Got Boost? A Group of GM Employees Race a Four-Cylinder Camaro


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Story by David S. Wallens • Photos as credited

The Sports Car Club of America’s CAM ranks welcome some of the most radical machinery found in autocrossing today. The rules are intentionally loose and open. In fact, they fit on a single sheet of paper. Aside from entries having to remain street-legal, just about anything is allowed, from firebreathing engine swaps and reworked suspensions to steamroller tires and composite body panels.

Going forced induction? Your max boost is only limited by your checkbook.

So what kind of monstrosity currently holds the title of national champion in the CAM-C class, where the late-model pony cars roam? A mildly modified Camaro.

It’s powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the same one found in the base model. Other than that, it checks all the boxes for CAM-C: 200-treadwear tires, a 3250-pound minimum weight, and a post-1989 build date. And yes, the car came by its championship win rather convincingly. Really.

This Camaro recently won a national championship, but it’s not the top-spec, 650-horsepower ZL1 model. While it sports a few improvements, it’s still powered by the four-cylinder engine found in the base car.

Let’s Autocross

In 2017, just a couple of years after several General Motors employees formed the GM Performance Driving Team, the group set its sights on dominating CAM-C with a new Camaro SS 1LE. It did just that. Team driver Shaun Bailey, a General Motors vehicle performance engineer, landed that SCCA championship by half a second. The rest of the 53-driver class contained almost every Camaro and Mustang variant offered in the past 20 years.

With its first mission accomplished, the GM crew concocted a follow-up plan to build up another V8 Camaro for 2018. A supplier issue delayed the effort, however. “At the time of this writing,” Shaun adds, “we’re still twiddling our thumbs in anticipation of delivery of those unique parts. And yes, I’m being vague about the parts, because it’s a secret.”

While they were waiting around, team members took a fresh look at the rest of the Camaro lineup. The enthusiast world tends to focus on the V8-powered models, but the team wondered if the turbocharged, four-cylinder Camaro could work. After all, the CAM rules don’t require an eight-cylinder engine.

One advantage of the four-cylinder car: It weighs about 300 pounds less than the V8-powered Camaro SS.

This simple fact puts a nearly stock Camaro Turbo within 100 pounds of the class minimum.

“The CAM-C Turbo 1LE build could best be described as organic,” Shaun explains. “It started as a gift from the Camaro development team. When we realized our V8 car plans were being delayed, we hatched the idea of building up the Turbo 1LE. The idea was formulated in May, and we started putting the car together in June.” A step-by-step development followed. “First we drove the car stock as a Turbo 1LE at a local event held at Michigan International Speedway, complete with stock wheels and tires,” he recalls. “For the next event in Oscoda, we put on the ZL1 1LE suspension, wheels and rear bar.”

Fine-Tuning the Plan

None

“The takeaway from that event was, suspension worked but throttle response of the 2.0T was a challenge to overcome,” Shaun says. “And this is where the team is fortunate to have so many talented and capable engineers. Matt Bush and Dave Schmitt stepped up and said they’d try to calibrate a performance tune. Things escalated quickly from here.”

Their goals were twofold: Increase boost while adding anti-lag. Sympathy for the mechanicals wasn’t a high priority. “This is a race car part,” Shaun told us of the tune. “It’s mean to the turbo.”

The anti-lag delivers 10–15 psi of boost off throttle. At corner exit, this setup delivers more torque than the team’s Camaro SS. Along with that extra power comes extra heat, though: The Camaro quickly went through three turbochargers, including one that died soon after the car returned from the CAM Challenge event in Peru, Indiana. “At this point the tune was for pump gas, and it turns out that running anti-lag on the highway for 500 miles is a good way to cook your turbo,” Shaun notes. “Thankfully it didn’t die until we drove back.”

Before the turbo let go, though, the Camaro delivered impressively in Peru. Alexander Doss, another GM team hot-shoe, finished first against the class’s 58 other drivers. Shaun took second.

The next key to more power was a cold-air intake, as the team’s original setup grabbed hot air from the engine bay. “We built a new intake before Nationals that draws cold air from the lower-left front corner of the grille,” Shaun explains. “We did have some serious concern in the rain for it becoming a straw.”

