Remember when everyone thought European cars handled well and American muscle cars could only exhibit power in a straight line? Not only have horsepower numbers increased exponentially under the hoods of those American cars, but these early steeds have gained a lot of help in making them corner carvers in their own right.
Companies such as Total Cost Involved have embraced the idea that vintage muscle cars, with the right combination of components and thoughtful design, can give even the modern euro crowd a run for their money. That’s proven in this video where TCI Engineering’s own development vehicle titled “Project Reddawn” was handed over to accomplished driver Tom Berry for a couple of laps around the NMCA’s autocross track.
Tom had just won this event driving a 2016 Porsche GT3 RS. His winning time – 46.501 seconds. To give you an idea of how close the competition can be at these events, he was only .006” quicker than the guy on the second rung of the podium! Tom is no stranger to carving corners, but this is the first time he wields the wheel of this particular second-gen Camaro so nobody is expecting a record-setting run. Perhaps they were expecting the ordinary vintage-American-car performance out of the red Camaro.
This is no ordinary Camaro! Upgrades envelop the whole car’s build and some of the highlights include the Lingenfelter-built LS7 (427ci) engine which pumps out 644 horsepower to the Silver Sport Transmission supplied TREMEC Magnum six-speed through a McLeod RXT clutch. A set of Hedman long-tube headers easily pour the fumes to the three-inch Magnaflow exhaust, which then directs it out to the rear of the car.
Because American cars were already known to be powerful and the folks at TCI Engineering wanted to improve the car’s handling, they augmented the f-body’s increased go-fastness with a TCI Pro-Touring System. Up front, the Pro-Touring kit features an IFS tubular bolt-on front clip with triple-adjustable RideTech coilover shocks and TCI Engineering’s own 1 1/8-inch sway bar. An upgrade to a power rack and pinion steering also comes along with the Camaro Pro-Touring front assembly and greatly improves the car’s turning response over the OEM gearbox.
Out back, a TCI Engineering Torque Arm system with triple-adjustable RideTech coilover shocks and a TCI 3/4-inch sway bar keeps the Currie Fab 9 rear firmly planted whether going straight, left, or right. A 3.89 gearset spins a pair of 35-spline axles out to the ends of the housing. For stopping, the Camaro was treated to Wilwood 14-inch rotors with six-piston calipers up front and 13-inch rotors with four-piston calipers in the rear. American Racing 18×11 front (6.25-inch backspace) and 18×11 rear (5-inch backspace) wheels were wrapped in Falken Azenis RT615K: 315/30/ZR18 tires both front and rear.
Just to prove the overall effectiveness of the TCI chassis, the folks at TCI have entered Project Reddawn into various events such as Holley’s LS Fest West, where the car competed in drag racing, autocrossing, and open-track competition. TCI also participates in the various NMCA autocross events, which is where Tom was tossed the keys during some “fun runs” after taking home the trophy for the event. The video highlights Tom’s first and second runs behind the wheel, and while Tom knows the course and also knows how to cut an apex, it was expected that he’ll need a little time to feel out his Americanized steed.
On his first run, the TCI-equipped Camaro cuts a respectable time of 47.261-seconds. Up to this point, the car has run its best time of 47.1-seconds. On both of Tom’s runs, TCI’s VP of Operations Sal Solorzano oversaw the action from the passenger’s seat. Tom was obviously much better acquainted with the red Camaro on his second attempt, as he easily swooshed past his first attempt and scuttled Project Reddawn with a 46.842-second pass, within three-tenths of his winning time in the GT3 RS!
Tom had already twisted his way around the course eight times previously in his Porsche and once already in the Camaro. So surely, Tom’s knowledge of the course helped him garner the most out of Project Reddawn on this final run, but it also shows the potential of the car in its current configuration. Perhaps, Tom could have cut a few more precious milliseconds off his Porsche’s time had he continued to make laps in that car. The fact he improved so dramatically in the Camaro on his second run, and that he got so close to his winning time during these “fun runs” with the added ballast of a passenger shows there is more potential if the dial were fully twisted to eleven.
Upon completing the course for the second time, Tom gave some observations about the car’s corner-carving abilities. “A lot of times, you throw a car into a corner, and that’s all it’s got,” he said. “This car, you throw it into a corner faster than you think you should, AND you can accelerate!”
Being able to use both engine and chassis to the fullest is a great idea and the very thing that will help shirk off that obsolete notion that American cars can’t handle properly. And, before you disqualify this capable carver from ever doing any street duty, we’d like to defer you to TCI Engineering’s Jason Wilcox, who has likely put the most road miles on the company cruiser. “I’ve driven this Camaro to Las Vegas twice,” he says. “while I don’t get to race it, it is a lot of fun on the street!”
Jason explains the suspension components utilize Energy Suspension bushings, so they’re solid, yet compliant and quiet. Even with the required rollbar and other competition considerations, the interior is quite people-friendly, although he confides that having the LS7’s external oil reservoir behind the passenger’s seat can make that side of the vehicle warmer for the passenger.
While there may have been some truth to the European’s view of our beloved muscle cars back in the day, thankfully, we’re seeing those stereotypes fade away into the rearview mirror. Perhaps we’re finally seeing the fullness of that old adage which states, “Old cars never die, they just keep getting faster!” Thanks to folks like Total Cost Involved, they are going faster than our European friends had ever imagined.