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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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?’”
“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 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.”
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.
AEM Performance Electronics
American Racing Headers
Brisk Spark Plugs
MSD Performance Products
Rollins Automotive Speed and Custom
Texas Speed & Performance