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Big Red Redemption: The Baddest Camaro Ever is Charging to Mojave and Pikes Peak in 2017

Phillip Thomas Apr 16, 2017
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It's a good thing Big Red shares colors with the phoenix, because there's no other way to describe the one-year rebirth of the Baddest Camaro out there. We really should call this thing a 250mph Swiss Army knife, because there's few racing formats that RJGottlieb and Big Redhaven't tackled.

Regular readers will remember that Big Red suffered a major fuel fire in 2016 while preparing for the upcoming Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (the same year our HOT ROD Spl. Viper ACR ran TA2.)This came after a year of renovations and updates to Big Red leading up to its big return in 2016, as RJ and the team re-thought the package and its multifaceted configurations before the accident -- a huge heartbreak for the R.J. and crew. That said, you can't keep RJ and Big Red down -- fate has tried tellingthem "no" before -- and the rebuild essentiallystarted as soon as the extinguishers were set down.

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Thankfully, much of Big Red was saved, with the original 1969 Camaro bodysporting a wealth of metalwork to take out the waves and distortion caused by the heat. From there, Big Red was rebuilt into the more focused and streamlined package you see today, ready to take on 250 mph at Mojave or 14,110 feet at Pikes Peak.

Yeah, Big Red doesn't go down without a fight -- R.J. and crew are tackling two major events in 2017: This weekend's Mojave eventand a redemption run at Pikes Peak.

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First things first: fresh out of RJ's shop, Big Red went to Westech Performance to a shakedown on their new 2,000hp-capable 598ci land speed engine combo (if it can all stick to the road, the team expects that 1,700hp will be enough to break their previous record.) An F-3 Procharger is tucked where the radiator used to be, while the entire fuel cell in the trunk is converted into a water reservoir for land speed, eschewing the radiator for its road race configuration. Fuel is contained in a sub-10 gallon fuel cell, carriesas many mouthfuls of fuel as the 598 will take.

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From there, a new four-link configuration was added to the chassis, a first for Big Red. This gives better traction and stability at high-velocity land speed races while making sure rear suspension could be swapped to a more compliant three-link for road racing events, not unlike Pikes Peak.

Another big move was to Holley Dominator fuelinjection, tossing aside the team's beloved carburetors. It didn't take long for Westetch's Erich Rhee to dial in the 598 and it's whirring ProCharger, churning down enough horsepower for Big Red to spin on the rollers until Holley's traction control could kick in.

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Westech's Eric dials in the Holley EFI and traction control

Speaking of traction control, the team just wrapped up their first round of testing at Famoso raceway ahead of this weekend's attempt to break Big Red's previous251.8mph LSR record. For the most part, the team focused on dialing in the final tuning and traction control details while getting RJ familiarizedwith his Big Red's new four-link-- and as you can tell from the video above, he quickly found the groove. The test left the team confident going into Mojave, while also elated at the finite tuning control the new Holley EFI system brings to the table compared to playing Chinese Fire Drillwith jets every timea fuel change was needed.

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This weekend could be a big pay-off for the team, but more than anything, it's a major reintroduction of the Baddest Camaro to grace our pages. Good luck to 251-and-beyond!

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Packaging is tight, but thanks to the new EFI system, it's much cleaner and more compact than before (dual carbs are huge compared to eight injectors!)

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Crew Chief Mark monitors coolant temps by hand to confirm what the laptop readings say out of precaution. When in its land speed configuration, the fuel tank is converted into a cooling reservoir for the big-block, freeing up room for the ProCharged 598ci Chevy.

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A ProCharger F-3 handles the boosting duties when charging for 250-plus MPH.

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Up front, a small fuel cell supplies just enough alcohol for a land speed record run attempt and not much more.

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How'd you like to have a switchable map depending which engine you're running that day? Holley EFI makes it easy, allowing Big Red to either run full-kill with the alcohol 589ci, or the triple-nickle 555ci road race engine. With alcohol, a transport-only gasoline map is also included so that Big Red can be driven and stored on longer-lasting pump gas. Those who've suffered the fuel system ills of alcohol know how handy this switch is.

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Up front, Big Red uses beefy stock car tubular A-arms with coil-overs.


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