Today is the 10th anniversary of the Camaro purchase and drive down from Sacramento.
Since the 2013 STX adventure have been a bit directionless with the car. It runs and drives well and is the closest to leak-free it’s been in my years of ownership. But it’s not really competitive in autocross – at least, I wouldn’t want to hack it up into something competitive. So it sits in stasis. Not the sort of thing I’d want to take to One Lap. Having done the event now, I have HUGE respect for the folks that have done it in old iron.
Speaking of which, One Lap 2019 was a blast, will definitely do it again. To all those thinking about it, get off the fence and just DO IT.
Sold the Viper after One Lap last June. It was awesome and never let me down in any way…but if I was coming back to One Lap, wanted to bring a different kind of machine. My heart was set on a particular option unveiled around this time, but my head said there wouldn’t be enough time available to do it right. So instead, went with Plan B:
Thanks to Alan Johnson at Matick Chevrolet, was able to get an early C8, VIN #911. Had it rush shipped out from Michigan, with a wide set of wheels and OLOA2020 stamped tires ready to go. The car is everything they say it is, but alas One Lap 2020 became “No Lap” 2020, and I couldn’t picture myself using it much in the coming year.
Huge demand for the cars and my own personal outlook on the global situation (that things won’t be back to normal until at least summer/fall 2021) meant two things. One, that I could unload the C8 and cover all the costs I’d incurred with no loss. Two, with changes to our balance of time, the original idea from last summer became feasible. Still not easy, but tantalizingly possible.
So the C8 was sold and Plan A activated in July.
This will be very much a “build”, much more ambitious in scope than the Camaro. Not sure I will blog about it too much, maybe a little from time to time. It won’t begin in earnest until early next year so we’ll all have to be patient until then. 🙂
One project nearing completion, another about to begin…
I don’t think Dodge ever made the Gen4 ACR in blue, too bad as I think it looks pretty good with silver stripes.
Soooo…. what’s happened with the Camaro over the last 3 years…
What started as a fix-up-a-few-things quickly snowballed into a big mess. I’d really been burnt by all the valvetrain failures in STX trim and wanted to shore that up. The car was never going to be competitive again in Street Touring, and it didn’t/doesn’t really have a fit in Street Prepared or Street Modified either. There’s a lot of unlimited-style builds out there where the cars are legal for CAM class but not much else – I didn’t want to go that far, nor do I want to cut it up in the mold of a traditional CP car.
Much of the time spent over the years was just deciding on the vision for how the car will be in its next iteration. Where I arrived is at something like a light CP build, that can also run in CAM with some ballast. I’d like to get it down near 2700 pounds using a < 5.1 liter motor, so it’s CP legal weight-wise, but it’ll keep the lights and wipers and things that are needed for CAM. For now I just want to make it drivable again but it’ll get a quieter exhaust, bigger wheels/tires (with room to turn), and better suspension.
Ordered a set of AFR aluminum heads, sized a bit on the small side (180cc) to maximize midrange torque from the 302 short block. Mike Jones did a nice bumpity solid roller cam for it, and I had ProSystems build a mechanical secondary carb to match.
Was originally going to try to hot rod the thing with the block kept in the car, but with the trans out it all became a bit of a pain, so I pulled the short block out too, so I could assemble the new motor on the stand.
With the short block out, might as well check the bearings and things, since some metal had been through the motor once or twice with the valvetrain failures. Plus oil pressure had gone to zero – or very close to it – several times under hard braking.
Unfortunately in this check, found some pretty serious scoring on the rod and main bearings. The dilemma now, have this (old, 60’s GM, 2-bolt-main) short block repaired, or just get a new one? I opted for the latter, a basic Dart SHP cast iron piece, a 4″ bore 3″ stroke, from Chris at CNC Motorsports. Only special ask was to use 6″ rods over the default 5.7″, though it probably won’t make much difference.
So what had started as a simple bolt-on hot rodding project was now a completely new longblock needing assembly. A bunch of things you’d think would be simple and sorted in SBC, weren’t. Finding a set of rocker arms to clear the big retainers of the extra-zoot valvesprings I’d had AFR spec, was one tricky part. Had to use lash caps to get it to work with the right valvetrain geometry.
The other tricky part was the oiling system. Used a similar but new Milodon roadrace oil pan (dipstick on other side with this block), but had a hard time finding an oil pickup that’d clear the internal baffle system. Eventually found the parts needed to go along with one of the Melling shark-pattern oil pumps.
With it all put together it went into the car over 4th of July weekend 2017.
The OEM ’67 belt system was a catastrophe so a March setup replaced it. The old-school alternator is replaced by a high-output one-wire, belt driven water pump now electric. Valve covers provide extra internal clearance for the rocker arm setup. They should provide room for a shaft mount system if things ever go that way.
My invaluable engine install helper:
There was still lots to do. The fuel was years old at this point, the wiring was a mess I wasn’t happy with, trans needed install. Another sign of not having gotten over 2013’s valvetrain drama was my insistence there be room in the engine bay to pull the (oversized) valve covers quickly and easily without too much stuff in the way.
