Trying to be the best can sometimes lead to becoming the best there is. Such is the case with Gary Coyne and his Vengeance Racing-equipped 2013 Camaro ZL1. Gary’s rise to leader of the pack started out by constantly trying to catch up.
Gary has always been competitive, starting out cutting apexes on motorcycles. He reports that his twisting and turning were quite competitive, but his performance between the starting line and the first turn were abysmal. In an effort to improve his zero-to-turn-one times, Gary started visiting the local drag strip. That’s where shifting took precedence over turning, and Gary became a drag racer at heart. In 2013, he found this 2013 ZL1 Camaro on the Hardy Chevrolet lot and purchased it in July of that year. He explains his reasoning this way: “I had always wanted to own a Camaro,” he said. “And with the car being factory-supercharged, it was too much to resist.”
As those who are blessed – or cursed – with the competitive gene will already know: it didn’t take long for Gary to want more out of his factory-boosted, Victory Red Camaro. The slippery-slope was ready and willing to glide Gary and his Camaro to greatness, but first, he had a date with his odometer.
About six years ago, as Gary and Vengeance Racing’s owner, Ron Mowen, were discussing power-adding options, the odometer on Gary’s F-body had just clicked over 300 miles. Ron and Gary had a plan to put another 250 horsepower under the hood of Gary’s ride, but Ron told Gary to bring the car back for the work once it had surpassed 1,000 miles on the trip-o-meter. Challenge accepted. Gary explains, “Needless to say, the next 700 miles happened very quickly and likely at a high rate of speed!” With that out of the way, Vengeance Racing technician Sean Parker opened his toolbox to work on Gary’s Camaro and hasn’t closed it yet.
Gary thought 750 rear-wheel horsepower would satiate that competitive gene into remission, but he soon had a relapse when he visited a Wanna GOFAST event in Heavens Landing Airport in North Georgia. Gary competed and eked out 150 MPH in the 1/2-mile with his 4,200-pound car — not a bad performance for a hefty car in the 1/2-mile, but nowhere near good enough for Gary.
The next week, he was back in the doctor’s office, seeking a prescription that would require major surgery. “Dr. Mowen” prescribed a heart transplant right off the bat, and various other bits to ensure the swap was a success. Power-adders and nitrous bring even more performance and increased reliability to Gary’s ride.
Gary’s focus on getting up to speed so many years ago has morphed into an infatuation with straight-line acceleration. His car has been built specifically to compete in ½-mile speed events, but he does occasionally take it to the short track. As it stands, Gary’s pinpoint effort has garnered him the record of the fastest gen-V ZL1, at 196.50 MPH. The 1/4-mile rolls by in a mere 8-seconds at speeds over 165 MPH. Gary says that while the car’s heft doesn’t help much at the beginning, he does admit that it handles great at speeds over 150 MPH, thanks to the ground-holding mass it entails. At some point, he and the folks at Vengeance Racing may get “serious” about going after 1/4-mile greatness by changing to a “loose” converter, rather than the current one, specifically chosen and designed for twice that distance.
Building The Beast
The power and performance of the fifth-generation Camaro ZL1 are what enthralled the power-hungry enthusiast from the beginning. So, what does it mean to take an already high-performing car and turn the dial all the way to eleven? Gary’s ZL1 is a perfect example, although if you ask him, he’ll admit that it is still a work in progress.
That process has its foundation in an LSX 427 block, to which a Callies Ultra-Billet crank was added, along with Ultra Series I-Beam rods and armor-coated Diamond pistons, delivering a 9.5:1 compression. Late Model Engines in Houston, Texas did the engine build and capped everything off with a set of MAST Motorsports CNC’d, six-bolt, LS3 heads.
I also love the fact I can run mid-8’s in the quarter-mile, almost 200 mph in the half-mile, AND take my wife to dinner on Friday evening. – Gary Coyne
The valves in those reworked heads get their marching orders through a Cam Motion camshaft that is honed to Vengeance Racing’s specs as their low-lash, solid-roller design. Other induction pieces were brought to the build by LME. Specifically, the LME intake which features Nick Williams’ CNC’d, 102mm drive-by-wire, boosted application throttle body. The “boosted” moniker denotes a stronger electric motor to prevent the driven-by-wire blade from closing under high boost levels.
Of course, the throttle body’s boosted design is necessary, as Gary’s engine sees boost levels upwards of 30 psi during a run. While Gary’s ZL1 originally had a top-mounted supercharger feeding the car’s factory LS3 engine, the power levels that his car now produces is thanks to a Huron Speed Products turbo system using a pair of oil-less Comp Turbo turbos. A Huron Speed “Black Series” 6-inch air-to-air intercooler keeps inlet temperatures within reason, and the Tial wastegate and blow-off valve keep boost under the aforementioned 30-pounds.
Getting fuel for all the air is done mechanically through a MagnaFuel 4103 fuel pump and regulator, which feeds the Fuel Injector Clinic’s 2650cc injectors. Vengeance Racing’s Jey Clegg tuned the Pro EFI 112 ECU for a balanced diet of fuel and air under all operating conditions.
As if that weren’t enough, Gary’s built and boosted 427 also gets a bit of added power and cooling through a dry, 100-shot of Nitrous Outlet’s eight-cylinder, four solenoids, direct-port-injected nitrous system. The single-stage kit improves performance and also helps keep inlet temperatures livable for those precious Diamond pistons.
Building all that power up front and trying to get it out back would be fruitless unless everything aft of the crankshaft was built to suit. And of course, it is, in Gary’s Camaro. The transmission has been swapped out for a Turbo 400 unit, rebuilt by RPM Transmissions using a Reid case and upgraded with heavy-duty components and a transbrake. Ratios for this racing-inspired transmission are set at a 2.48:1 first-gear, 1.48:1 second, and a straight 1:1 ratio in high-gear. The stock GM rear is set with 2.23 gears for the ½-mile and 3.73 gears for the ¼-mile.
The suspension on Gary’s Camaro is quite adept at keeping the car straight at speed. He reports that short of a Carlyle Racing “15-inch kit” so he can run 15-inch wheels and a BMR Suspension sway bar, the suspension on his high-speed Camaro is all stock. Those 15-inch wheels are 10-inch wide Weld Racing units with the front-runners being 17x5s.
All in all, Gary and the folks at Vengeance Racing have created quite the monster when it comes time to shut down the competition, but what really makes this car amazing is how Gary describes its drivability when no timing lights are watching. The car drives and handles incredibly!” he exclaims. “I also love the fact I can run mid 8’s in the 1/4-mile, almost 200 MPH in the 1/2-mile AND take my wife to dinner on Friday evening. The car is still very much a streetable combination that we are able to enjoy when time allows.”
Turns out that being the best performer doesn’t always mean giving up day-to-day drivability or compromising on comfort. Anyone would admit that Gary’s fifth-gen Camaro is an excellent performer, and some would even say that it is the ultimate performer. For Gary, though, performance is more than a high-speed number or a trophy on a shelf. He originally joined with the folks at Vengeance Racing to build the best fifth-generation Camaro they could, and in the process, they’ve built a car with a proven world record and street manners. In the end, trying to be the best brought them the best of both worlds.