For anyone with the intestinal fortitude to sit through an Ally McBeal episode to see when Titus comes on, you know it's absolutely astounding how good that dingbat is at getting stressed out at work. She invariably blows a gasket and collapses into a pile of her own neuroses, with everyone having a good laugh in the process. The sad reality is that this problem afflicts many type-A people--female lawyers in heat and automotive writers included. It's difficult to have a job that requires such focused intensity; Showing up at court, interspersed with talking about sex and freaking out with similarly-afflicted air-headed friends tends to stress people out. And don't get us started on Ally.
Green Lane, Pa. resident Tom Guellich has all of the prerequisites necessary for a catastrophic meltdown--he has a great eye for detail, which would probably make him more type A than type B. And he holds the high-stress title of Mechanical Support Manager at his day job. So why is it that the six-foot nine-inch (he played hoops at Villanova) Pennsylvanian hasn't applied for a job down at the local post office?
Because Tom ordered a 1986 Camaro from Barlow Chevrolet in Delran, N.J. as a stress reliever. But amazingly enough, it wasn't the same car gracing this month's cover.
"After I placed my order, a different Z28 came into the dealership a couple of weeks later," Guellich says. "Apparently, a GM representative had ordered it, and then decided he didn't want it. It was delivered to Barlow, and since the options were almost identical to what I had ordered, and the color scheme was right, I took it."
Tom's Z came with a 305 cubic-inch engine, the 700-R4 auto transmission, 3.23 gears and four-wheel disc brakes. Equipped with every option save for T-Tops and power locks, he drove the car every day for two years before fate steered him toward a Super Chevy show--and onto the drag strip.
"When the car was stock, the best that it could muster was 16.1 at 85 mph," Tom admits. Well, we certainly can't have that, can we?
Enlightened by the idea that his snoozemobile could be saved from the depths of leisuredom, Tom went to work.
The lollygagging 305 was soon besieged by a bevy of bolt-ons, including exhaust, intake runners, air filters, and 3.73 gears. A custom-ground cam was also included, and these changes really woke the LB9 up--by over two seconds! That same engine now propelled the Camaro around it to a 13.7 at 103. Then the overachieving 305 developed a bit of a sniffing habit, if you know what I mean. Juice motivated the F-body to a 12.15, but by that time Guellich decided he wanted more displacement, and he sold the still-running 305 in favor of a short-rod 383.
"That entire engine was a big mistake," Tom laments. "The builder installed the wrong cam, and I was looking at the cam card saying, 'What is the problem here?' I tried to get that engine to work for months, to no avail. One day a friend who used to work for Joe Amato dropped by, armed with a dial indicator. He turned to me and said, 'This isn't the cam you're supposed to have!'"
Tom's patience with the mismatched combo expired, and the short-rod engine was tossed. He installed another 383, but with 5.7-inch rods instead.
"What a difference that made. I had the right cam in it, and everything worked great. That motor went 11.8 naturally-aspirated."
Tom again agreed to dance with the nitrous devil to hit the tens, and the clock at Atco Raceway flashed 10.40. Unfortunately, the 150-shot was too much for the crate motor, and as the number 8 piston expired, one of the more printable thoughts bouncing around in Tom's skull was that he would go all-motor from that day forward.
"It was great picking up all of that power with the nitrous, but it was too hard to be consistent while bracket racing," he says. We're pretty sure the juice-induced carnage didn't help much, either.
So he commissioned Bob and Craig Wise of Racekrafters (Lancaster, Pa.) to build him the first of his 406-cubic inch naturally-aspirated motors. A new Bowtie block was filled with a Callies crank, and AFR heads and 6-inch rods worked under the TPI/SuperRam intake manifold. The 10.5 to 1 mill ran 11.2s at 117, but gasped for breath on the top end.
"That motor was a huge step up, but it was still running out of air at 5800 rpm," Tom explains. "I wanted something that would pull to 6500, make more power, and still be fuel-injected. So in 1996 I went to a Brodix HMV1000 intake and longer 61/8-inch Manley rods. We also upgraded the heads to Brodix Track 1s with stainless 2.05 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves. And I had a special Camotion cam ground to take advantage of all of that extra airflow."
Tom fabricated the exhaust system himself, with help from Steve Majer of Kober Mechanical in Red Hill, Pa. The pipe is the same oval tubing used in NASCAR, with a 3.5-inch cross-section on both sides. A 2.5-inch balance tube gained 20 ft.-lbs. of torque with no power loss, and the Jet-Hot-coated system uses Borla mufflers to quiet things down.
