The Build – Part 3

The saga continues….

It was 30 days out from SEMA, and as with all great plans things do change and fortunately for me, the change was good. I flew up to Grand Rapids to help Tommy do some sanding, get my hands dirty, and get a little visitation in with my baby. We were having dinner the first night there, discussing the car, when he makes a comment about how he thought about widening the back of the car. Tommy says, “I almost gave her a wide body, but the guys said you would kill me without talking to you first, and we are almost ready for paint.” I kind of chuckled at the comment about killing him, but I might have given it serious thought if he cut in to my car without calling me first ;-). The conversation moved on to other mods, and that Pirelli wanted the car in their booth at SEMA. Score!!! Heck yes, I would rather have the car in a booth then just a featured vehicle out on the general floor. But…. I kept thinking about the wide body mod. So I ask him, “How wide?” Tommy was thinking something subtle, just enough to make people wonder what was different, and it would also cover up a wider tire. Perfect plan, but with only 30 days out, too much work. We agree that night – it was just too much work.

So there we were, the next morning, ready to get to sanding the gills and get her ready for paint. That’s when Tommy walks up with the grinder and a smile.. “Well, we gonna do this?”, he asks. We tape out some body lines, and take that last long look. Ok, let’s do this. And so we did. As we start cutting off the back quarter panel, I had the surreal thought “wow, I am cutting up my brand new car”.

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Prep work before the cutting

 

As we start cutting off the back quarter panel, I had the surreal thought “Wow, I am cutting up my brand new car.”  Then….It was off.  No turning back now.

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And then I had that, “Tommy’s body guys are going to be none too happy”, thought, when they get in to work on that Monday.  No, the car was not going in to paint as they thought, it wasn’t even close. Instead, it was going to need a bunch of additional work to finish her up in time for SEMA.

 

I even got in on the cutting and spot welding. Oh well, at least I flew back home knowing the car was going to be special, and all mine.

Yes, I had my safety lenses on, called my eyelids.

Yes, I had my safety lenses on, called my eyelids

To finish the look, we had a few other last minute additions. Of course. We wanted the new wider look to have a lower stance with a race car type of interior. I was making last minute calls to source parts, and suddenly it was week out from the car leaving for Nevada. For the lower stance, we needed coilovers. I made a call to LG Motorsports, “so I would like a set of your G5 coilovers, and I need them in two days”. Great customer service! They had them boxed up and shipped by the end of the day. Interior changes included installing a race harness bar and pulling the rear seat. The last few days before shipping was crazy, but the car was coming together, and would soon be off to SEMA.

 

HP Therapy had changed completely from when she rolled off the assembly plant line 10 months prior – with a completely different engine and custom body and wheels. But my smile hasn’t changed – I am still grinning from ear to ear.

 

 

HPT rear

Caption: Tommy loading her up on the trailer for SEMA.

 

My first good look at the finished car wasn’t until HPT arrived at SEMA. I was a kid waiting for the ultimate Christmas present. I sort of ruined Tommy’s big unveil plan when I was out for a walk, and heard the rumble of a car coming down the street. “Hey, that sounds like my baby…It IS my baby, Here comes HPT!!!!”. I was very lucky to have a great car, have a great friendship with Tommy, and for my car to be invited to be in the Pirelli booth.

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But the whole SEMA experience is another story. 😉

 

The Build – Part 2

It’s been too long since my last post, car has been to a bunch of shows…but that will be another post.  So, back to the build story.  HPT had just finished up at ADM Performance.

The story continues……

I drove out of Texas with a HUGE grin from ear to ear and had just an incredible drive home. She was a sleeper…. Even without Supercharger badging and just the stock 1LE hood, she still had all that HP – so much get up and go. I knew I had made the right decision with Andy and ADM. I was home in time for Christmas, with my present sitting in the garage.

