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1988 Chevrolet Camaro - It Melts Clutches

Is that tire smoke or clutch smoke? Mike's '88 Camaro makes both.

By , Photography by ,

This '88 Camaro was Mike Bighley's first car. unlike those of us who spend our lives in pursuit of our true love-our first car-he kept his, building it up to the wolf-in-sheep's- clothing twin-turbo monster you see here.

Mike bought it in 1997, just around the time he turned 16. It was a base coupe model equipped with the optional LO3 TBI 305. Churning out 170 hp, it was an OK car for a 16-year-old. At 17, he got wise and began working on it, mostly adding bolt-ons. he did the typical cam/heads/exhaust stuff for several years, enjoying the building and driving experience. When he reached the limits of the 305 block, he upgraded to a TPI setup on top of a GM ZZ4 crate engine. That might be where many of us would have left it alone. But the motor oil really hit the fan when Mike, at age 23, decided he wanted turbos.

Mark found a deal on a strong reciprocating assembly and got to work. he did a lot of research on the Internet and some experimenting with different combinations in his own car before coming up with the iteration we came across at last year's Summer Nationals in St. Paul. here's the condensed version: a pair of Master Power T70 turbochargers, two intercoolers, custom headers, an edelbrock Victor-e intake, Fast Burn heads, 150-pound injectors, and four fuel pumps.

He dialed everything in using a FAST XFI engine-management system. How much power, you ask? Running on e85 fuel with 20 psi of boost, how does 854 hp at the wheels sound? Cooler still is the story Mike tells about the time he first cranked up the boost that high. "The clutch welded itself to the flywheel. I had to separate them with a pry bar." Steamy. he's still messing with the settings, ultimately shooting for 1,000 hp at the wheels at 24 psi.

All along the way, Mike steadily improved the drivetrain and chassis as well. He swapped out the stock trans in favor of a stronger T56, replaced the small 10-bolt rear with a Moser 9-inch, and added a rollcage and subframe connectors to take most of the wet noodle out of the Camaro's unibody. In addition to all the mechanical work, Mike, a bodyman by trade, painted the car himself. Control freak!

Tech Notes
Who:
Mike Bighley
What: '88 Chevrolet Camaro
Where: Vadnais heights, Minnesota. The wind chill was 10.4 degrees F there at the time this was written.

Engine: Mike runs a GM Performance Parts ZZ4 block. It's heavily reinforced to cope with more than 20 psi of boost. He uses billet main caps and ARP studs, a forged Scat crank and Carrillo rods, and Je extreme Duty 8.5:1 pistons. he ported his GMPP Fast Burn cylinder heads keeping the stock valves but adding Comp beehive springs and titanium retainers. Aaron's Machine in St. Paul did the block prep.

Turbochargers and plumbing: hours of research led Mike to Brazil's Master Power, prompting him to pick up a pair of T70 turbos. They blow a compressed intake charge through a pair of air-to-liquid intercoolers that Mike painted black and hid in the grille openings behind the foglights.

Intake: Air enters the engine via a Wilson 90mm throttle body and into an edelbrock Victor e manifold.

Exhaust: Willing to try anything once, Mike made his own exhaust system starting with a set of 13.4" headers. From the turbine side, Mike made the 3-inch downtubes leading to a single 4-inch exhaust through a Borla XR-1 muffler exiting at the rear of the car.

Fuel: Mike keeps his engine well fed with a steady flow of e85 sprayed by a set of Ford Racing 150-lb/hr injectors. To keep up with demand, he sumped the stock gas tank and installed four Walbro fuel pumps. The car normally runs on two pumps, but the computer switches on the extra two based on load and engine speed.

Engine Management: Originally, Mike was running a MegaSquirt computer, but recently switched to a FAST XFI box. Ignition: If you can take your eyes off Mike's cool turbo setup you'll eventually notice his MSD Pro Billet distributor and HVC II coil.

Transmission: The T56 Mike swapped in several years ago is still holding up despite the massive jump in power. He upgraded to a McLeod twin-disc clutch, though.

Rearend: Worried about broken housings and snapped axles, Mike installed a Moser 9-inch with 3.25:1 gears and 31-spline axles. Can you blame him?

Suspension: up front, you'll see a PA Racing K-frame and control arms. In back are a BMR torque arm, control arms, and a Panhard bar. eibach's and Koni's are at all four corners.

Chassis: Mike built his six-point 'cage from a weld-up kit purchased from Competition engineering, welding it in on a 95-degree day. he said he's never sweated so much in his life.

Brakes: All that power under the hood will easily overwhelm a stock braking system. Mike wisely upgraded to Baer's Track kit that included 13-inch rotors up front and 12-inchers out back.

Wheels/Tires: Five spokes are the way to go, and Mike's got a set of 17-inch V45s by Vintage Wheel Works. he rolls on Nitto tires, sizes 274/45R17 front and 315/35R17 rear.

Paint And Body: Mike sprayed the '69 hugger Orange himself, adding the cool rally stripes in the process.

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