Building a car to do it all has been a long-time goal of many enthusiasts; inevitably concessions have to be made to get a car making fast passes on the strip to go around corners and cruise on the street. Engineering a powerplant to do it all is just as complex as any other part of the goal. We sat with LS Fest overall winner Mike Dusold, and engine builders ERL Performance to learn a bit more about what makes a winning package to do it all.
“Originally I bought the car to make a normal daily driver out of it. It had a turbo 350 in it, all stock suspension. Before I even got the car done I decided to put an LS engine and Detroit Speed suspension in it,” Dusold recalled.
“We raced it like that for about six months and then put the twin turbos on it, we raced it like that for about a year, and then I saw where racing was going and that I wasn’t going to be able to compete with crazy Corvettes and stuff. Rather than just buying a Corvette like everybody else, I decided to build a musclecar to beat them, that was the concept. With a clean sheet of paper we planned out how to build a ’67 Camaro to go beat Corvettes.”
Building a classic musclecar to go toe-to-toe with America’s sports car is a fun bit of sibling rivalry in the GM marque. Dusold’s goal to build a ’67 Camaro to take down the reigning Corvettes is an endearing concept, and one many can appreciate.
“We didn’t go out and kill it in anything, but I think we placed first through fourth in all the categories, and as far as the average went we won. I was really proud of the win, it’s definitely really cool to be able to win LS Fest,” he said.
Powering The Camaro
Dusold turned to the engine building experts at ERL Performance, utilizing one of their ERL Superdeck platforms. Powering the Camaro would be a significant task given that this car would be expected to make passes on the drag strip, runs through the cones at the autocross, and still be street-friendly.
Andres Vivanco of ERL filled us in on some of the features of the engine; “The ERL Superdeck system takes an ordinary GM LS block and creates a rock solid platform for forced induction and nitrous engines. The truss design of the ERL Superdeck adds unmatched strength and stability to the block and deck surface. The truss design involves connecting each pair of head bolts through an aluminum truss. This truss allows the load to be shared across the deck surface minimizing deck deflection. This allows a thinner deck section to outperform the much thicker decks.”
With the added strength benefits of the Superdeck design, Dusold and the folks at ERL had no problem asking this small block to work over time to the tune of a coupe of turbochargers and other internal goodies.
“The engine package started out originally with an LS3 block, but they already had an LS2 block started being superdecked. They did an LS2 block with a partial fill to make it a little more stable. It has 1/2-inch head studs and is approximately 9.25:1 compression. It has a Comp Star crank, H-beam rods, and JE Pistons. The engine also runs a Dailey dry sump oiling system,” Dusold outlined.
“This past winter we also switched from ported LS3 heads to standard LS9 heads. We went with the LS9 heads so that we could have titanium valves and a little bit stronger casting. It actually runs a stock LS9 camshaft. We’ve had really good luck with it. I really wanted a motor with a super flat torque curve, and gobs of power right off idle. For the type of racing we’re doing peak horsepower is irrelevant. We were more worried about having an engine that could sit and idle in traffic for hours if need be, get decent fuel mileage on the street, but just have tons of area under the curve. The whole purpose of that motor is reliability and area under the curve.”
As Dusold stated, peak power doesn’t mean anything, it’s the usable power that gets an autocross car off the corners, and usable power he can put down at the strip. But don’t let that statement lead you to think Dusold is complacent with his engine. ERL and Dusold are constantly looking for improvements – case in point, the turbochargers.
“The way it’s sitting the car does 850 horsepower at the wheels on 12 pounds of boost. Being seven liter, and having that small cam actually helps it. Currently the car has 56 mm AGP turbos, but we just got hooked up with Precision Turbo and they are sending us some turbos that were developed for World Rally Championship cars. They’re built to handle super high heat, and they have crazy bearings in them,” Dusold foreshadowed.
Engine management comes care of Mega Squirt MS3 Pro, and Dusold told us that some exciting updates are in the pipeline; “they’re working on a boost controller that’s integrated that will be based on gear. We’ll be able to make a different boost curve for every gear.”
The Problem Of Handling
To approach the problem of refining the Camaro, Dusold employed his broad experience base in custom design and fabrication to create a one-off chassis that completely re-writes the book on domestic chassis geometry.
“We tried to widen the scope a whole lot from what the typical viewpoint is on how to make a car handle. That car was actually designed so that the chassis would be better than any other muscle car chassis, we were focussing a lot on things like center of gravity, polar moment of inertia, torsional rigidity. We did a lot of work with polar moment trying to get the car to recover quickly, and the CG of the car is actually lower than the top of the tires,” Dusold explained.
“I enjoyed doing that on this project, we had quite a few engineers get all together on it. A lot of the inspiration for the car came from aircraft. One of our customers has a warbird collection, and when I would go down to his hangar I would spend some time staring and daydreaming.”
Keeping the car under control starts with chassis design and suspension, but electronics help keep things hooked up. Traction control systems were once thought of as a hinderance rather than a positive driver aide, now it’s almost a necessity to success.
“We run active traction control on the car, which helps quite a bit. Without the traction control I don’t think we would have been able to run 149 mph in the 1/4 mile at LSFest. It really wasn’t that crazy – you could feel it wiggling but the traction control grabs it at nine percent wheel spin,” Dusold explained.