But what was next? How could I make her mine, like no one else’s. I was combing over the forums, looking for parts and pieces. A ZL1 rocker panel was the first body mod, then LED side markers. That’s when I saw the next step…on the Camaro5 Forum. USW Forged made a post offering a discounted price for a set of their wheels for a car coming to the Camaro5 Fest if they would agree to be a booth car. I was already planning on taking my car to the Fest so I could run her down the track with the Cowboy. So swapping stock wheels to something custom was a perfect next step. I opened up a conversation with USW, and they made the process quite easy. USW wanted to showcase the Elimin8R wheel, and would make up a custom color to specifically match the color of my car.

USW Wheel Design Drawing

USW Wheel Design Drawing

 

It was a go – new wheels and on display in a booth at Camaro5 Fest. And that lead to the rest of the build process. Matt, from USW, introduced me to Tommy Z at the Fest. Tommy and I started talking about my car and how it was a great starting place to build something special. Of course, as with all plans and designs, it grew, as did my friendship with Tommy. 😉

 

First time HPT was on display, USW Booth. (Camaro5 Fest 2014)

First time HPT was on display, USW Booth. (Camaro5 Fest 2014) 

USW and Oracle Lights also opened the door for my car to be a feature vehicle at SEMA. I had always wanted to go to SEMA. For any of us that watch car shows on TV, it’s all about the SEMA builds. It was THE place to see cool cars and the next gen products.

But before SEMA came the Nashville Goodguys Car Show, where Tommy and I started working on a few sketches for the SEMA build. We started with a basic plan of smoothing out the gills on the rear quarter panels, cutting in some vents on the front fenders, and relocating the fuel door. And, last but not least, figuring out a way to give the supercharger a little more room under the hood.

HPT at Nashville Goodguys 2014.

HPT at Nashville Goodguys 2014.

Nashville Goodguys 2014 was our chance to hang out and get to know each other.   The plan was set, and after the show, off my car went to Grand Rapids for mods. It was an emotional event watching the car being loaded on the trailer.   To be honest, I was a little worried. But I knew Tommy was the right guy for the work. I had seen picture of his cars he had worked on prior, and knew his reputation. Tommy Z was the guy to get this done.

Car Loaded up for the trip north. So the project began. His buddies over at Halo Supercar started work on the fuel door relocation. While at the Camaro5 Fest, I saw how the Oracle car had the fuel door up on the top of the rear quarter panel and loved how that looks. The original concept Camaro had the same thing, just on the left side.

 

 

fuel door 4

Fuel door modifications at Halo

 

After finishing up at Halo, it was off to the mad scientists workshop. Tommy started work on smoothing the gills, adding in front fender vents, and the mysterious “Mohawk”. He and I both wanted to do something special to the hood’s heat extractor. After installing the supercharger under the stock hood, it was a tight fit under the extractor. I wanted something that would give it a little more space, let in more airflow, and give it a one-off look. Hence the “Mohawk” – the centerpiece of the car’s new look. Along with the new look, came new wheels. Tommy had the idea of putting on a set of one-off custom USW wheels. Yes, another set of USW’s. Cause a guy can never have enough sets of wheels…. Of course he was none too happy when I told him I wanted the shiny set of custom wheels painted black. So we compromised by leaving the lip chromed. He was 100% right on that one, it did make the look.

 

Work in progress...

Work in progress…

 

The build was progressing, and SEMA was getting closer. It was coming up on time to do some finishing touches, sand, and go to paint. I wanted to get my hands dirty, and actually help out, so Tommy and I worked out a schedule for me to go up north and help out. That’s when things got crazy…crazy good.

The Build – Part 1

As I sit here in my hotel room in Las Vegas, waiting on my car to arrive for SEMA Show 2014, I think back on the journey that started a year ago. How did I get here?

Why a Camaro?

I have always loved the look of a Camaro. I think the 1968 Camaro SS is the baddest muscle car out there. And I admit it, I even owned a 1994 Camaro, not the best looking, but I wanted a Camaro while I lived in Germany. I really love the look of the new Camaros, specifically the 2014. So in the fall of 2013, the Corvette was put up for sale with the plan to purchase a new car to tinker with as soon as it sold. My corvette found a new home in TN, and I was off in search of my new ride.

