabricated sheetmetal floor from scratch is guestimated at 300 to 400 hours labor-it is a lot of work. Here we will show you how you can raise a factory reproduction floor 1.5-inches, effectively lowering the entire car the same amount at the rockers, and gain clearance under the car for pesky things like headers and exhaust.
You will be able to do this floor-raising in 60 to 100 hours max, and if your car needs a full floor anyway, you are only adding 30 to 60 hours to the project by raising the floor. And by using the reproduction factory floor you're going to able to use all the factory pick-up points, brackets, provisions, etc. You will also be able to use readily available aftermarket subframes, rear clips and rear suspensions-three-links, four-links, torque arms, even leafs if you so desire. There will be bumps along the way, as expected with this type of project; we are making some major changes. We will show you how we handle these hiccups; it is not as difficult as it sounds.
The advantages are substantial. Combining the floor raising/body channeling, the aftermarket suspension and additional upsweep in the frame, we're looking for 4- to 4.5-inch body drop, and a lowering of the COG (center or gravity) 2 full inches. Our donor car is rough with a capitol ROUGH, but we wanted it that way. Since we are replacing the complete floor at a different installed height, and since we want the roof off to do the best roll bar possible, and since it seems almost every Camaro left to be restored needs at least full outer sheetmetal, we figured we should find a rough one that would have been scrapped. Save another piece of Chevrolet muscle car-era history and have the most extreme rags to riches project ever, right?
We found the donor my son Michael "The Prodigy" affectionately nicknamed "Patches" in a trailer park on a dirt road with 10 other dilapidated unrestorable cars.
The majority of the structural patch work is done now, we wanted to get the floor in it ASAP to get some strength back in the body. Then we will go back to finishing little patches, then next month we will go into the firewall (and engine setback), along with the roll cage. Then comes the outer sheetmetal.
Calculating the center of gravity (COG) of any car is difficult, and there are several methods available, but they are complex and require weighing the car and then lifting one side and measuring the changed weights. One formula for deriving an approximate CGH (center of gravity height) looks something like this:
CGH = (WB × FWc) / (TW × Tan)
WB = Wheelbase (inches)
TW = Total Weight
FWc = Change in weight when one side of the car is raised
Tan = Formula based on the height one end of the car is raised
For our purposes, a lower COG is always better, because a lower COG minimizes the leverage the sprung mass has on the unsprung mass, helping to keep all four tires equally loaded. The easiest way to the lower the COG is to lower the vehicle itself.
We know that lowering a car does more than improve its looks, but what methods are available? The most common way is to replace or cut the springs. That lowers the whole car and is the best way to get biggest change in COG, since all the mass in the car has been lowered. Another similar method for front suspensions on some cars is to install drop spindles. It accomplishes the same thing: it lowers the whole mass of the car. But both methods have a big drawback: they reduce the space under the car, putting the face of terror on mundane things like curbs, speedbumps, and driveways. Lowering springs also compromise your suspension geometry, since most suspensions are designed for their "sweet spot" at the factory ride height, and you lose a big chunk of the sweet spot when you drop it in the weeds.
On Unfair, we're raising the floor into the passenger compartment. That means that all the outer sheetmetal is lowered around the car's suspension and drivetrain. We won't get the full effect on our COG since much of the car's weight stays where it was, but we also aren't going to compromise our ground clearance or suspension geometry. Some might call this method "channeling," but since we're not moving framerails up into the floor, it's not quite the same.
With a vehicle weight around 3,000 pounds, and an outer sheetmetal weight of about 1,000 pounds, we are lowering one-third of the mass of the car. Our COG movement will be about one-third of what it would be if the whole car dropped, but we will make that trade for a more enjoyable driving experience.
It also makes for a better car-building experience since all the components will still bolt up at the factory locations. We've got an awesome Art Morrison Enterprises subframe on order, and it will bolt right up. Between the lowered ride height built into the AME subframe and the raised floor, we expect to lower Unfair's COG by 2 inches.