1997 Camaro - Mrs. Anderson
'97 Camaro Z28
From the May, 2012 issue of GM High-Tech Performance
By Justin Cesler
Photography by The Author
"You take the blue pill the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pillyou stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." For Valerie Anderson, the mother of two wonderful young boys and the wife of a drag racer with a bad addiction to speed, there was only one choice. "When I first got my car, it was just something to occupy my time when I was at the track with my husband, Joe Anderson. After running the car down the track for the first time, I was addicted to racing." And when she says addicted, Valerie means it. You know by now that you don't get a spot in here without bringing a lot to the table, so it should be no surprise that Valerie's Z28 is fast (10.49 at 128 mph) and cool (Vortech blown street car), but what may surprise you is just how much of her LT1 is still using the original parts from GM, and what has been replaced has been well thought out and installed with great care for both the power output and the final fit and finish.
"Every Friday night that we would be at the track, either I was running my car, my husband would be running his car, or we would have both of our cars. We would do little things to my car to see what it would run. I remember one of the first times that I had my car at the track, I ended up racing an older Mustang that had some work done to it... He sent one of his friends over to see what I had done, but at the time the car was completely stock. He didn't believe me, but it still had the drive out tag in the window!" And while stock was fun for a while and Valerie was sharp enough on the track to win a number of races, it wasn't until Christmas of 2001 that the Z28 finally started to get some power modifications. "Christmas Eve my wonderful husband gave me a diamond ring and asked me to marry him, and the next morning there were some big wrapped boxes under the tree for me. I got my FLP long-tube headers and a Yank converter!" We're not sure which Valerie was more excited about (We think it was the car parts. Sorry Joe), but nevertheless, she certainly found a keeper, and those FLP long-tube headers and that Yank 3600-stall were the perfect parts to drop Valerie deeper into the game. "I ended up getting a lot of used hand-me-down parts off of my husband's car, either stock parts that were a little bit better than what was on my car or aftermarket parts that he had put on his car and they came out with something better. Anyway, I did OK for what I had."
"OK" for what Valerie had worked great until one day she got her hands on a Vortech supercharger system, which came complete with an S-trim head unit and a 6.66-inch crank pulley and 2.95-inch blower pulley, a combination that would make around eight pounds of boost on the otherwise stock LT1 engine. Of course, it wasn't as simple as bolting the blower on and running down the track; the ol' LT1 needed a little more love than that. Along with the Vortech, Valerie would eventually end up installing an Edelbrock AirGap intake manifold, which would breathe through a 58mm throttle body. A set of 52 lb/hr injectors were spec'd to handle the fueling needs, which draw from a Walbro 255lph fuel pump and an Aeromotive regulator. The bane of almost every LT1's existence the Optispark is still in place, with the only ignition upgrades coming in the form of an MSD 6AL ignition box and a set of matching MSD wires. Those FLP long-tubes move exhaust back out from the engine, which runs through a custom 4-inch exhaust that Valerie says is "the only way to go!" When we spent time around the car, we loved the sound as well, so maybe she's on to something.
Out back, Val's Z28 still runs a 4L60E transmission, which was rebuilt by Finish Line Transmission of Chicago, Illinois, and stuffed with the same Yank 3600-stall that Valerie received back in 2001. A Moser 12-bolt finishes out the drivetrain, which was optioned out with an Eaton heavy-duty posi unit, 33-spline axles, and a 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion. This drivetrain flat out works at the track, hitting the first 60-feet in just 1.38 seconds on a set of Mickey Thompson 275mm drag radials. Yikes, that is flying out of the hole! "The car drives great. If I want to get out in traffic, all it takes is me getting on the loud pedal and it will get everyone's attention and I can have any lane that I want. As far as the racing, I usually leave off of idle, which seems to work best for the car. When the lights on the tree drop, I mat the gas pedal to the floor and go!" It must work really well, backing up all of that noise with a 10.49-second time slip at over 128 miles per hour. Unfortunately, that's about when the rabbit-hole got a bit deeper. "In January of 2009 I went to Steele, Alabama, and got to make a couple of passes before I blew both head gaskets. When we had gotten home, we tore the motor down and started the rebuild. It's been a long, drawn out process to get the car back together, but we did it."
Interestingly, Valerie and Joe didn't dig too deep into the engine, basically rebuilding the bottom-end with stock parts and simply adding a new hydraulic roller camshaft cut on 224/236 degrees of duration at .050-inches, with a lopey but still street friendly 114 LSA. Additionally, Valerie added a set of AFR 210 cylinder heads to the LT1, clamping them down over the bores wearing a set of 2.050-inch intake valves and 1.600-inch exhaust valves. When we met Valerie and Joe at the 2011 LTX Shootout, the motor was still fresh and the couple were trying their best to get a decent tune up in the car to make some passes. "Moe Bailey and Tony Shepherd tried their best to help us, but I only got to make one test-and-tune pass before I broke." Yep, that's life in this game, but like any true competitor, Valerie is itching to get back out there and show everyone how it's done. "We are currently trying to get a 383 short-block together. Hopefully we can get everything back together in time for the LTX Shootout this coming year... I just love the strange looks that I get driving the car. You hear the car coming and then you see it. Then you can hear some people say, 'Oh my god, there is a chick driving the car!'"
Chick or no chick, Valerie's '97 LT1 can turn some heads, but it's the speed and ability that keeps people interested. So, word to the wise, if you're going to go down the rabbit-hole, make sure you keep a look out for Valerie Anderson. She's not one to mess with on the way to the stripe.
|Car:|| 1997 Camaro Z28|
|Owner:|| Valerie Anderson|
|Block:|| LT1, 350cid|
|Compression ratio:|| 10.4:1|
|Heads:|| Air Flow Research 210cc, 2.05 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves |
|Cam:|| Comp Cams hydraulic roller, 224/236 duration at .050, .572/.572 lift, 114 LSA |
|Rocker arms:|| Comp Cams, 1.6:1 ratio|
|Pistons:|| Stock, hypereutectic |
|Rings:|| Stock |
|Crankshaft:|| Stock, cast iron |
|Rods:|| Stock, powdered metal|
|Throttle body:|| TPIS 58mm |
|Fuel injectors:|| 52 lb/hr |
|Fuel pump:|| Walbro 255lph, in-tank |
|Ignition:|| Stock Optispark, MSD 6AL, NGK plugs|
|Engine management:|| Stock, tuned by the owner |
|Power Adder:|| Vortech S-Trim|
|Boost:|| 8 psi|
|Intercooler:|| Vortech air-to-water |
|Exhaust system:|| FLP 1.75-inch long-tube headers, custom 4-inch exhaust, Borla muffler |
|Transmission:|| 4L60E, built by Finish Line Transmissions |
|Converter:|| Yank 3600-stall|
|Driveshaft:|| 3-inch, aluminum |
|Front suspension:|| BMR Suspension K-member, stock lower control arms, QA1 adjustable coilovers, removed swaybar |
|Rear suspension:|| BMR adjustable torque arm, lower control arms, adjustable Panhard bar, Spohn sway bar, QA1 adjustable shocks, stock springs|
|Rear end:|| Moser 12-bolt, 3.73 gear, 33-spline axles, Eaton posi |
|Brakes:|| Stock LS1, front and rear |
|Wheels:|| Bogart RT 15x3.5 front, 15x10 rear |
|Front tires:|| Hoosier 26x4.5/15|
|Rear tires:|| Mickey Thompson drag radial 275/60/15|
|Best 60-ft. time:|| 1.38|