Dan Gray's '93 Camaro is cool on a number of levels. First, and probably most important, is its 713 lb-ft torque rating at the wheels. Think that's bull? He'll produce a dyno printout. Second, its mid-10-second elapsed times at the strip. Incredulous? Again, he'll show you a timeslip to back it up. Third, he drives it to and from the track-not just from a trailer to the starting line. He's a regular at the street-legal drags at California Speedway-which, at a little over 50 miles one way from his Mission Viejo home, is not exactly a short trip, either. Fourth, he's owned the car since it was new. And lastly, you could eat off of almost any piece of this car-exterior, interior, and undercarriage.
There's a lot to be said about Dan's undying devotion to this car and his desire to improve every aspect of it. He's the first to admit his Camaro still isn't exactly how he'd like it, and that it probably never will be. But, he says, it gets closer with every modification. After spending several hours with him during the photo shoot, my first question after the camera was put away was, why a '93 Camaro? He dotes over it as one would a family heirloom: It has been in the rain only once, it spends its down time in a climate-controlled garage with a waxed tile floor, and it's thoroughly detailed on a regular basis-outside, inside, and underneath. Dan's successful in his career and could afford a Hemi 'Cuda or a first-generation Camaro, so, again, why a '93? The answer is elementary-the car just felt right
"I've always been a Chevy guy," Dan says. "My first car was a '51 Chevy. I put in a straight axle and a 327 and an M-21 from a '63 Corvette." How many of us can say our first car was a Gasser? He was into cars and drag racing from the beginning, but spent some time away while establishing his business and helping raise a family. Later, when his schedule was more forgiving, he bought a new '92 Camaro, which he owned for only six months. "A friend of mine was the general manager of a Chevy dealer, and he called to ask if I wanted to testdrive one of the new LT1 Camaros that they had just gotten in," Dan explains. He was so impressed with the new-car's power, he immediately traded in his '92 for a '93
Dan began by doing the simple things first. "I did a cold-air intake and an after-cat exhaust system," he says. It just exploded from there. And in the process, he's whittled away his elapsed times from the 15s to mid-10s, with his sights set squarely on breaking into the 9s. All the while, the car has remained fully street-legal and smog-compliant. It's not even very loud until he really gets on it. The Camaro still has a full interior, a rocking stereo, and even air conditioning. His goal all along has been to create a functional, purposeful combination without fluff or excess. Dan sums it up best: "It's an ongoing project to have the best balance of show and go."
What: '93 Chevrolet Camaro
Owner: Dan Gray
Hometown: Mission Viejo, California. Tune into Mission Viejo Television 24 hours a day on Cox cable-channel 30
Hardware: Bob McKray Performance of Mission Viejo handled the engine build, and Justin Shears did the assembly work. The stock LT1 was bored 0.030-inch over and stroked to 383 ci. The Eagle 4340 crank was cryo-dipped and fitted with Eagle forged H-beam connecting rods and Teflon-coated custom JE pistons. The compression ratio is a pump-gas-tolerable 11:1. Ported Brodix Race-Rite heads top off the short-block, and the valvetrain consists of a custom-ground Comp Cams camshaft and Pro Magnum roller rocker arms. The combustion chambers, valve faces, and piston tops are all treated with a ceramic coating. Cold air enters via a 58mm Edelbrock throttle body and a high-flowing LT4 intake manifold. Thirty-six lb/hr ACCEL fuel injectors supply copious amounts of premium unleaded as required by Dan's right foot.
Software: The factory ECM soldiered on until the list of modifications became long enough to leave it dazed and confused. A FAST 7X1 engine-management computer took over things from there. The engine was dialed in on a chassis dynamometer at Harv's Dyno & Auto Tune in Whittier, California, yielding the impressive 570hp and 713 lb-ft numbers at the wheels.
Nitrous: Yes, please. Big power numbers and low elapsed times are made possible by the 130 shot with a big Nitrous Oxide Systems bottle stashed in the trunk.
Ignition: Dan was brand-loyal in choosing his ignition components. An MSD 6AL box triggers the MSD coil that sends current through an MSD Optispark distributor, and out through MSD 8mm wires and into NGK plugs.
Transmission: Torque-transfer duties are handled by an Art Carr-built 700-R4 equipped with a 4,000-rpm stall Yank torque converter and a Corvette valvebody. The shifter is a B&M Hammer
Rearend: Power comes in through a carbon-fiber driveshaft and out through a Strange 12-bolt with a 4.11 limited-slip final drive and custom 33-spline axles.
Exhaust: Ceramic-coated ASM short-tube headers route the exhaust into a single-outlet system custom bent by J.P Performance in Santa Ana, California. Dan has a not-so-legal test pipe that he uses at the track.
Chassis: The undercarriage of Dan's Camaro looks like a catalog for tube-steel suspension components. Up front, you'll find QA1 adjustable coilovers and BMR tubular upper and lower control arms bolted to a BMK tubular K-member finished off with a Hotchkis sway bar. In back, Dan went with Hotchkis stuff all around: torque arm, control arms, Panhard bar, and sway bar. Eibach springs set the ride height and are damped by QA1 shocks. BMR subframe connectors reinforce the car from underneath while a six-point rollcage by Orange County Performance in Mission Viejo puts the kibosh on chassis flex from the inside.
Wheels/Tires: Again, Torq-Thrusts prove that they look cool on any car. The wheels are 17-inch up front, but 16-inch in back that spin the 28x16x11.5 Hoosier Quicktime Pros. The rear wheelhouses were mini-tubbed to accommodate these slightly wider-than-normal slicks.
Brakes: Dan filled the insides of his Torq-Thrusts with a Baer 1311/42-inch rotor and four-piston caliper kit up front and 11-inch rotors in the back
Interior: Aside from the rollcage, the interior looks stock at first glance. Look closer and you may notice the custom leather upholstery in place of the factory cloth seats. Leather wasn't available in '93. A big Auto Meter Pro-Comp tachometer is mounted in Dan's line of sight to help monitor engine speed, while a set of auxiliary gauges are tastefully mounted down low, keeping with the low-profile look of the rest of the interior.
Best time: As of January, Dan's best run was 10.425 at 128.19 mph. He's looking to break into the 9s very soon.