The now 13.5 to 1 motor made a whopping 650 horsepower at 6500 rpm, with 525 ft.-lbs. of torque ravishing the Camaro's body. Or trying to, since Tom had checked the burgundy beast into Nagle's Rod Shop in Green Lane for frame connectors, a roll bar and some seat brackets.
Ron Edwards of Performance Transmissions in York, Pa. was called upon to provide a brawny trans that would stand up to the deep-breathing 406. He responded by building a Turbo 350 that Tom is obviously impressed with.
"Ron is a magician when it comes to transmissions," he raves. "I've never had a problem with it."
An equally strong Summers Bros. 12-bolt rear takes all of the engine's abuse without complaint, as Guellich has logged over 1,200 runs with only a Positraction unit failing.
Since the two-tone beauty hadn't been so much as dented in all this time, Tom didn't have much to improve upon when the subject of bodywork came up. But being a stickler for details can either hurt you, or help you. It really helped this Camaro!
Guellich completely disassembled the car and took it to R&R Auto Body in Pottstown, Pa. There, Mike Markoski prepped and painted the door jambs, the engine bay, and the trunk. Once finished, new weatherstripping was installed, then Tom put it all back together.
The fruits for all that labor? It's hard to comprehend how gorgeous this Third-Gen is until you see it in person. The paint is flawless from every conceivable angle. Take a seat and feast your eyes on the immaculately restored interior, replete with super-fly Cyberdyne digital gauges and a B&M shifter. And the cackling, high-compression mill motivates the Camaro to mid-10s at almost 130 mph! There was no justifiable reason to tinker with this masterpiece. But as we soon found out, Tom changes the Camaro's engine more often than we change underwear. One man's ceiling...
"I set three goals after I upgraded from the 383," Guellich states. "Going 10 flat was one, and getting the trap speed over 135 was another. The 406 had good power, but it needed a few more cubes to run the number."
Tom rebuilt the same Bowtie block again, this time with a 4-inch Cola 4340 crank swinging downsized 6-inch rods. The Brodix heads were removed and extensively ported, and larger 2.08-inch intake valves were installed. The 1250 cfm ACCEL throttle body was also changed. It had been more than adequate for the old motor, but was now restricting airflow as the extra cubes gasped for breath. A polished Kinsler unit now hides under the K&N air filter, and 36 lbs./hr. fuel injectors fire when the DFI tells them to.
427 magical cubic inches were achieved with this latest rebuild, enough to prod the 3575-pound Z28 to single-digit ETs at 137 mph! But Tom is already looking to improve upon the Z's current configuration, stressing the fact that a true street car shouldn't have to run on race gas all the time.
"That's the only problem I have with this new motor. The extra cubic inches, along with a much closer air to fuel ratio, make the car much easier to drive on the street, but the price of racing fuel is so high, I can't drive it as much as I would like."
There have already been words with Second Street Speed in Perkasie, Pa. about dropping the compression ratio and bolting a turbo on. And we really need to do laundry.
"A turbocharger would probably bump horsepower up to 1100, and it could see more street duty, also. That would be great, because driving the car is such a good stress reliever for me, and I have such a blast taking it to car shows and races like GMHTP's Bristol event. Tom Jr. and I have probably spent more time with it than my wife Helene wanted, but she has been so supportive of my hobby, she deserves a big 'Thank you.'"
You may be wondering about the last goal that Guellich was looking to accomplish.
"Well, I've really wanted to get the car into a magazine," he laughs. "It's fast, good-looking, and a pleasure to drive. I think I would be real tickled if that happened."
Don't stress it Tom--we've got you covered.
Tom's Camaro provides catapult-like launches with a stock suspension-and a little hot-rod ingenuity. Guellich made cheap, simple modifications to the rear that yielded fantastic results. Care to take a gander? Log on to gmhightechperformance.com for an in-depth look at this system.
Guellich restored the interior...
Guellich restored the interior himself, replacing the iffy factory gauges with a full set of Cyberdynes. Wismer's Car Upholstery redid the stock seats, and Tom added a rollcage and harnesses to keep the safety crews happy.
A subtle Harwood cowl hood...
A subtle Harwood cowl hood and Centerline wheels are the exceptions to the otherwise stock-looking 1986 body. One car-show-attending pessimist doubted the Z's fleet-footedness; He was converted after Tom pulled the wheels in front of the diaper and wax wussies.
Engine: The engine that currently...
The engine that currently resides in Tom's Z28, unless he swapped it again within the last few weeks, is a Bowtie-based 427. Since the huge Kinsler throttle body is hidden beneath the K&N air filter, it's hard to believe that this is a 9-second motor.