The start of the journey…

I knew what I wanted; I was going to go big or stay home but was having a hard time finding it at a dealer. I was on the fence between a 2SS 1LE or getting the ZL1. The ZL1 had the factory-installed supercharger, but it was just that…factory, with little room to tinker and make it mine once the papers were signed. And, to be honest, it was out of my price range at the time. So, 2SS 1LE was the final decision. But I still had to find one. I wanted only what I wanted, and not the “extra” stuff that I didn’t want (and didn’t want to pay for).

After a long discussion with the local Chevy dealership, I decided to order my car from the factory so I could get exactly what I wanted. On 10/23/2013 my order went in for my 2014 Blue Ray Metallic, 2SS, RS, 1LE with Dual Mode Exhaust. Then the waiting began… and it wasn’t easy at all, I felt like being a kid waiting for Christmas.

While waiting impatiently, I started reaching out to some of the big name companies (Hennessey, Lingenfelter, MTI) about engine mods. I did a lot of research in a short amount of time, but November flew by and I hadn’t picked an engine builder. That is when I talked with Andy at ADM Performance, at the recommendation of another fellow Night Stalker (and close friend…Cowboy Coker). He just had Andy put twin turbos on his 2014 Camaro (almost the exact same car as what I had ordered, but in Black). I wouldn’t say I copied him, cause it would go straight to his Gun pilot head. But his car did look awesome, and that did help cement the decision on the Camaro. But I digress… Andy seemed to be the right guy for the job. He had a great reputation in the Camaro engine world as being “THE” guy that can make your car go faster.

On Dec 12th my car arrived at the dealership…

arrival 1

Delivery to Dealership

I had the strangest conversation with the finance manager. You know how they all want to sell you the best extended warranties they have? He began by asking if I wanted the extended warranty. I simply said, “no thank you”. He then switched tactics, trying to persuade me by replying,, “You don’t understand. These cars are very complicated, and you don’t want the cost later if anything goes wrong.” My response, “You don’t understand. I am going to void the powertrain warranty on this car in three days.” He gave me a puzzled look as he gave up. And I left the dealer with my new toy and a plan for my new Horsepower Therapy – to let Andy loose with his magic.

Good as my word, just three days later I took my new toy for its first road trip to Texas. I left town in a freezing drizzle, enjoying every minute of the drive. The whole drive out all I could think about was “wow, I’m really doing this to a brand new car….crazy, crazy, crazy!” I arrived at ADM first thing on Monday morning with a car filthy from the ride out in the rain and sleet. He got his guys to give her a quick wash and set to getting the old engine out. Old engine, you know, with all of 850 miles on it. After getting the car on the lift, the engine was literally out of the car in less than 40 minutes. I was amazed at how fast he and his guys were able to disconnect everything. I am always amazed at how the engine, transmission and front suspension drop out as one component. Very cool!

Old Engine out of the car

Old Engine out of the car

Andy had all of the new components laid out, dress right dressed, in complete order. There was the shiny supercharger sitting on the bench, and a beautiful forged part LS3 engine sitting on a stand waiting to go in to my car.

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I was there every day, probably much to Andy’s chagrin, and even got my hands dirty turning wrenches on the car. It was a great experience to watch them work, and help them out. It only took a few days for Andy and his team to get the new engine in and ready for it’s first pull on the Dyno.   Andy was meticulous with the details. Every wire and hose wrapped and tied. The new supercharger looked stock, like it was always there. Of course with a couple of extra goodies, like an ADM race intake, a Lingenfelter Oil catch can, and a custom belly pan. It’s those little details that make ADM the best.