Here’s how it sits today – many many hours of labor later-
Coil is relocated up and out of the way. The big brake booster and heavy cast iron master cylinder have been replaced by a small and lightweight (20+ pounds saved!) manual balance-bar system.
The aluminum radiator and dual electric fan setup is from C&R. Can’t see it but in front of the radiator, there’s a modestly sized C&R oil cooler with remote oil filter mount. The filter was a nightmare to get to with those headers, should be tons easier now. I’d run a cooler on the 370z and saw what a tremendous difference it made in oil temps. This cooling system is overkill for a little 450-ish hp (hoping, not sure exactly) 302 but
The Accusump with EPC valve is housed down there in front, nice short run to the motor from the unit. Placement of these things is always an argument between the chassis guy and the motor guy – motor guy wants it close to the motor, chassis guy wants it back to favor CG. Motor guy won here.
From the other side, showing the new mechanical fuel pump-
With work and life and everything I haven’t had the spare time to give the car what it needs. It’s at Best of Show Coachworks in nearby Escondido, where Dean (mechanic) and Matt (owner) are doing a really fantastic job with it. I’m much happier with their work and the progress being made than I thought I’d be, as a consummate DIY-er.
Motor should be running again soon..wiring is still being fixed up, I’d done some naughty things to get it put together on time, Dean is repairing all my badness…
Exhaust buttoned back up:
Last bit is on the suspension. The OE style spring-over-shock thing was a mess I really didn’t like, so the car is getting the ATS upper coilover mounts. This will simplify and clean up how the what is now a front coilover, mounts to the chassis.
Still brainstorming with Matt on how to improve the motion ratio, by altering some aftermarket lower control arms to locate the coilover’s lower mount much further outboard, closer to the lower ball joint. May eventually do some custom fabbed arms and spindles and things but for now, looking for improvements to off the shelf pieces.
More to come in the coming weeks!
Whew, 3 years, been a while!
Returned that 370z to stock and sold it to a dealer, what a meh experience that whole thing was. So much for normal cars for me. It’s been reclassed to STU, where it’d probably be pretty fun on 285s on 11s, so if you’ve got one, don’t let my bad experience with 255s on 9’s be a deterrent.
Somewhere out there somebody’s riding around with powder coated chassis braces and a Quaife in what was probably presented to them as a stock 370 – lucky person.
The Z was gray, but before that I’d had 1 red truck, 2 black trucks, 4 red cars, and 3 black cars. The Camaro (red when I bought it) once painted blue, was my first non-black-or-red car. Now, all my cars are blue.
Shortly after selling the 370, decided to buy my friend Gary Thomason’s blue 2008 Viper. I ran it at Nats in 2017 (6th, meh) and Spring Nats 2018. It’s got the Koni 28’s and front sway bar design of my old black Viper. This one has about 90hp more than my old one that comes on in a vtec-ish fashion around 4k. We rarely see those engine speeds in autox but when we do it’s a lot of fun.
Video from Spring Nats Pro. Didn’t finish where I wanted, but this is about the best I’ve driven it yet:
This car has a bit of a push that I haven’t been able to get dialed out yet, though I had in the black car. Perhaps due to the stiffer coupe chassis. Have some ideas of ways to get the car to work better I plan to try out next season. SSR is a tough class!
Another change is in trailers. Had been making-do with a dilapidated old Pace. The big box style trailers are like a garage on wheels. Great when you’re out at the event/track – lots of room for stuff, easy to get around the car and get to things.
The problems are they’re big, heavy, and womp fuel economy. I wanted to eventually replace the Tundra with something smaller, more economical, and more comfortable – but such a beast would probably have reduced tow capacity. Towed out to Nats ’17 with the old girl, had arranged sale to a fellow from Texas, we’d meet up there.
Purchased a Montrose aluminum enclosed, had delivered to the site so I could switch out there. They’re made in Wisconsin, so it was a lot cheaper having it delivered to Lincoln, than to San Diego.
Moved from big old trailer to new small one while out there. A bit of an adjustment – definitely a lot tricker to live with out at an event. But on the road it’s great, closer to an open trailer in trailering dynamics, than a full enclosed. For Spring Nats ’18, towed up the Ike Gauntlet, which I’d purposely avoided with the Pace.
With the lighter trailer secured, the next change was to the daily driver. After 11 years, 160k miles, and ZERO issues, decided to part with the 2007 Tundra this year. It was everything you’d hope for from a Toyota, a paragon of reliability.
Part of what triggered the Tundra’s departure was a family trip done in a modern rented minivan. We loved all the accommodations, especially the power doors. Started researching minivans to see if any of them could tow – 5k would be the absolute minimum to be useful. Unfortunately they’re all limited to 3500lbs. It might have been possible to beef things up with airbags and tranny/oil coolers, but it might also just be pushing things too much. The MB Metris had 5k capacity but no amenities, it’s like a broom closet on wheels.
Much research went into SUVs, a gigantic spreadsheet showing the stats of every almost new SUV available was compiled. Nothing really appealed. The Toyota Land Cruiser was a top pick due to how happy we’d been with the Tundra, but with more comfort and amenities. But they still guzzle gas and probably wouldn’t be that much fun to drive daily, on paved roads.
