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1971 Chevy Camaro - Countdown To 8s

One Guy's Approach To Horsepower, Traction, And The Quest For A Lower E.T.

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"I built this car to work on the street." That's how Troy LaCrone has always approached his '71 Camaro project. But this is no stoplight snoozer. Troy has his sights set firmly on running in the 8-second zone. It's a lofty goal cross-haired with Troy's laser-beam intensity. The small-block Camaro has already run a 9.61/137.60 with a 1.33 60-foot time at Gateway International Raceway on a conservative nitrous tune-up, and Troy is looking at a new converter and magic carburetor that promise to get him closer.

Unlike virtually all of Hollywood's lame attempts at car movies and those instant-gratification hot rod shows on TV where everything works perfectly every time, the road to street stardom is more often fraught with hidden land mines. Troy's Camaro started out as a 12.30s streeter with a stock crank 406 that eventually grenaded after running a series of low 11s. That pushed Troy to upgrade to more displacement while remaining true to his Mouse motor roots. It's called spending your money where it will do the most good.

Troy calls himself a Certified Master Black Belt Six Sigma instructor. We won't get into what that means. Suffice it to say, scientific method and a logical, studied approach to solving problems is what he does for a living. It should be no surprise that he followed that same path with the preparation and component purchases for the Camaro when he decided to pick up the e.t. pace. The trick here was that Troy spent time researching his purchases before he leaned on his credit card. That's where the AFR heads came from. They're the least-expensive version of the biggest 23-degree small-block head that AFR sells with no additional CNC porting. Matched to the heads is a one-off custom Lunati mechanical-roller camshaft that was born out of a discussion with cam master Harold Brookshire.

But do not be misled.The AFR heads and 256/264-degrees-at-0.050 lobes have always been street-bound. That's why Troy liked Harold's suggestion of asymmetrical lobes with an aggressive opening flank on the cam and then a softer, smoother-closing ramp that would not abuse the valvesprings. "I'd rather change springs every five years rather than once a week," Troy says.

The statement, "My entire car is a compromise," really sums up Troy's approach to this Camaro. This is why the 434ci Mouse isn't a 12.0:1 or 13.0:1 effort-pump gas will always be much cheaper than race gas. It also didn't make economic sense to build all the power with the motor when nitrous is such a quick and easy horsepower lever. He also didn't go right out and hammer the biggest jets into the NOS system. Instead he built his power pyramid more gradually, eventually working up to the current 225hp combo. The next step is even more power with a 350hp shot. But before that happens, he's currently testing a new, tighter Yank Racing torque converter for the Turbo 400, since the 225 shot eventually loosened up the old converter where he was spinning close to 8,000 rpm going through the lights even though the Camaro only twists a 3.89 gear with 28-inch-tall rear tires.

The compromise extends to the Camaro's suspension as well. While you might expect more race-oriented components between the rear wheelwells, it's shocking to see stock Camaro leaf springs, an inexpensive set of slapper traction bars, and a set of Competition Engineering adjustable shocks. But look closely because there is still plenty of science in these mundane parts. There's a wedge between the springs and the rear axlehousing that dials in a 511/42-degree nose-down pinion angle. And despite the lack of solid-spring-eye bushings, Troy reports no wheelhop problems.

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