Rocking the Mullet: Caleb Kempenar’s 1987 Turbo LS Camaro IROC-Z

If you didn’t grow up in the ’80s, you totally missed out. It was a different time and place compared to the lifestyle of today. Kids were not being sucked into mobile devices. Instead, they were being pulled into arcades with games like Turbo, Pole Position, and Spy Hunter. If you had five or more Swatch watches looped around your wrists, tight-fitting Levi’s 501 jeans, and a pair of Air Jordan shoes, you were at the top of the ’80s game. Oh, and the hairstyles! Girls were using gallons of Vavoom hairspray every second trying to get those bangs as high in the atmosphere as possible, while depleting the Earth’s ozone layer. 

The pearl white paint add a touch of class to the IROC, while the black hockey stripe throws in some vintage flare.

While the mullet was the hairstyle to have if you wanted to get noticed, the car of choice – the one to get you noticed – at this time, was a third-gen Camaro. One thing that the mullet and the Camaro have in common is that people loved to hate them. Unfortunately, the third-gen Camaro is still recognized as the mullet of cars today.

I pretty much just embraced that they are the mullet of cars and it’s fast like a bullet. – Caleb Kempenar

Caleb Kempenar knew this stigma about his ’87 Camaro IROC-Z when he bought it, so naturally the IROC was dubbed the “Mullet Bullet.” Caleb stated, “I pretty much just embraced that they are the mullet of cars, and it’s fast like a bullet.”

Caleb has owned the Camaro for over 10 years. He purchased the IROC in bone-stock configuration while he was in his Junior year of high school. The now back-halfed Camaro has gone through a handful of old-school small-block Chevrolets, TH350 transmissions, and even a few T5s. Until recently, Caleb was rocking a 357 cubic-inch small-block with a Turbo 350, but a few years ago, he decided to get serious with the build. A decision was made to outfit the ’87 with an LS and a forced-induction setup via a turbocharger.  

Under the hood of the Camaro is all business with a huge intercooler plumbed to the Holley Hi-Ram intake manifold.

The engine started out as the ever-popular L33 all-aluminum 5.3-liter LS. The factory internals were ditched in favor of some power-proven performance aftermarket components. The pistons were replaced with a set of forged Wiseco slugs connected to K1 Technologies connecting rods. A Bryan Tooley Racing stage 2 cam keeps the engine breathing with the help of the factory 243 heads and a Holley Performance Products Hi-Ram intake manifold. Luke Siebert of Siebert Performance took care of the machining and Caleb handled the engine assembly.  

For the driveline, Caleb decided on a stage 5 TH400 transmission built by Jason Booze at Olathe Transmission. It’s built with all of the performance-capable parts available. A Performance Torque Converter brand converter was utilized. A Moser Engineering Fab-9 housing hosts 35-spline axles, a spool, 3.50 gear set, and a complete center section built by Glenn Brown.  

With a sizable BorgWarner billet 80mm turbo, the Mullet needed something big to support the forced induction fueling demand. Three Holley 12-900 fuel pumps were used with the addition of 160-pound injectors from Tom Sewell at Fuel Injector Development. This move would guarantee this LS never gets dehydrated from the lack of E-85 at wide open throttle. The engine is controlled by an AMP EFI MS3 Pro engine management system supplied by Doug Cook at Motion Raceworks, with a host of other go-fast goodies. The tuning was handled by Scott Clark and Caleb at KC MAXX Performance. So far, the guys have been able to squeeze 1,012 horsepower at the wheels, and the Camaro has been as fast as 8.92 at 156 mph in the quarter-mile. 

The grill was custom built by Caleb and makes for a very stylish front end, while helping to move some airflow through the Camaro.

It was always my dream to have a monster intercooler behind the grill opening. – Caleb Kempenar

The bodywork and paint were handled by Justin Tanner and Michael Carrier at Tanner’s Customs and Collision. PPG matte pearl white was the color of choice with a black stripe to give the car some flare. One notable feature of the Camaro is the use of a custom grill. When asked about the grill, Caleb said, “third-gens always had bad airflow, and I wanted something that looked a little different but still looked a little more like a traditional Camaro. It was always my dream to have a monster intercooler behind the grill opening. I had the idea for a long time, so I decided to do a few renderings.” He obviously liked the way the rendering looked, so the modifications commenced. Caleb took care of all of the fiberglass work and reinforcement of the nose of this beast. Caleb stated, “A lot of people said I couldn’t do it and it wouldn’t look right or work correctly, but I couldn’t be more happy with it. It’s been like that for over six years now.” To finish off the look of the Mullet, Weld Racing Wheels RTS-71 were used with a set of Hoosier Racing Tires.

Some of Caleb’s biggest challenges during the build were “having to learn as I go: welding, building the engine, helping with the rearend, helping with the transmission, helping with paint and body work, wiring, tuning, and so on. I’m self-taught, and I don’t really have anyone else in my family that’s into cars.”

Ultimately, all of this work and passion for the Camaro has led Caleb to owing his own automotive repair shop, SK Mechanic. 

No matter the angle, this IROC is a show stopper. Photos courtesy of Autofaze.

With everything that has been done to the Mullet Bullet, one thing is for sure: it definitely breaks the stereotype for the third-gen. Caleb has created a beautiful car that is utilized on the street and at the drag strip. It’s exactly the way he envisioned the final product – and with over 1,000 horsepower, no less. With all of the hard work and dedication, this is definitely the one mullet we wouldn’t mind rocking!

About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying is just a few of his favorite things.
Read My Articles

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