“Uncle Robin” Lawrence has spent his life entrenched in the high performance automotive world. For more than a decade, he has been a mainstay and one of the most well-known names in street legal drag racing with the NMCA and NMRA series, first competing in the EFI index class before competing in Factory Stock, Real Street, and most recently, Nostalgia Pro Street. Along the way, his cars have been testbeds for several manufacturers, and his expertise in the automotive aftermarket industry has graced the pages of many publications over the years.
In 2008, Robin, at the insisting of his good friend and former race announcer Dr. Jamie Mayer, embarked on a project in conjunction with Hot Rod Magazine involving a new 2010 Camaro in which he would replace the stock LS3 engine with a Cadillac CTS-V LSA mill.
Lawrence spent much of 2009 tweaking on the new GM muscle car, swapping out aftermarket bolt-on parts and trying to find the right combination, all while working closely with Hot Rod editorially as a “Test Car” of sorts. After making some more adjustments over the winter, he made a stop at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky on his way to the inaugural Camaro5 event in Cecil, Georgia this past weekend. There he ripped off the cars’ first sub 11-second pass, a 10.92 at 125.95 MPH, before making it official with a string of high 10-second runs in Georgia.
PowerTV spoke with Robin about his racing endeavours, the Camaro project car, and his experience at this past weekends inaugural Camaro5 event in Georgia.
PowerTV: We haven’t seen you on the NMCA or NMRA trail in some time. What have you been up to?
Robin Lawrence: Actually, on the NMRA trail, I was at the Bradenton race, and had worked with Dan Baumann on his combination, and he qualified #1 in Real Street and runner-up’ed, and also with Crag Baldwin on his Real Street combination. With Craig more of a consulting role and with Dan more of a crew chief and consultant so to speak.
We had the Camaro at Memphis last year, at the Finals. We really ran out of time and the availability on components really hurt us, but we really didn’t have the combination sorted out and that kept us from showing our real potentional.
PowerTV: Do you plan on returning to competitive, heads-up racing?
Robin Lawrence: Yeah. This Camaro project that we talked about this weekend, was basically tying up some loose ends from when I was sponsored by GM Performance Parts. That Camaro is actually going to be put back to 99% stock. So my priority, once we wrap up that Camaro, which we’re doing now, is to race the LSX Nova. I’ve been doing some dyno testing with the Nova with another engine, and we just received another intake manifold from Hughes Racing Enterprises, and we’re converting that car over to the new Holley Dominator EFI Fuel Injection system. The car has been in and we’ve run it before in Nostalgia Pro Street, so we’re going to stay in that class. We’re going to try to hit some of the True Street series events, and then whatever NMCA races are within an eight hour driving distance.
PowerTV: Tell us a little about your 2010 Camaro project.
Robin Lawrence: Originally, with the Camaro project, what we wanted to do was take a brand new Camaro and do some performance enhancements in what a typical average guy might install on his Camaro. And we wanted to discuss that and share in some of the passion and excitement that the new Camaro is bringing about, and just showcase those modifications editorially at different events to try to share with other people what we’re doing and what the possibilities are with the new Camaro.
We ordered the car in October of 2008, and our car was produced on the second day of production…it’s VIN number 219. It was originally ordered as a yellow car, and at the SEMA show, Hot Rod Magazine decided they wanted to follow or cover some of those modifications in several parts.
If you remember the Hot Rod test car back in 1967, they had a ’67 Camaro they did all kinds of modifications to. Well, Hot Rod wanted to model that, and so they basically said we’ll layout a plan of normal, typical components and modifications, and dyno’ing and track testing. Drag Radials, cold air intake, headers, catback exhaust, and things like that.
We ran the car with various stages of nitrous, header configurations, two different camshafts, cylinder heads, different intakes, different exhaust systems, an by the time we got done with the naturally aspirated side of it, we were about 464 horsepower at the wheels, and when we sprayed it, around 515 horsepower at the wheels.
PowerTV: Why the decision to put an LSA-based motor in the Camaro?
Robin Lawrence: The rumors after the bankruptcy were that they had discussed a Z28 prior to the bankruptcy. When all the stuff was coming down, from what I was told, that whole project was canceled, it was gone. Later on, there were more rumors that that project may get revived, and some of them that we were hearing was that the serious contender to be installed in a Z28 would be the LSA, Cadillac CTS-V engine. And so, the thought process was, hey, let’s put one of these engines in the car and show people what the potential of the LSA engine is.
It was funny, in the original conversations. Dr. Jamie Meyer wanted me to turn the earth, with three stages of nitrous and compound superchargers…whatever it took the haul ass. So we really never got a baseline with a stock CTS-V engine. I was going right for what the average guy would bolt onto his Z28 engine…heads, cam, pulleys, cylinder heads, fuel system.
PowerTV: What challenges did you encounter with the LSA swap and trying to put the car into the 10’s?
Robin Lawrence: The big thing with any heavy car – and we fought this problem with the six-speed manual from the factory – if the car is 4000-plus pounds and has a 3.45 gear, getting the car to launch with that heavy of a car and use the clutch was extremely stressful on the clutch. Automatic cars fair just a little bit better because they have a stiffer first gear ratio plus you have the potential slippage of the torque converter to get the car out of the hole. The big problem with that is the 6L80 is not a performance transmission. So, we decided that what we would do is put a 6L80E transmission in the car. Putting that in the car probably solved 50% of our problems.
The biggest physical issue with putting the LSA engine in the Camaro is the upper intercooler top hits the cowl section, and so that needed to be modified, sectioned, re-welded, move the intercooler, and relocate the inlet and outlet lines for the water for the intercooler.
Other than that, the CTS-V, the stack on the pulley system is like a Corvette, so its very close-lock, whereas the Camaro is like a truck, which is [the] furthest away from the block of all three. And so the only issue I had was not being able to reinstall either one of my air conditioning compressors from the LS3 or the CTS-V. Otherwise, the alternator plugged in, I had to fabricate some couplers for the power steering, but other than that, everything was pretty elementary.
PowerTV: What role has your relationship with GMPP played in this project?
Robin Lawrence: It was a project that was brainstormed by Dr. Jamie Meyer [of GMPP]. Really, other than providing the engine, their role was mainly a parts and components supplier. As far as technical advice, there was little or none.
PowerTV: How was your experience at the Camaro5 event?
Robin Lawrence: Not too bad. Got to meet some very nice people. The industry seems to be very upbeat because the vendors didn’t hold anything back. A lot of the players in this type of industry were present. I think the car show, dragstrip, and the autocross were utilized. There were definitely a few kinks in the situation, however, the weather was beautiful, and people had a great time going down the dragstrip. It really underscored the passion that is out there for the new Camaro.
Current car specifications:
• GMPP CTS-V LSA Crate engine
• Kooks headers and full exhaust system
• Lunati cam
• GMPP CNC cylinder heads
• Performance Transmissions 4L80E transmission
• ProTorque converter with 4000 RPM stall
• Lingenfelter pulley system, 63-pound injectors, fuel pump, blower coupler, and intercooler
• ATI balancer with 10% overdrive
• Bosch intercooler pump
• 100% stock rearend
• One piece Jerry Bickel-built driveshaft
• Stock starter
• Abaco Mass air meter
• Mickey Thompson 305/45/18 ET Drag Radial tires
• VP 100 unleaded fuel
• Tuned with HP Tuners tuning software