 

 

engine bay          At the end of the week, she was all buttoned up, this was what it was all building up to, dyno time. The whole week Andy figured she would pull at least 675, that was his back of the napkin estimate. The first pull, 679…. Pretty darn good. Second pull…692…. That’s what I’m talking about. One last adjustment to the numbers, load up the file….third pull 702.78 RWHP with 678 lbs of torque. PERFECT!!! She broke 700 at the wheels. Andy dubbed her the Z1LE 800

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A really big thank you to my buddy Coker who was good enough to put me up at the Coker Ranch while I waited on them to finish up my ride. We got off a great picture of a LOT of HP sitting there, that almost 1400 RWHP sitting there.

2 x 1LE = 1400HP

 

 

Past Rides…

Through the years I have had 3 Corvettes and 3 Harleys.

My Corvettes…..

My first Corvette was a beautiful, numbers matching 1971 Blue Roadster with a white top. A great car, but a 1971 car – without power brakes.  A real head turner, but it drove you.  It was one of the early Gen 3’s with chrome bumpers front and back, just a classic Corvette.  But I decided I wanted a more updated car, something with power brakes and decent air conditioning 😉

1971

 My second Corvette was a 2001 Magnetic Red Metallic II Roadster. I put a lot of time and work in to making her a show car with speed.  Mostly bolt on modifications, but enough to make me smile when I hit the gas.  And it was nice enough to win a few car shows locally.  Most of the work was completed with friends in my garage.  Tinkering on my own car was and still is very satisfying.  Unfortunately for that car, it was community property, and I wasn’t going to saw it in half….so it was sold.

2001 2001 Engine work

 

My replacement Corvette was a 2004 Commemorative Lemans Blue Roadster. Have you noticed the convertible theme?  I tinkered with replacing the audio system as I did with the 2001, and started some bolt on mods to the engine and a few exterior changes.  But there was something a little too familiar about this new build – I had been here before, and I wasn’t exactly challenged.  I wanted something else, a fresh canvas and something with a little more of a tough muscle car look…  The Camaro was in my future.

2004 Vette

engine 2

 

My Harleys…….

As far as I am concerned, the base Harley has always been a platform for personalizing. Some have said with my Harleys I was a definite Chrome lover.

My first Harley was a 2003 Anniversary Edition Dyna Wide Glide. Loved that bike, a little rocket.  I didn’t do a whole lot of work to her – just a few dress up add-ons, but no engine work.  But I rode it every chance I had, including up and down the Tail of the Dragon.

wide glide

My second Harley was a 2006 Street Glide.  I wanted a bit of a break from the wind, so it was time for a bike with a front fairing.  And I have to admit, it was nice having a stereo.  I went with a flame and chrome look for the bike.  I did do a few engine mods to pull a little more power out of her – just the usual engine stuff – a stage 2 95” big bore kit, a Screaming Eagle (SE) 211 cam, and a SE Race Tuner.  Most of my Harley riding friends made similar mods on their bikes.  Unfortunately, that bike went the way of the 2001 Corvette…

2006 SG

 As a replacement to the 2006, I went out and picked up a 2007 Black Pearl Street Glide with a few mods for more horsepower. I wanted to go bigger and faster than the 2006 bike, so I went with SE 103″ kit, with HTCC Heads and Pistons, SE260 Cam, Thundermax w/autotune, Bassani True Duals, and of course lots of flames and chrome.  She was a beast – and an amazing ride.

2007 SG

 Yes, the Street Glides look very much the same.  Very easy to do when you keep the parts list from the first bike 😉

Great memories…

And now, while I am finishing up my 1st Camaro, I am already considering the next venture… more to follow on that later.  Let’s just say it won’t be your Granddaddy’s car.

Where did you find that part ???

The two top questions I most often hear – and ask – at cruise-ins and car shows are “Where did you find that part?” and “How hard was that to install?”

The age of the Internet has revolutionized how the shade tree mechanic operates, and made car modification an option for even the most mechanically challenged.  I do not consider myself a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but I can follow directions.  And thanks to the Internet, I can find information and directions on almost anything I want to add to my vehicles.  Many vendor websites provide outstanding support on their own products, but for an unbiased User perspective, my Internet resource of choice is the car forum.

