When Mick Lay first purchased his 2011 Camaro SS, he had no intentions of making it the roll-racing beast it would one day become. In fact, the reason he purchased it was driven more by heritage than anything else. Mick has been a fan of Camaros since he purchased his first during high school; a 1978 model which was quickly relieved of its stock engine and replaced with a larger variant his sophomore year. His sister still owns a ’73 that his father bought his mother brand new. And while buying and building Camaros runs deep in his family, Mick never dreamed that one day he would be driving the fifth-generation of the marque, much less one that produces more than 1,000 horsepower.
When the fifth-gen Camaro released back in 2010, Mick knew he had to at least head down to his local dealership to take one for a spin. After the test drive, he immediately fell in love and couldn’t resist bringing one home with him. He wasted no time trading in his mundane Mercedes and left the dealer lot in his brand new ride.
After that, Mick’s story will sound vaguely familiar to anyone addicted to speed. His first order of business was to add more power and he started by installing a Magnuson supercharger from SLP. Next, he moved on to modifying the suspension, adding LG Motorsport coil overs, and swapping out the wheels and tires. But Mick ran into somewhat of a conundrum, he couldn’t decide whether he wanted the car to be more focused on road racing or go full-on drag race mode.
“It was just so easy to make power with it,” Mick said. “But it rides really well with the independent rear suspension, so at first I tried to go both ways adding power and suspension upgrades.”
But eventually, adding horsepower and going fast in a straight line over took the desire to toss it around a road course. And that decision is where Mick’s story becomes a little less familiar.
“It can do road course, it has coil overs and everything, but at this point the power kind of overtakes the car and isn’t exactly usable on a road course,” said Mick.
While Mick was impressed with the output from the LS3, especially with the addition of the Magnuson supercharger, he still wasn’t satisfied with the power the car was making and decided to go all out in his quest for more.
Mick turned to Late Model Engines, a recommendation made to him by his tuner Steve Frost of TunedbyFrost.com fame and owner of EFI Performance. LME outlined a build for him that would involve going with a substantially larger displacement motor and would be built around an LSX iron block.
After receiving the green light on the build, LME started with the aforementioned LSX iron block and fit it with 1/2-inch head and main studs from ARP. Since the mill would see a substantial amount of boost, the rigidity of the iron block, along with the head and main studs, help to contain boost pressure more efficiently and ensures longevity.
The block then received a Callies Dragonslayer 4-inch stroke crank spinning Callies Ultra H-Beam connecting rods. The pistons, custom forged for LME by Wiseco, are 4.125 inches in diameter and feature heavy duty .200-inch wall wrist pins. Clevite H-Series bearings were used on the bottom end with Dura-Bond cam bearings handling rotational duties on the camshaft. Altogether, the bullet-proof short block reigns compression in at a boost-friendly 9.5:1.
The camshaft starts life as a Cam Motion billet core before being ground to custom LME specifications— the exact measurements of which are classified to this day, but are most assuredly very aggressive in nature. The bump stick operates Xceldyne coated titanium 2.250-inch intake valves and REV inconel 1.600-inch exhaust valves located by C.H.E. manganese-bronze guides. Mast Black Label LS7 heads, ported by LME, house the valves and provide the powerplant with massive bursts of pressurized atmosphere. Crower 7/16-inch stagger bolt shaft mounted rockers transmit the cams lift and duration to the massive valves.
Initially, the motor was installed with the stock LS3 heads before being ditched in favor of the pair from Mast. Even with the stock heads, Mick says the car was a handful.
“It made plenty of power even before the whole thing was complete,” Mick said. “You could easily get in trouble with that setup, but with the Mast Black Label heads it’s even crazier.”
An F1-X ProCharger handles inductions duties and sees that the mill is provided with up to 23 pounds of boost. A massive front-mount intercooler and an Alky Control methanol injection kit ensure that all that pressurized air has a chance to cool down before hitting the intake. The intercooler can be seen peeking through a factory ZL1 front facia. A Chevrolet Performance LSX carbureted intake manifold—which was then converted to fuel injection—was chosen to direct air flow to the cylinders and is fed 110 octane by Injector Dynamics 1,700 cc injectors. The air charge is right-angled into the intake via an Edelbrock 90-degree elbow and is controlled by a stock LS3 throttle body.
1 7/8-inch primary headers from Kooks speed spent exhaust gasses away from the mill and end in a 3-inch collector. The exhaust gasses, when not open to direct atmosphere by the electric cutouts, then feed into a 3-inch exhaust system that ends in Flowmaster mufflers that attempt to quiet the rowdy snarl. Mick noted that he could probably make more power with just a few changes.
“I have a conservative tune in it right now,” Mick said. “But it’s still making 1,100 horsepower at the wheels which can be a little bit scary at times; it definitely still has more in it if I ever need it, especially since there are a few tweaks that could give me more power.”
All that power was originally fed through a built 6L80E, but after shredding seven transmissions it was converted to a 4L80E assembled by Transformance and is spun by a Yank triple disc 3,600 rpm stall speed torque converter. All that twist is then fed to a Driveshaft Shop carbon fiber drive shaft and then routed to the 14-bolt, 9.9-inch ZL1 rear end. M&H 325/45R17 drag radials attempt to keep themselves adhered to the pavement out back.
“The only problem we have with it is it’s running out of spark,” Mick said. “We keep having to narrow the spark plug gap so we’ll probably have to upgrade the ignition system soon.”
Mick says the car is good for 200+ mph speeds. And while the fifth-gen has been relieved of its back seat and sports a full cage, it still retains its A/C and is registered. Mick regularly drives it to car shows and frequently participates in half-mile shoot-outs such as WannaGoFast events. Mick is also the proprietor of Speed Thrills Racing, a company that organizes 1,400-foot roll racing events, as well. He will be at Carlisle GM Nationals with the car next week.
One day Mick may pass it on to one of his sons, keeping the family Camaro tradition alive… if he doesn’t buy another one first.