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Bolt-On Boost— Supercharging the output of a 2018 Camaro with a host of upgrades

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Written by Derek Putnam
Photography courtesy of Michael Fair and the manufacturers

References abound for the “golden age” on almost any subject. Racing and muscle cars are no exception. In the 1960s and early 1970s, an order form at your local dealership was like being handed the keys to the candy store. To top it off, several dealers such as Royal Pontiac, Yenko Chevrolet, Grand-Spaulding Dodge and Mr. Norm, as well as speed shops like Motion Performance, would offer a helping hand to securing a fast ride for the street or the strip.

Lurking under all that plastic is 376 cubic inches of LT powerplant produced 455 horsepower in stock form. Before work began, Jason Rollins at Rollins Automotive Speed and Custom put the car on its in-house DynoJet chassis dyno to establish a baseline, and it delivered rear-wheel output of 430 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 443 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm.

Although some may think those great days of power and performance are gone, you need only visit a local Chevrolet, Ford or Dodge dealership for a reminder that horsepower is still readily available. Several models sport north of 400 ponies, with a few rated at nearly double the horsepower of the top engines from the 1960s.

Similar to fourth- and fifth-generation Camaro models, the engines can be dropped out the bottom of the car by removing the front K-member. Rollins opted to take the engine apart from the top, and with the low mileage, the engine looks factory fresh.

With a rich history dating back to the first model in 1967, the Camaro’s modern variant is writing a powerful, new chapter. The sixth generation of this iconic ride is available in several configurations, with engine choices range from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder to a supercharged 6.2-liter LT V8 making 650 horsepower.

Although the cylinder heads are solid performers as delivered by Chevrolet, Rollins sent them to Fasterproms for port work. “We normally see about a 25 to 35 rear-wheel horsepower increase from port work, depending on the engine combination,” Jeremy Formato, of Fasterproms, said.

Seeking a combination of good looks, handling, and power, Eric Major ordered the 2018 Super Sport model you see here. By checking the right boxes, it arrived with the 1LE package and 455 naturally aspirated horsepower in Garnet Red. But just over 1,100 miles on the odometer, Eric was ready for a more, and he contacted Jason Rollins at Rollins Automotive Speed and Custom to execute a performance-upgrade plan.

The final part to come out of the engine is the factory camshaft. Replacing it is Texas Speed & Performance VVT-2 camshaft, a healthy upgrade that should open up the operating rev range of this engine. The camshaft is ground on a 116-lobe separation and features 231 degrees of duration on the intake and 235 degrees of duration on the exhaust, while lift checks in at .645 inches on the intake and .635 inches of lift on the exhaust. Because of the increased needs for fuel in the direct injection, Rollins also specified a 32-percent increase on the fuel lobe.

“When Eric first came to us, he said ‘I want it to sound like a real muscle car. The choppy camshaft, better exhaust and more power,’” Jason admitted. “He wanted a good all-motor setup.”

With the cylinder heads back from Fasterproms, Jason Rollins can start the re-assembly of the engine. The factory intake and exhaust valves are slid back in place, but the factory springs are set aside in favor of a set of upgraded springs that are included with the Texas Speed & Performance camshaft package.

To achieve those goals, Jason called upon Texas Speed and Performance for a camshaft package, including a VVT-2 camshaft, lifters, pushrods, a rocker arm trunion upgrade, and a COMP Cams phaser limiters. He also selected a new MSD Atomic Air Force intake, American Racing Headers exhaust, a Katech valley cover, and an AEM Performance Electronics Failsafe gauge to monitor the air/fuel reading. He chose Fasterproms to port the factory cylinder heads and MSD intake for a bump in power.

Upgrading the camshaft and lifters also means disabling the factory Active Fuel Management. “This means the oil passages need to be addressed, and it can be done with a slightly modified LS3 engine valley cover,” Jason explained. But instead he opted from this billet version from Katech that handles that task. The new cover (PN A6851) requires transferring the oil pressure sensor, PCV fitting, and baffle from the factory cover.

The plan was coming together, but before a single bolt turned, Eric decided to up the power level a little more. “Originally he didn’t want to put a power adder on it,” said Jason. “But less than a week later, he called and said, ‘Can we add a ProCharger to it?’”

With the camshaft, front cover and Katech valley cover in place, he dropped the new lifters from the Texas Speed & Performance kit into place. Then he bolted on the ported factory cylinder heads and reinstalled the direct-injection system.

“At the time Rollins ordered this kit, we had not test fitted a 2018 Camaro yet,” said Sergio Shifman of ProCharger explained. “The base kit includes a P-1SC blower unit targeted for 7 pounds of boost, resulting in 160-flywheel-horsepower gain on a stock engine. Rollins opted for the Stage 2 tuner kit with a P-1X head unit upgrade and a target range of 10 pounds of boost.” That target boost level required a pulley change on the head unit from 4.13-inch diameter to a smaller 3.55-inch version. When the Camaro was once again complete, Fasterproms owner Jeremy Formato made the trip to Rollins to create a custom calibration. When the rollers stopped spinning on the chassis dyno, the modern Camaro yielded a 77-percent gain in horsepower. Eric Major received the sound and power he sought, and north Florida has a potent 2018 Camaro prowling the streets.