As soon as I had my Camaro on order, I was out there goggling every Camaro site I could find and saving them to my Favorites.  Aftermarket parts, installers, and forums…save, save, save.  Then it was research time.  Which forum seemed to have it all?  I have been a member of several Harley and Corvette forums in the past, and had a very good idea of what was expected of a strong forum, one that was a true resource.  All too often a forum becomes just another place to complain or badger the new guy.   I was lucky enough to get turned on to one specific forum by a buddy who just purchased his own Camaro – the Camaro5 forum.  Camaro5 has it all – a great selection of technical topics and many knowledgeable members and sponsors.

Within a couple weeks of ordering my car, I was pouring through pages of parts Camaro5 members had purchased, reviewing pros and cons of certain modifications, vendor recommendations, cost comparisons, and best of all – learning how to do it myself.  The DIY section is a wealth of information.

Before my car had even arrived, I was ordering mods from vendors and had subscribed to all the threads I needed to do the installs.  All the members’ pictures and YouTube links made the modification process less scary.  Soon I had new parts and tools stacked up all over the garage floor, and was absolutely ready to go – I just needed my car.

It was perfect.

Camaro5 Forum

Camaro5 Forum

For example, take installing ZL1 rockers on my 1LE.  I knew I wanted the look after seeing other pics on the forum.  I did a little research and found a vendor in the sponsor’s classified marketplace that had the rockers.  Then I looked for a DIY on the install that included a YouTube link, and I found that too.  What seemed like a difficult mod, maybe something that really should be left to a body shop, turned in to a 45-minute project in my garage.  I saved $$ and most importantly, I had a really good time using my tools on my new car.  And it was too easy, because of the resources provided on the Camaro5 forum.  I then switched out the side markers, and swapped out the stock center console for a custom leather-wrapped replacement.  Again, cost-savings, and a whole lot of fun making my car mine.

If you are a Camaro guy, and haven’t found the Camaro5 Forum, take a look inside.  You won’t be disappointed, I wasn’t.  Other great forums include HDForums.com and V-TwinForum.com for Harley Davidson and CorvetteForum.com for the Corvette.

What are you all following?

Why Horsepower Therapy?

I have been asked a few times, “What does the name mean?  Why call your car Horsepower Therapy?”  For me, it’s not simply a catchy phrase or a cool sounding name.   My better half would tell you that my cars, and the current Camaro is no exception, have always provided me with the comfort of horsepower therapy.  It’s what a car means and does for me.  I can put it a little more simply – it’s fun to go fast and it’s fun to make stuff go faster.

I am a retired Army helicopter pilot and spent most of my 23 year career flying with the great soldiers and aviators of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.  I love flying and I loved flying with the 160th.  There is a reason it’s called Special Ops – accomplishing the mission often required pushing the envelope – or ignoring it altogether.  The flying was exciting, cutting edge, tip of the spear, and yes… occasionally a little crazy, and crazy fun.

I was never one for peace and quiet, which is probably why I was attracted to flying in the first place.  Looking back over my career, although I know I had other responsibilities, flying was the very best part of the job, and I quickly became accustomed to living and then thriving on adrenaline.

So what does a career pilot do when you are back home – and no 47 in sight?  If you are me, and most of my buddies, your down time involves just as much speed as your up time.  We come home and sooner or later we head for the garage to pull out our Harleys and muscle cars.  Yep – typical “pilot” vehicles, built to show off our overflowing testosterone and type A++ personalities.

I usually had a Harley in the garage and a Corvette parked right next to it.  But nothing was left stock.  For me, stock was the starting point, the blank canvas.  Add a little chrome, modify the stereo system or body panels.  Make it mine, make it look better, and make it something special.  And of course, make it go faster and faster and faster…   Modify the intake system, modify the exhaust…let the engines breathe!  Whether it was my motorcycles, or my cars… I always wanted to pull more and more horsepower out of them, however I could.    I wanted to make these ground-based vehicles feel like flying.

With Guns-a-GoGo

Next up: My Vehicles