While the GM Performance Driving Team developed the performance tune now available for the eLSD found in the Camaro SS 1LE, this car wasn’t running it. Instead, it retains the stock mechanical limited-slip differential. “It is a huge tear-up to get it in,” Shaun says of the eLSD. “We’ve looked into it.”

Before Nationals, Matt and Dave tuned the car for alcohol–a 55 percent mix is their current cocktail. “We’d like to get to E85, but that will require us to solve a fuel-flow problem,” Shaun says. “We need a bigger pump in the fuel tank. This winter we’ll probably get a pump from a ZL1 installed, and then retune. This should improve robustness of the calibration, but not really solve the problem of cooking the turbo during anti-lag operation.”

The tune and a few other small tweaks netted a sizable performance increase. Chevrolet rates the stock Camaro Turbo at 275 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. At this fall’s Tire Rack SCCA Solo Nationals, the team told us that the engine makes about 100 more horsepower than stock and another 100 lb.-ft. of torque.

“In the wet, it was impossible to drive,” Shaun adds, explaining that he had plenty of power for the monsoon-like conditions. Impossible doesn’t mean slow, however. Shaun took the national title by 1.235 seconds. Codriver Alexander Doss finished third. Once again, the class was dominated by traditional, V8-powered pony cars.

One of the car's big hardware upgrades came right from the Chevrolet Performance catalog: The damper package found on the ZL1 LE is sold separately, although Chevrolet Performance stresses that technically it's only street-certified for the Camaro SS. The exhaust and oil catch can are both custom items. Engine internals are completely stock.

So, want boost?

This article is from a past issue of the magazine. Like stories like this? You’ll see every article as soon as it's published, and get access to our full digital archive, by subscribing to Grassroots Motorsports. Subscribe now.

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Comments
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spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/8/19 1:39 p.m.

I love this car, and all the GM Performance guys are super awesome. 

the new 4CYL 1LE is also awesome. 

te72
te72 Reader
2/8/19 10:30 p.m.

I need to look into CAM eligibility for my Supra. Yes, it was born in Japan, but it was built in America, specifically, my garage. Basically anything that makes it fast was built here in the US too, so if we're arguing percentage of parts by country of origin, I suspect it's more American than the Camaro I once had...

 

However, that "post-1989" rule for CAM-C would put me out.

 

Considering how a lot of people don't know what a Mk3 Supra is, maybe I could convince them it's a third gen F-body haha.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
2/9/19 10:00 a.m.

The E55 tune is impressive. Of course, the anti-lag tune that made it much more drivable isn't realistic for a car you actually use and have to pay for turbo replacements. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
2/9/19 12:48 p.m.

Very cool build. 

z31maniac said:

The E55 tune is impressive. Of course, the anti-lag tune that made it much more drivable isn't realistic for a car you actually use and have to pay for turbo replacements. 

How big of an impact is it on turbo life if its running only during autox runs?

Dave M
Dave M Reader
2/9/19 6:40 p.m.

They should give this car to Snrub as compensatory damages for dragging him through hell and not repairing his Camaro. 

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
2/10/19 8:55 a.m.
ProDarwin said:

Very cool build. 

z31maniac said:

The E55 tune is impressive. Of course, the anti-lag tune that made it much more drivable isn't realistic for a car you actually use and have to pay for turbo replacements. 

How big of an impact is it on turbo life if its running only during autox runs?

Awhile back somebody posted that these guys were on their 3rd or 4th turbo when they won. But I'm not sure if the turbo failures were from development teething issues that have been resolved, or if turbos are just consumables now.

gencollon
gencollon New Reader
2/10/19 4:18 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

Good question. I'd like to know as well. It sounds like they did not have the ability to change tunes from a street tune, to a race tune, and drove the car to the race events... 

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/10/19 11:52 p.m.
ProDarwin said:

Very cool build. 

z31maniac said:

The E55 tune is impressive. Of course, the anti-lag tune that made it much more drivable isn't realistic for a car you actually use and have to pay for turbo replacements. 

How big of an impact is it on turbo life if its running only during autox runs?

They had been through 3 turbos, or were on their 3rd, by the time they got to Nats in September.