The wife wondered if there were any electric ones, since I have free charging at work. Eueka! Isn’t there a Tesla SUV that can tow? There is, the Model X (in blue!), rated for 5000-ish pounds-
This 100d has a 100KWh battery, which will take it close to 300 miles on a full charge with normal/sedate driving. Maybe a bit less at high speeds, but 250+ miles in So Cal weather we’ve done in it already.
It’s seriously quick too. Didn’t opt for the big-extra-$ Performance model (which is much faster still) but this one will do the 1/4 mile in 13.0, 4.7 0-60, but its real strength is freeway merging speed, 40-70. It feels like this thing folds space when presented with a yellow light – you make lights you couldn’t make in anything else, with no external drama (tire spin, engine noise).
Towing, the range is going to get cut way down – remains to be seen, but probably 100-120 miles. Thankfully Tesla has a fairly well distributed “Supercharger” network out on the highways which makes this just enough range. It’d still take a lot longer with all those stops to cover any significant distance. Plan is to use the Tesla for in-state races, but rent a truck for anything further.
When the weather is right, with some clouds, the view out the panoramic aircraft-style windshield is killer!
Then, there’s the Camaro…
More to come in the next post…
The Tour went poorly! Could have been worse, but a lot went wrong. As the car’s first event in STR trim I knew not to expect too much – I think a lot of people have results like that early on with their projects and get discouraged. Gotta keep looking up!
Speaking of up, decided to raise the rear of the car after the Tour. The exhaust scraped over everything-
Raised it one turn, and upped spring rate from 650 to 700. The car felt a little too soft in the rear, and some of the handling problems I’d been experiencing were based on understeer. Curiously the rear bar had become disconnected on one end, must not have tightened that endlink nut enough – oops!! Hooked it back up at full soft. With 650’s the car was “cushy”, 700’s is still a good ride, but no longer what I’d call cushy – hopefully the car can be made to work well at this rate, suspect it will get less comfortable as rates go up from here.
Took Friday before the Pro off work to get some things done with the car. Started in the morning with a proper alignment at Clarence Brown in San Diego.
The crew there helped me out. Left there with -2.5 camber rear and 1/8″ toe in (had been ~-2 camber and zero toe) and -4 camber front with 1/16″ toe out (had been -3.5 and zero toe). Caster is about 5.5 degrees, wish it was more.
From there, up to Long Beach to see Shawn Church – Church Automotive Testing. Hadn’t been there in years (the SM build on the 240sx in 2007!), but glad to see he and his business doing so well. Shawn started out mostly with Hondas but the popularity of tuning Evos, Subarus, Nissans, and lately the domestics, has increased demand for his services tremendously.
Tuning session was quick and went well. The process produced a solid gain through the midrange and a bunch over 6700 or so. The factory program went really rich up there; by flattening the AFR to just under 13.0, the car saw a huge jump in top-end power, moving peak up to 7350 rpm.
Redline was raised from 7500 to 7700rpm, another 1.5mph or so of top speed in second.
Which would come in handy at the Pro, where I’d end up hitting the limiter just once or twice.
Car was much better at the Pro, largely due to a change to the new Bridgestone RE71R tires. They are a significant step up in capability from the Hankook RS3V2, especially in their longitudinal grip (braking/accel). The Z’s handling was much improved also, though there’s still a bit to do there.
Saturday the event ran behind and heat 3 was in impound for over an hour and a half.
If you’re going to be in the Impound of Eternity, it could be in a worse place than So Cal-
Had a chance to weigh the car after Saturday afternoon’s runs-
Not quite where I was hoping it’d be, but not far off. Have 20lb. lighter front brake rotors (10 per side) and am now looking at headers. So the car should ultimately get down under 3200, with a little less than 900 average on the front corners. 2 seats, extensive use of composites plus aluminum hood, doors, v6 engine…and it’s 230 pounds heavier than that all steel and cast iron, 4-seat V8 Camaro. Similar balance too, heh.
Even with all that weight, the skinny 245-width Bridgestones help up quite well. Couldn’t get 255’s in time, but that was ok, these were still a huge step forward.
It’s funny – before these tires, I’d felt the car made enough power, as I could spin them in second gear pretty much any time. Now with the Bridgestones, get the feeling another 20-30hp would be completely welcome. 🙂
Ended up second at the Pro, pleased with the result, considering I ended up only about a half second off the winner Nick Bjoin, who won the Pro Finale the year before. Especially when the data shows you left .6 seconds in one corner in the run you had to stand on 🙂
It was a good course for the car, but the result was encouraging enough (and the car so much fun!), will be proceeding with some of the phase 2 elements of the build this year.
Some images got wiped when the server went out, wanted something nice back on top-
The cobbler’s kids have no shoes, and the IT guy’s servers probably don’t get maintained as well as they should. 🙂
The Amazon EC2 machine holding this site had a drive failure, and some time ago I’d put the site’s media onto ephemeral storage, mostly out of laziness. Had a relatively recent backup, but it took some time to upload the 10+GB of media from a crummy home internet connection.