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850 Horsepower 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE: A Menace on the Street and Track

© Hot Rod Network Staff   002-2018-Chevy-Camaro-Street-Track-Car_1_1

By William Rogers, HOT ROD

Poor teenage judgment is the stuff of legend. The majority of us who've made it to adulthood have at least a few stories of questionable decision-making. For Tony Scalici, the temptation of mom's 1969 Camaro in the garage was simply too much. One summer night when he was 15, he and a few friends carefully rolled the car out of the garage and down the street to go street racing. Of course, the local police caught Tony and his friends, and mom and dad had to come to the station. That was nearly 25 years ago, but that experience and a thirst for speed has stuck with Tony.

Until recently, adult obligations kept Tony's speed quest on the back-burner. But, in 2016, after retiring from his career as an Army Green Beret, Tony founded G-Rods Garage. He's been on a tear since, putting out a number of impressive Pro Touring cars and trucks. The competitive spirit that led Tony to "borrow" his mother's car also drove him to the Optima Ultimate Street Car series. Ultimate Street Car got its start as a proving ground for Pro Touring cars in 2008 and today has classes to accommodate all kinds of modified vehicles. Tony's first entry into the series was a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, which performed well, but left him wanting more.

Enter the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, arguably one of the best track-focused, late-model performance cars available. With a class win in mind, Tony picked up a brand-new one from his local Chevrolet dealer. Tony names his builds after family and friends, and for the Camaro he chose his mother's name, JoJo. 

It takes a special kind of person to strip a showroom-fresh Camaro, let alone a 2018 ZL1 LE, but that's just what Tony did. He began by fabricating an eight-point rollcage of his own design. Tony also added some chassis bracing from Detroit Speed Inc. to further stiffen the structure. While the engineers at Chevrolet managed to craft a brutally fast and effective track weapon, as hot rodders, we know there's always room for improvement.

The 650 horsepower that the LT4 puts out from the factory is adequate for grocery runs, but when you're trying to win races "too much is not enough" applies. Tony sent the LT4 off to JDP Motorsports in Salt Lake City, Utah, to ensure not only that it put down more power, but that it did so reliably. While JDP Motorsports was building the engine with forged internals, they added Lingenfelter Performance heads and a cam to help improve high-rpm breathing. With the internals addressed, it was time to turn his attention to the supercharger. The lid was ported to improve flow and a Griptech underdrive pulley was added for more boost. The exhaust gasses escape through a set of American Racing headers and mid-pipes tying into the stock mufflers. A methanol injection system helps keep detonation at bay. All told, the extra work is good for 850 hp on E85, only 200 more than the factory crank rating.

All that power is useless if you can't put it to the ground. A Centerforce twin-disc clutch is bolted to the engine and sends power through the stock six-speed manual to a QA1 carbon-fiber driveshaft. While Tony is an experienced builder, he knew he needed a dedicated expert to improve the car's handling. Luckily, Tony is friends with JJ Furillo from Ultimate Performance. With JJ's guidance, Tony added a custom JRi coilover system. To help bring it all to a stop when necessary, Tony added an AP Racing brake kit from Essex Racing. Surprisingly, these monstrous 15-inch discs up front and 14-inchers in the rear manage to shave a significant amount of weight off the car. The front setup alone is 20 pounds lighter than the stock parts. The ZL1's crash diet didn't stop there, either. Tony added a set of 18-inch Forgeline GS1R wheels, which shaved more weight in addition to being renowned for their strength. For most of us this would be a great build, but Tony kept working.

To lose more weight, Tony turned to Anderson Composites. The Camaro wears a carbon-fiber hood, doors, front grille, winglets, rear diffuser, bellypan, and decklid. The car now scales out at 3,600 pounds with a half tank of fuel (stock weight is 3,910 pounds). For the mathematically challenged, that's a 310-pound savings, an impressive feat considering the added weight of the rollcage, and the fact that the car still has a stereo. As a finishing touch, Tony painted a deployment flag on the roof, a nod to his years of military service.

Tony's exhaustive efforts have paid off handsomely. As of this writing, he's currently leading the GT class of the Optima series with one overall win at Pikes Peak International Raceway, as well as two Second Place finishes. That's a significant improvement on his failed street-racing endeavors as a teenager. Tony's mother, JoJo, had only one question that night when she picked him up at the local police station, "Well, did you win?"

Unfortunately, JoJo passed away before the car was built, and while it may be presumptuous, it's a good bet she'd be proud.

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Autos Magazine: 850 Horsepower 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE: A Menace on the Street and Track
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