How many of you can confidently claim that you know someone whose adoration for automobiles started with poopy underpants? Outside of those of us who are lucky enough to have crazy uncles with track-oriented Chevelles, and those who foolishly attempted a greasy backseat one-cheek-sneak that went awfully awry, probably not many of us.
But for Nick Begian, it was potty training that sparked his interest in cars, as his mother would reward him with Hot Wheels every time he made a proper “deposit.” As the aspiring gearhead grew, his love for metal toy cars evolved into watching automotive-oriented TV shows, followed by RC cars, and eventually driving the real deal.
Summer photos by: Mina Christine
What began with working on cars out of curiosity and necessity at the age of 17, with a 7.0-liter swap into a 2007 Trailblazer SS being Nick’s first major endeavor, quickly evolved into exploring other GM platforms, with a 1LE Camaro being the most recent addition.
By the time the muscle car came along, it was 2019, and Nick was in search of a Camaro SS, which is how he came across his 2015 1LE on Facebook Marketplace. Equipped with the optional $3,500 track package, which had originally been intended to help the car go bumper-to-bumper with the likes of the mighty Porsche 911 GT3, the 1LE’s performance-to-price point perks were impossible to ignore, and Nick hastily procured the vehicle.
Despite his youthful age, Nick is no stranger to track events, and as soon as he brought the Camaro home, the GM enthusiast began planning which track days and weekend events he would be attending that year. With hopes of learning as much as possible about the art of racing at the forefront, and a desire to expose the strengths and weaknesses of the high-performance platform now at his command, Nick became infatuated with racing his 1LE Camaro.
However, this frenzied pace came to a grinding halt on November 1st, 2020, when a 17-year-old who was texting while driving smashed full-force into Nick’s Camaro. The two vehicles were both traveling at about 45 mph, and while the impact was intense, it was the devastating realization that his beloved Camaro had just been totaled that left Nick Begian feeling truly traumatized.
Magic carpet swept out from under his feet, the car sat in Nick’s driveway for the next three weeks, a painful reminder of the dangers of distracted driving, all topped with a fat dollop of indecision and doubt. It was an unnerving time, as Nick went over every potential option, with everyone around him telling him to junk the whole car after parting it out. But Nick adores a challenge and despises being told what to do, and so against his better judgment, the decision to rebuild the vehicle from the asphalt up was made one morning.
The rebuild process began in mid-December of 2020, when Nick partnered with 248 Welding and Fabrication, a tubular front-end setup being the primary objective. The goal here was to not only repair the damage that had been inflicted but to make the Camaro both far lighter and more rigid for track abuse.
Ten long months later, everything from the firewall forward had been removed and replaced, including frame rails, core support, and subframe. But turning a street-legal sports car into a tubular framed track monster has its challenges, with one of the toughest being the act of mapping out where everything is going to sit once the car is complete.
Once the basic layout was decided upon, Nick tells us that it only took 248 Fab a few weeks of cutting gussets and fabricating brackets for everything to fall into place. By March of 2021, the car was back home, where over the next four months its owner would modify it at a feverish pace, with rebuilding and upgrading being the core intention.
Race-oriented LS3 engine assembled and swapped, Nick started his resurrected Camaro for the first time in March 2021 and was rewarded with a snarl that only GM’s venerable V8 can offer. Unfortunately, after putting no more than 30 miles on the odometer, the motor proceeded to shred the TR6060 transmission, which proved to be an expensive but well-timed issue.
Nick’s misfortune had provided an ideal opportunity for him to install an RPM Level 4 TR6060 replacement, which after being swapped into the car in May of 2021, brought the Camaro back to life… for a brief moment.
Transmission replaced, and engine running strong, the next thing to blow on the 1LE was the rear end, giving Nick the perfect excuse to slap in an Eaton TruTrac setup to handle the additional power being produced. By that point, Nick had replaced every suspension and drivetrain component on the Camaro, and with a fully built motor, new transmission, and stronger rear end on deck, it was time to put the key in the ignition and try to give the car life one last time. It was June 18th of 2021, and Nick speaks emotionally of how he will never forget the feeling of nervousness that gripped him that day, or how his hands shook uncontrollably when he turned the car over for the first time.
Winter Photos By: Joshua Chambers
The motor fired right up without issue, giving cause for tears of relief to roll down Nick’s face. All of the strife, financial burden, and never-ending nights had paid off, and the flood of emotion that came with this realization was unlike anything the aspiring racer had ever experienced.
Nowadays cars are an extension of who you are, you build a specific car exactly how you want it to be. For me, I use the Camaro as an escape from life, the feeling you get while rolling through tight turns while on the throttle is unmatched to anything.
For Nick Begien, it was his unwavering infatuation with the 1LE Camaro and a commitment to having everything crafted exactly the way he wanted and needed for track duty that got him and his Camaro to this point. That and about 1,000 man-hours spent turning wrenches over the span of 10 months.
Nowadays, Begien lives what one might call a swift lifestyle. Between product testing, track days, attending HPDE events, promotions, turning wrenches, and slowly working his way up to GT class, the 21-year-old social media influencer and race car driver has a schedule that borders on being manic. Do you know what’s also insane? The amount of detail and dedication that went into creating one of the slickest Camaro race cars in recent memory. Totally tubular dude…
- Make/year: 2015 LS3
- Stock displacement: 386 cubic-inches
- Current displacement: 416 cubic-inches
- Bore/Stroke: 4-inch
- Crankshaft: Callies Forged
- Pistons: Mahle Forged
- Connecting rods: Callies forged
- Compression ratio: 10.9:1
- Camshaft make: Texas Speed & Performance
- Cylinder heads make/type: Ported LS3
- Engine tuner: Jesse Murray of Highland, MI
- Injector size: Injector Dynamics 1050X
- Pump(s): ZL1 fuel pump
- Intake manifold: Brian Tooley Racing Equalizer 3
- Throttle body make/size: Nick Williams 103mm
- Headers: Stainless Works 2-inch
- Mufflers: Stock
- Pipe size: 3-inch
- Type: RPM Transmission‘s Level 4 TR6060
- Clutch / Converter: Exedy Hyper Twin Carbon-R Clutch
- Flexplate / Flywheel: Exedy Lightweight Flywheel
- Shifter: MGW short throw
- Front upper/lower control arms: BMR Suspension
- Front shocks/struts: BC Racing coilovers
- Sway bar: BMR 32mm
- Rear upper/lower control arms: BMR
- Rear shocks: Bilstein B6
- Rear springs: BMR 1.2” lowering
- Sway bar: BMR 32mm
- Subframe connectors: BMR
- Front: Brembo 6 piston calipers with Hawk DTC80 Pads and DBA 4000 Series rotors
- Rear: Brembo 4 piston calipers with Hawk DTC80 Pads and DBA 4000 Series rotors
- Original/Current color: Black factory paint wrapped in KPMF silver and Opulent Indigo Blue
- Hood: Carbon Creations Z28 carbon hood
- Spoiler: 1LE spoiler with ZL1 add-ons Wicker Bill
- Ground effects: APR front splitter affixed to 1LE splitter
- Seats: Recaro Sportster GT seats
- Other safety equipment: PRC Harnesses
- Grattan Raceway: 1:27.22
- Horsepower: 630
- Torque: 570