The planned increase in horsepower from the engine shouldn’t be corked up by a stock exhaust system. To make sure everything flowed freely, Rollins called up American Racing Headers for its intermediate system (PN CAV8-16178300ISWC1) that includes 1 7/8-inch primary headers with 3-inch collectors mated to an X-pipe, all hewn from 304 stainless steel. This tig-welded system is designed to merge with the factory mufflers, which on a 1LE model are a dual-mode design.
The new intake was one of the last pieces bolted into place on the long-block. Rollins shelved the factory unit for MSD’s Atomic Air Force intake (PN 2700). It is a multi-piece unit, and Fasterproms ported matched it to the cylinder heads.
Having boosted dozens of vehicles with ProCharger kits, Rollins found the installation of an existing kit on the then-new 2018 Camaro painless. “It was the easiest part of the entire build,” Jason confessed. “The instructions and parts are well thought out, and an enthusiast could install one with common hand tools in a weekend at home.”
To keep air inlet temperatures in check, ProCharger supplies an intercooler in its supercharger systems. The Stage 2 Camaro kit includes a bigger core than the base kit, and it attaches to the core support while providing a clean fit behind the front bumper cover.
To keep tabs on the recent changes, Rollins added a Wideband Failsafe gauge from AEM Performance Electronics. This instrument (PN 30-4900) not only monitors air/fuel ratio and boost, but it also features an internal datalogger.

Boost-Building Options

The 2018 Camaro ZL1 comes with a pavement-shredding 650 horsepower rating from Chevrolet, 195 more ponies than the SS model, thanks to a supercharged 376 cubic inch LT powerplant. But the ZL1 option commands a suggested retail price of almost $25,000 more than the base SS model. Can you duplicate that power gain with a ProCharger system for less coin?

“The LT engine is a great base, but with nearly 11:1 compression, we needed to design a kit that would provide a safe bump in power,” Sergio Shifman, of ProCharger, explained. “The reason for a 7-psi boost target on these kits is to accommodate for piston strength, compression ratio, and to ensure the kit is safe on minimum 91-octane fuel. But we can always accommodate a request for more boost, as we did in the kit for Rollins Automotive.”

Camaro kits can be optioned with a P-1X blower over the base P-1SC, or even step into the D-series with a D-1SC or D-1X head unit. “A P-1X head unit in the base HO system (set for 7 psi) will gain about 10-15 rear-wheel horsepower on average over the P-1SC,” Shifman said. And when you start making more power with a head unit upgrade, stepping up to the Stage 2 kit is another good choice.

“The Stage 1 HO kit uses a 3 ½-inch thick intercooler,” he said. “Stage 2 upgrades that intercooler to a larger design with a 4 ½-inch thick core, allowing intake temperatures to drop a good amount.”

 

In Tune

Entering his 19th year as the head of Fasterproms, Jeremy Formato is a popular tuner in the LS world. He jumped into the modern LT engine tuning arena early, and with five years experience on these powerplants, he was a natural choice to calibrate Eric Major’s new Camaro combo.

“The direct injection and the variable cam timing require a sharp eye on the LT engine,” said Jeremy. “There’s a lot more to it versus a LS engine. You can be tuning with a good air/fuel and timing curve, and if you start playing with the cam timing, it can be easy to make more power on a stock camshaft. When you make a camshaft swap, you will need to find what the new camshaft wants at different points or rpm levels. I’m always trying to get air/fuel close first, and then injector timing after that. But you can’t just think because the air/fuel is close at the beginning, it will stay there. Because as soon as you change injector timing, you’ll need to play with the air/fuel again.”

Knowing this Camaro was heavily modified, Jeremy figured it could take some time to get everything optimal. At the end of the day, the Camaro spun the DynoJet rollers to the tune of 687 horsepower and 657 lb-ft of torque at the wheels, but it also suffered a misfire and a 5,600-rpm limit.

“When Jeremy reached his limits on tuning the car as we initially finished it, we discussed a few things, including the possible spark-plug swap,” Jason Rollins added.

He switched to Brisk spark plugs (PN RR12-S) and a 160-degree thermostat, and the Camaro returned to the dyno. “Initially, the tune-up didn’t change, and on the first pull it made 758 rear-wheel horsepower,” Jason said.

A back-up lap yielded rear-wheel results of 761 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 642 at lb-ft of torque at 5,700 rpm, and Jason knows there’s more on the table. “I didn’t run it much past that point for safety’s sake, but the curve was still climbing,” he said. “And with 11 degrees of timing, Jeremy still wanted to put in a few more degrees. But the customer was beyond happy there, and we figured a safe tune-up for a mostly street-driven car was the right call.”That target boost level required a pulley change on the head unit from 4.13-inch diameter to a smaller 3.55-inch version. When the Camaro was once again complete, Fasterproms owner Jeremy Formato made the trip to Rollins to create a custom calibration. When the rollers stopped spinning on the chassis dyno, the modern Camaro yielded a 77-percent gain in horsepower. Eric Major received the sound and power he sought, and north Florida has a potent 2018 Camaro prowling the streets.

SOURCES

AEM Performance Electronics

(310) 484-2322

www.aemelectronics.com

 

American Racing Headers

(631) 608-1986

www.americanracingheaders.com

 

Brisk Spark Plugs

(713) 459-6977

www.briskusa.com

 

Fasterproms

(813) 476-7364

www.fasterproms.net

 

Katech

(586) 791-4120

www.katechengines.com

 

MSD Performance Products

(586) 791-4120

www.holley.com/brands/msd

 

Rollins Automotive Speed and Custom

(352) 335-7223

www.rollinsspeedandcustom.com

 

ProCharger

(913) 338-2886

www.procharger.com

 

Texas Speed & Performance

(512) 863-0900

www.texas-speed.com


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