When someone brings up Cadillac, what do you picture? Most likely, your grandparents Coupe DeVille or mom and dad’s Escalade might come to mind. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After all, Cadillac is the pinnacle when it comes to General Motors products. And while Cadillac’s ride has always been praised, its performance has not. But, back in 2004, that all changed with the introduction of the CTS-V.
The Cadillac CTS is a family car aimed at the young crowd looking for something classy. The CTS-V, on the other hand, was a completely different animal, with a GM V8 stuffed under the hood. Things got even more interesting with the second-generation as Cadillac opted for a supercharged LSA engine to power the four-door beast. This platform got the attention of the performance-oriented enthusiast and changed the way people thought about Cadillac.
Gina McKinley, Client Services and Social Media Specialist at Vengeance Racing, has a rather lengthy list of family members that share the same passion for vehicles. Her love for racing and cars started with stories of her great grandpa’s racing career in the early days of NASCAR and her father building his 1970 Chevy Nova in the garage as a kid. When the second-generation CTS-V hit the market, McKinley knew she needed the fast four-door sedan in her life. In 2016 she located a diamond black model CTS-V, which Cadillac proudly claims as one of its most popular colors, and brought it home.
McKinley’s bone-stock 2012 CTS-V was rated at the factory with 556-horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque. McKinley was in love with the car and said, “I fell in love with the V because it was already a fast even in stock form and a great platform to build.” And while the high-performance Cadillac had enough power at first, McKinley got a taste of the potential of the supercharged four-door from a visit to the drag strip, and we all know what happens from there.
With performance on the mind, McKinley reached out to Vengeance Racing in Cumming, Georgia, to help out with her need for speed. Like most owners, the exhaust got some attention first. A set of Kooks 1-7/8-inch long tube headers replaced the factory shorties and the restrictive catalytic converters. McKinley wanted to be able to hear herself think and talk to her family while driving, so she took the high road and stayed with the factory mufflers. Although she was happy with how the car performed and sounded, the more she went to the track, the more she wanted to chase times.
As you can imagine, traction was a problem for the hefty Cadillac; luckily, McKinley’s coworkers were glad to help by installing a set of drag radials for more grip. They also added a custom calibrated engine and transmission tune to maximize gains in the power-train. From the factory, the Caddy is more than capable of running low 12s in the 1/4-mile, which is very impressive for something weighing 4,500-pounds. With just a tune, exhaust, air filter, and stickier tires, she was able to muster low 11s out of her family car. At this point, her quest was to jump to low 10s. Surprisingly for this platform, that isn’t very hard at all. With just a few more mods, she could shave another second off her elapsed 1/4-mile time, so that became the next step.
When building a boosted application, every plan involves forcing all the atmosphere you can in and then expelling what’s left outward. That way, the combination will be as efficient as possible, creating more horsepower. And while the factory LSA blower is quite impressive, there’s always room for improvement, and McKinley was at the end of the rope for bolt-on modifications. So she decided it was time to upgrade the LSA unit. The blower was removed and shipped to Boost Mode Racing for professional port work. Gina said she wanted “all the boost,” so the guys did their stage 5 port and polish work.
With the blower off, the perfect opportunity arose to replace the camshaft. Although mild, McKinley’s setup allowed for a healthy cam upgrade, which furthered the combination’s efficiency. Vengeance spec’d a custom cam for her application, allowing more air in and more air out for larger horsepower gains with forced induction.
Now, any time you make more power, you will generate more heat, as well. Weapon X Motorsports, another LSA expert, provided a solution that dramatically reduces heat soak positive displacement type superchargers such as the LSA.
Finishing off the engine upgrades, Vengeance replaced the stock fuel injectors with 850cc units capable of pushing enough fuel to the thirsty powerplant. They also opted to decrease the pulley size to a 2.35 with a quick-change hub for added boost. A massive Nick Williams ported 102mm throttle body inhales as much air as possible, allowing the blower to compress even more atmosphere into all eight cylinders.
Once everything got buttoned up under the hood, it was back on the dyno to see what the gains were and where in the powerband it came. After some Vengeance Racing magic made through the computer, Gina’s family sedan picked up over 200whp, bringing the total over 700whp and 700lb-ft of torque — very impressive for just a few modifications.
With all that extra power under the hood, McKinley wanted to get it all to the ground and look good doing it. The call went to Weld Racing for a set of its S71s, 18×5-inch wheels up front, and 17×10-inch wheels in the rear, wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber. To help spice things up and stand out, they were painted black with purple lips. If you haven’t figured it out yet, McKinley is a big fan of black and purple. She makes that statement on the car’s exterior with little details like the purple badges, vengeance decals, and even a purple strut brace under the hood.
On the Cadillac’s interior, not much was changed, and that’s the way McKinley wanted it. The car gets driven a lot on the street, so having the best of both worlds was the goal. Additional gauges from Aeroforce were added to the interior to monitor engine vitals. Vengeance also installed a roll bar from Cipher for safety and added assurance if anything should go awry at the drag strip.
To this day, McKinley looks forward to spending every moment she can with her supportive daughter, boyfriend Micheal Kelly, whom you’ll read about in a future feature, and the whole Vengeance Racing team. When asked what it’s like to be a female in a male-dominated sport she smiled and said, “I love being a female in this sport. People ask all the time if any men give me any trouble or rude because I am a female and honestly they don’t. Everyone is pretty respectful except when I beat them.”
To this day, she’s run a best of 10.02 at 136 mph with a 1.45 60-foot…super impressive for a 4,500-pound family car that can be raced and driven home. But her quest isn’t over yet. With being so close to single-digit times, you can bet that’s a goal in mind. McKinley said, “I never thought I would want to modify the V any further, but after working at Vengeance and learning more about this platform, we’re planning to go with a turbocharger and eventually make an 8-second pass.”
Keep an eye out for this cool Caddy out on the east coast tracks and 1/2-mile events as she sees how fast she can go.