Nic Ashby's calling card as an automotive tuner is his ability to turn around a project car, start to finish, in about 30 days. Chalk it up to his military background and the efficiency and planning he utilizes as a superintendent for a construction firm in his native California. Ashby's tuning business, LDRSHIP Designs, was tapped by General Motors to modify one of eight 2010 Camaros to be displayed at the 2009 SEMA show. With only 45 days to work on it before the premier automotive aftermarket show on the planet, Ashby turned out a car that won three major awards, including two from GM (Most Innovative and Best Parts and Accessories) and the Best Domestic award from Sony's Gran Turismo video game.
Starting with a six-speed, LS3-equipped SS, Ashby looked to employ the National Guard's "At This Moment" marketing campaign in his build. The final, supercharged car rolled onto the show floor in Las Vegas resplendent in glossy-black paint and carbon-fiber body panels, with a full-custom leather interior adorned with tributes to the mission of the National Guard. Ashby, who is a Guard member himself, is responsible for earlier Guard-themed builds, including a widely shown Infiniti G35 with a "Fallen Heroes" paint treatment that drew the Guard's attention initially. This led to further National Guard-sponsored projects. Ashby was among about 80 tuning companies that submitted proposals to GM for Camaros to modify for SEMA.
"I was very lucky to get the car," Ashby says. "A lot of great companies applied and didn't get cars."
Ashby sourced components from suppliers all over the world, demonstrating the diversity of the military and its ability to change and evolve with the times. A hand-airbrushed, marbleized blue stripe carries the National Guard logo along each side of the car, adding a splash of color to an otherwise blacked-out exterior. Inside the car, the seven Army Values-Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage-are on display, as these words are cleverly incorporated into an attractive graphic treatment on the door panels and other interior surfaces. The most elaborate Guard tribute decorates the backs of the carbon-Kevlar driver and passenger seats. On the driver side, Airhead Kustoms airbrushed the image of a Guard soldier in full scuba tactical gear performing a beach assault to represent the Guard's mission of protecting the United States. The passenger side reflects the Guard's domestic role with the image of a female soldier rescuing a girl after Hurricane Katrina.
Airhead Kustoms, located in Corona, California, played a critical role in the creation of the car, essentially serving as the home shop for the build. They handled the paint and interior portions of the build, stitching together six full hides while covering practically the entire cabin in leather. Well-known import carbon-fiber purveyor Seibon produced a hood, fenders, trunk and spoiler, front lip, rear valance, and side skirts for the car, using it as a testbed for prototype parts that use OEM attachment points. In addition, Seibon provided the carbon-fiber seats for the interior. These were torn down to the shells by Airhead and then built up again, covered in leather, and stitched with thread that matches the stock Camaro SS trim exactly.
"We went through 12 sets of thread until the stitching and embroidered SS matched the stock seats exactly," Ashby says. "It looks like we took a stock Camaro SS seat, gutted it, and set it into the shell."
Many other sponsors used the car to prototype 2010 Camaro parts. Paxton borrowed the car for a while to install a centrifugal supercharger, complete with a menacing front-mount intercooler. They returned the car to Ashby completely buttoned-down and tuned, with dyno results showing 525 rear-wheel horsepower using 91 octane pump gas. KW Suspension supplied coilovers and upgraded antiroll bars front and rear. Brembo shipped over a brake upgrade kit; JBA supplied exhaust components; ACT donated a clutch; and Inland Empire provided a one-piece, 3-inch aluminum driveshaft.
"I was worried about putting that much power through a jointed driveshaft," Ashby says, noting that the engine transfers power to the rearend more efficiently now.
Another sponsor was BBS, which produced one-off CH-R wheels in an intimidating black shade. Ashby was particularly happy with the company's ability to deliver wheels that fit just right with only brief consultation.
"Wheels are always the biggest problem [in building a car]," Ashby says. "If you don't have the correct fitment, offset ... there are so many variables in a wheel, yet you have to have that perfect balance of diameter and width."
Ashby took the lead in planning and installing the car's extensive audio system upgrades. Memphis Car Audio and Monster Cable came on board to provide the necessary components. The end result is a car that showcases new components and communicates the National Guard's message, yet fits the feel of the recession-era SEMA show by demonstrating a street-legal build within the reach (or at least the imagination) of the end consumer. Ashby appreciated the positive response the car received, particularly from the GM design team.
"It's pretty amazing to take a car, build it, and then hand it back to the designers who created the car, and having them say, 'Wow, you improved on what we did,'" Ashby says.
"I'm basically an import guy," Ashby added. "My biggest hurdle was maintaining my tuner status, but building an American car that the hot rod enthusiast would respect. "
After this success, Ashby has received more attention from the American performance community, and he plans to submit a truck design proposal to GM for this year's SEMA show.
"Working on imports is fun, and I have lifelong friends in that world," Ashby says," but working on American cars, there's a different sense of pride-like a Japanese person would have working on a JDM car-this is your heritage."
2010 Camaro SS
LS3, 376 cid
Stock LS3, 2.165 intake, 1.59 exhaust valves
Stock LS3, 204/211 duration at 0.050, 0.551/0.525-inch lift, 117.5 LSA
Stock 1.8 ratio
Stock nodular iron
Stock powdered metal
Stock with Paxton booster
Stock, tuned by Diablo Sport/Paxton
JBA 1 5/8-inch long-tube headers, X-pipe with high-flow cats, 3-inch exhaust
Inland Empire one-piece, 3-inch
KW Suspension Variant 2 coilovers and sway bar, stock control arms
KW Suspension Variant 2 coilovers and sway bar, stock control arms
Stock IRS, 3.45 gear, axles, posi
Brembo four-piston front, rear
BBS CH-R 20x9 front, 20x10.5 rear
Hankook V12 245/40/20 front, 275/35/20 rear
Seibon carbon-fiber hood, trunk, spoiler, front lip, rear valance, side skirts, and fenders, SEM paint
Custom leather panels, custom carbon-fiber racing seats covered in black leather, Takata racing harnesses, Memphis Car Audio 6" component, 6x9 rear deck, 4" center, two DVC 12" subwoofers, two 4.55 four-channel amplifiers