StillNoCones
StillNoCones New Reader
2/11/19 12:37 p.m.
spacecadet said:
ProDarwin said:

Very cool build. 

z31maniac said:

The E55 tune is impressive. Of course, the anti-lag tune that made it much more drivable isn't realistic for a car you actually use and have to pay for turbo replacements. 

How big of an impact is it on turbo life if its running only during autox runs?

They had been through 3 turbos, or were on their 3rd, by the time they got to Nats in September.

Spoke to a guy who knows the team well, they lost turbo #2 or #3 by about 500 miles

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/11/19 12:43 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

It’s powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the same one found in the base model. Other than that, it checks all the boxes for CAM-C: 200-treadwear tires, a 3250-pound minimum weight, and a post-1989 build date. And yes, the car came by its championship win rather convincingly. Really.

Now I want to build a V8 ND Miata to compete in CAM with 800 lbs of ballast and an American flag on the hood.

scardeal
scardeal SuperDork
2/11/19 1:00 p.m.

It makes me wonder what I can do with my ATS 2.0...

te72
te72 Reader
2/11/19 11:06 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I said the same thing about my Supra above haha. Born in Japan, build in 'Merica!

 

I mean, truthfully, by the time you slap Wilwoods, Fox shocks, an LS, V8 Roadsters and Flyin Miata parts all together in a shop in Colorado... what's not American about that? Although if they won't let us play in CAM, I really see a need for a similar class for import cars. Maybe one for European and one for Asian, or just mix it all together. Perhaps even have a face off between the two, CAM and our import class?

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/12/19 1:37 a.m.
te72 said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I said the same thing about my Supra above haha. Born in Japan, build in 'Merica!

 

I mean, truthfully, by the time you slap Wilwoods, Fox shocks, an LS, V8 Roadsters and Flyin Miata parts all together in a shop in Colorado... what's not American about that? Although if they won't let us play in CAM, I really see a need for a similar class for import cars. Maybe one for European and one for Asian, or just mix it all together. Perhaps even have a face off between the two, CAM and our import class?

There are talks of such a class existing. Lots of regions already do it. I think it will be great for the sport if it does happen at a national level 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/12/19 9:41 a.m.
te72 said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I said the same thing about my Supra above haha. Born in Japan, build in 'Merica!

 

I mean, truthfully, by the time you slap Wilwoods, Fox shocks, an LS, V8 Roadsters and Flyin Miata parts all together in a shop in Colorado... what's not American about that? Although if they won't let us play in CAM, I really see a need for a similar class for import cars. Maybe one for European and one for Asian, or just mix it all together. Perhaps even have a face off between the two, CAM and our import class?

No V8Roadsters parts in an ND V8, it was 100% engineered and built in-house at FM ;)

If the Yank tanks can have a special class that's wide open, I don't see why the imports can't! Heck, Camaros weren't made in the US for a long time.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
2/12/19 9:51 a.m.

I 100% agree with spacecadet. Give me a weight limit, 200tw and open it up. 

skylarhagler
skylarhagler New Reader
2/12/19 11:37 a.m.

This makes me wonder if something similar could be done with the Ecoboost mustang since it's lower weight and higher power than the camaro.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/12/19 12:51 p.m.
spacecadet said:

I love this car, and all the GM Performance guys are super awesome. 

the new 4CYL 1LE is also awesome. 

Isn't it just cool? I write a lot of articles a year, and this was a treat to put together--just a neat story on every level. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
2/12/19 1:25 p.m.
skylarhagler said:

This makes me wonder if something similar could be done with the Ecoboost mustang since it's lower weight and higher power than the camaro.

Is it?  I thought the newer gen Camaro was lighter?

That said,  I think someone should do it anyway.  The more the merrier

dculberson
dculberson UltimaDork
2/12/19 1:31 p.m.

The current Mustangs are super heavy - they gained a bunch of weight over the prior gen. The Camaro did the opposite; it shrunk in size a bit and lost a lot of weight. I see somewhere around 3,500 lbs for the 4-cylinder Mustang and 3,400 lbs for the 4-cylinder Camaro.

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/12/19 1:50 p.m.
dculberson said:

The current Mustangs are super heavy - they gained a bunch of weight over the prior gen. The Camaro did the opposite; it shrunk in size a bit and lost a lot of weight. I see somewhere around 3,500 lbs for the 4-cylinder Mustang and 3,400 lbs for the 4-cylinder Camaro.

