Car Feature 1998 Chevrolet Camaro
These days, it is much more common to see a young high school student taking a yoga class than it is to see them in a shop class. With more and more schools cutting shop and auto classes due to liability, political gruff, and possible lack of interest, it is amazing that any skilled mechanics even make it out to the college level. Luckily, Linda and Judson Massingill understand the value of a good mechanical education and have been teaching some of the best at the School of Automotive Machinists (S.A.M.) in Houston, Texas. To stay on the cutting edge, S.A.M. always uses the latest technology, parts, and techniques, which assures that all of the students are up to date when they enter the real world of high performance. Of course, to do this, they have to build cutting-edge motors and vehicles, and be able to prove they work at the track. For this project, S.A.M. has built the very first, humongous, 500-cubic-inch LS2-based bullet and backed it with some of the finest suspension and drivetrain parts on the market.
To build a 500-inch motor out of a stock LS2 block, S.A.M. turned to another industry leader, ERL Performance, and had them build what ERL calls a Superdeck II. The Superdeck II starts as an LS2 block that is then machined to remove the stock cylinder liners and remachined to accept a much larger and stronger ductile iron sleeve. The sleeves allow for a large 4.202-inch bore and enough strength to handle almost any type of power. But boring alone won't get this block near 500 cubic inches, so ERL Performance then installs an extended deck plate, which brings the final deck height to 10.200 inches. This added inch of cylinder not only allows for a large stroke, but it does it safely by keeping the piston in the bore at BDC, a problem that many shorter sleeve LS motors commonly run into.
With the machine work out of the way, the students at S.A.M. began assembling the motor. From the bottom up, they installed a K-1 crankshaft with 4.500-inches of stroke. The crank rests between the modified LS2 block and billet main caps by a set of Clevite bearings and is oiled by a Melling oil pump. Rotating around the massive crankshaft is a set of Carrillo Pro A-Beam connecting rods and a set of 28cc Wiseco pistons sealed with Total Seal rings. This combination gives S.A.M. a nice 10.8:1 compression ratio, which is excellent for pump gas. The cylinder heads are GM LS7 castings, which have been heavily worked by the students. With 2.200-inch intake valves and 1.600-inch exhaust valves, sourced from Ferrea, these heads move quite a bit of air (395 cfm at 0.700 inches, to be exact). Commanding the valves are a set of aluminum Jesel 1.7 rocker arms and a relatively mild Comp Cams camshaft. Since this is still a street-friendly car, S.A.M. students stuck with a hydraulic roller, which features 0.647/0.643-inches of lift, 248/254 degrees of duration on a smooth 114 LSA.
Air and fuel find their way into the cylinder heads via the much talked about FAST LSXR. This manifold features a mammoth 102mm opening and, of course, breathes through an equally large 102mm FAST throttle body. As of this writing, testing is still underway with the FAST LSXR, but S.A.M. has reported impressive gains over the old LS7 manifold, which is good news for any of the large-cube motors currently being built. Fuel is brought into the chamber by a set of 65-lb/hr FAST fuel injectors and controlled by a stock ECU, which has been tuned by S.A.M. students using HP Tuners. A FAST fuel pump and Magnafuel regulator keep the rails full of the good stuff.
Backing this giant powerplant is an ATI-built Turbo 400 and a street-friendly 3,800-stall ATI converter. Passing down a custom steel driveshaft, all of the power is transferred to a Moser-built 9-inch unit, which is packed with a full spool and 35-spline axles. A set of 3.70 gears help the Camaro leave the line and cut a 1.70 short time on motor with 28-inch Mickey Thompson slicks. With a new MSD 2-Step and some juice, Linda should have no trouble upstaging those figures. Suspension is courtesy of BMR, which consists of BMR front lower control arms bolted to a tubular BMR K-member. A BMR torque arm brings us out back, where a set of lower control arms keep the tires planted and a BMR sway bar keeps it level. The students also installed a set of BMR subframe connectors to stiffen the chassis as well as a custom rollcage to keep it all legal.
Since you can't learn everything in the classroom (or machine shop), Linda Massingill makes sure to put the Camaro through its paces as often as possible. This particular setup runs in the NMCA/LSX True Street class, a class that not only shows off the power of a car, but the true consistency and street manners that separate a "one-time wonder" race car from a well-built street car. After completing a 30-mile cruise and running back-to-back passes, Linda has gone as fast as 10.03 at 135 mph. We are willing to bet this car goes into the single digits before or during the upcoming LSX Shootout. Oh, and one other thing worth mentioning--it still has another 250 hp on tap when they decide to spray the NOS nitrous system.