Oh no... more like 3200-3300 for the Camaro... mark Scroggs DS 2017 national championship winning 4cyl 2016 Camaro base model is up for sale and he has weighed it at 3170 with 1/8 tank and light wheels. 

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/12/19 1:51 p.m.

This GM car is just above the min weight for CAM-C which was 3250lbs this year and 3300lbs for 2019. 

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/12/19 1:52 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
spacecadet said:

I love this car, and all the GM Performance guys are super awesome. 

the new 4CYL 1LE is also awesome. 

Isn't it just cool? I write a lot of articles a year, and this was a treat to put together--just a neat story on every level. 

Yes, it's really neat. 

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/12/19 4:03 p.m.

Mark Scroggs is Selling his 2016 Camaro 4CYL that he won his 2017 DS national Championship in. 

I posted the details in the Classifieds here on the forum. 

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/cars-sale/nmna-2016-camaro-4cyl-2017-scca-national-champions/150718/page1/#post2679895

Highly recommend someone pick it up, it's a solid deal and these chassis JUST WORK. 

te72
te72 Reader
2/12/19 10:11 p.m.

In reply to spacecadet :

I have heard this in the last couple years, but haven't seen anything among the groups I play with. I'll do what I can to spread the word. I mean, some of the cars I'm bound to show up in are going to be just something I built for fun, not to compete in a particular class. That part of the sport (the rooooools... and their books... ugh. I could be wrenching or racing, but instead, I'm reading?!) is honestly the worst.

 

Seriously, when I show up to an autocross and have to discuss with the timing trailer for a solid ten minutes to figure out what class I'm in, and eventually just say screw it, stick me in the closest thing you have to unlimited so nobody complains about my car (which won't likely be particularly compettive anyway), that's wasting time we could be racing... which is why I'm here. Seems obvious to me.

te72
te72 Reader
2/12/19 10:13 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:No V8Roadsters parts in an ND V8, it was 100% engineered and built in-house at FM ;)

If the Yank tanks can have a special class that's wide open, I don't see why the imports can't! Heck, Camaros weren't made in the US for a long time.

Had no idea you guys did all the ND stuff in house, that's cool. And yeah, I had a fourth gen SS, I know all about that cars' origins, eh. =P

 

Metric and sae hardware on the same car took some getting used to, for sure.

skylarhagler
skylarhagler New Reader
2/13/19 10:22 a.m.
spacecadet said:

Oh no... more like 3200-3300 for the Camaro... mark Scroggs DS 2017 national championship winning 4cyl 2016 Camaro base model is up for sale and he has weighed it at 3170 with 1/8 tank and light wheels. 

Looks like I was wrong. Guess I got them flipped. Wikipedia (I know, super reliable) has the Mustang at 3550 - 3650 ish with the ecoboost, and Car and Driver puts the 1LE turbo at 3430. Both can be put on a decent diet, but the mustang does start out with a 35hp and 55lb-ft advantage.

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS HalfDork
2/13/19 4:00 p.m.

I want to really like this car...  I really do, but this seems like a semi-factory backed racing effort dominating amateur autosports.  It’s a lot like that long gone TV show pros vs joes where pro athletes destroyed the wanna bes.  

This thread even had me dreaming of trying to hang in an S550 Mustang maybe an Ecoboost or a full on supercharged Coyote.... then I relearned they weigh 3800 lbs!  Oh heck no.

 

 

 

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/13/19 11:20 p.m.

Working for GM the primary benefit that these guys get with the team is seat time. 

It would be pretty easy to replicate the car that these guys have built. And they are 110% transparent in what they have built. 

And the thing about it is the head of the team whose name is failing me who won cam C in 2017 he's also the guy who wrote the e-diff tune for the reflash thats available for the SS1LE from your local dealer. And they developed the tune using drive time with the team and so everybody else can now go by the tune in the form of a reflash and install it on their own 6th gen Camaro in CAM.

These guys win because they are damn good drivers and because they can read a rule set. They built a car that makes decent power, but it makes decent power, all the time and it's at absolute minimum weight with the maximum amount of tire.

So yes these guys do get an advantage because they work for GM and because they are able to gain seat time in the cars through work. But ultimately they are fantastic drivers and that is the essence of what autocross is, it is a driving competition and these guys just bring really sharp swords and their talent shines through.

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/13/19 11:23 p.m.

Also cam is a builder's class and of all the cars in cam you could probably replicate this car cheaper than a lot of the other builds in the class. 

te72
te72 Reader
2/14/19 12:10 a.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS :

Good friend of mine runs an S197 in CAM-C in northern Utah, and is rather competitive, but I'm fairly certain it's 98% driver mod in his case. I think he'd be pretty tough to catch in an S550...

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
2/14/19 8:53 a.m.
spacecadet said:

Working for GM the primary benefit that these guys get with the team is seat time. 

It would be pretty easy to replicate the car that these guys have built. And they are 110% transparent in what they have built. 

And the thing about it is the head of the team whose name is failing me who won cam C in 2017 he's also the guy who wrote the e-diff tune for the reflash thats available for the SS1LE from your local dealer. And they developed the tune using drive time with the team and so everybody else can now go by the tune in the form of a reflash and install it on their own 6th gen Camaro in CAM.

These guys win because they are damn good drivers and because they can read a rule set. They built a car that makes decent power, but it makes decent power, all the time and it's at absolute minimum weight with the maximum amount of tire.

So yes these guys do get an advantage because they work for GM and because they are able to gain seat time in the cars through work. But ultimately they are fantastic drivers and that is the essence of what autocross is, it is a driving competition and these guys just bring really sharp swords and their talent shines through.

The anti-lag tune and not having to worry about replacement turbos is a big help as well.

Even hardcore autoX guys likely wouldn't be cool with constantly replacing hot parts like a turbo.

pushrod36
pushrod36 Reader
2/14/19 9:05 a.m.
te72 said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I said the same thing about my Supra above haha. Born in Japan, build in 'Merica!

 

I mean, truthfully, by the time you slap Wilwoods, Fox shocks, an LS, V8 Roadsters and Flyin Miata parts all together in a shop in Colorado... what's not American about that? Although if they won't let us play in CAM, I really see a need for a similar class for import cars. Maybe one for European and one for Asian, or just mix it all together. Perhaps even have a face off between the two, CAM and our import class?

Your post made me think that if cobras are allowed in CAM then so should a V8 Miata.  Maybe if Flyin' miata can take delivery of a white-body instead of a complete car it would be allowed?

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/14/19 9:06 a.m.
z31maniac said:
spacecadet said:

Working for GM the primary benefit that these guys get with the team is seat time. 

It would be pretty easy to replicate the car that these guys have built. And they are 110% transparent in what they have built. 

And the thing about it is the head of the team whose name is failing me who won cam C in 2017 he's also the guy who wrote the e-diff tune for the reflash thats available for the SS1LE from your local dealer. And they developed the tune using drive time with the team and so everybody else can now go by the tune in the form of a reflash and install it on their own 6th gen Camaro in CAM.

These guys win because they are damn good drivers and because they can read a rule set. They built a car that makes decent power, but it makes decent power, all the time and it's at absolute minimum weight with the maximum amount of tire.

So yes these guys do get an advantage because they work for GM and because they are able to gain seat time in the cars through work. But ultimately they are fantastic drivers and that is the essence of what autocross is, it is a driving competition and these guys just bring really sharp swords and their talent shines through.

The anti-lag tune and not having to worry about replacement turbos is a big help as well.

Even hardcore autoX guys likely wouldn't be cool with constantly replacing hot parts like a turbo.

but anyone who's not GM could replace the turbo with something aftermarket that can handle the heat. 

I.E. The Big Bad Wolf S2000 

People like to complain about people who build a better mousetrap in builders classes.  

This is the nature of a builders class. 


 

te72
te72 Reader
2/14/19 11:33 p.m.

In reply to pushrod36 :

That's a good point and one I hadn't thought of, despite seeing a Cobra in the Utah CAM class. Suppose the difference between your two examples and my Supra, my car still uses a Toyota engine. I'm gonna see what I can do to convince the Utah region to adopt an import equivalent class. =)

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