V12 LS Ca­maro

Hot Rod - - Contents - John Machaque­iro John Machaque­iro and Mike Heim

hEvery year lead­ing up to the SEMA Show, we’re treated to an­nounce­ments of builds that will be un­veiled dur­ing the week. In Oc­to­ber 2016, HOT ROD re­ported there was a Ca­maro be­ing built with an LSderived V12 that was to de­but at the show. Beyond some teasers, we re­ally didn’t know what to ex­pect. We know that the SEMA Show never fails to pull in some of the coolest cars from across the globe, and the mix is usu­ally pretty eclec­tic with rides you wouldn’t oth­er­wise give a sec­ond thought to. Hav­ing said that, there’s also no short­age of the tried and true. One of the big­gest cul­prits to fall into that cat­e­gory is the Gen 1 Ca­maro. There are al­ways new in­ter­pre­ta­tions of GM’s F-body un­veiled dur­ing the week, but af­ter so many years, you have to ask if the cre­ative well isn’t be­gin­ning to run dry on these cars. Whether it’s Pro Tour­ing, Pro Street, resto­mod, or any other fla­vor­ful mix, what has any­one re­cently brought to the ta­ble that is new?

This was the hang­ing ques­tion when it came to this proj- ect. Dis­played out­side the Las Ve­gas Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, the im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion was that it looked like just an­other Ca­maro slammed to the ground. Up close and per­sonal, it be­came one of those “whoa” mo­ments.

That V12 was a ma­jes­ti­clook­ing piece of hard­ware that seemed right at home be­tween those 1967 fend­ers, and it had a de­cid­edly Amer­i­can fla­vor to it. It was def­i­nitely some­thing new and fresh on the ta­ble, and it lived up to all the pre-show hype. As we walked around the car at the time and ex­am­ined it fur­ther, it was clear that it was still a work in progress, be­cause most of the in­te­rior was miss­ing and the en­gine com­part­ment wasn’t fully fin­ished. We also found out it wasn’t an­other high-dol­lar project built for a cus­tomer, un­like many of the cars usu­ally dis­played at the show. The car be­longs to Mike Heim, the owner of Qual­ity Cus­tom Rides (QCR), lo­cated in the heart of Amish coun­try in Lan­caster, Penn­syl­va­nia.

Mike has owned the Ca­maro since 1987, and it was at one point his daily driver for a

num­ber of years. In 1991, it was parked be­cause he wanted to tear into it and cre­ate some­thing dif­fer­ent. Chal­lenged by a friend to build a car as low as a Ford GT40, he set pen to pa­per and laid out the foun­da­tion for what was un­veiled in Ve­gas. Un­for­tu­nately, that ini­tial de­sign was put on the back burner for many years as a re­sult of a grow­ing fam­ily and busi­ness. It wasn’t un­til De­cem­ber 2015 that the ’67 would fi­nally move for­ward. He ex­plains, “I was at a show and my good friend Rod Saboury in­tro­duced me to Matt [Cor­ish], who was look­ing for a car to put a V12 into to test. I told him the only one that I can give you is my Ca­maro, which you can have at any time. When Matt came to look at the car, he asked, ‘Can we get this Ca­maro to SEMA?’”

Work on the car be­gan in Jan­uary 2016, and at that point the only thing the crew at QCR had for the en­gine was a set of mea­sure­ments. Beyond that, the start­ing point was the set of blue­prints Mike had penned in 1991. Get­ting it low was the goal, so they ini­tially cut 4.5 inches from the rock­ers and re­moved an­other 3 inches by cut­ting the floor and drop­ping the frame. The hand-fab­ri­cated sus­pen­sion rid­ing on an Air Ride setup gave the Ca­maro an­other 5 inches of ride ad­just­ment. It would go lower once the en­gine was in­stalled.

While that was tak­ing place at QCR, half a world away, Matt and his brother, Shane Cor­ish, were putting the pro­to­type V12 LS through its paces down in Aus­tralia. They started their busi­ness, V12LS.com, with the sim­ple premise of bring­ing a com­mer­cially vi­able V12 en­gine based on the LS plat­form to mar­ket. Matt ex­plains, “The LS is the most hot rod­ded en­gine on the scene to­day. We’ve seen peo­ple cre­ate cus­tom cars that are so ex­treme where every com­po­nent is be­ing mod­i­fied, but the engi­neer­ing in the

en­gine com­part­ment gets left be­hind. What we set out to do is cre­ate some­thing re­ally ex­cit­ing that pushes the bound­aries of what can be done in the en­gine com­part­ment to make it on par with the rest of these builds. The ar­chi­tec­ture of the LS en­gine is far su­pe­rior to any­thing else to come from Chevro­let, and the af­ter­mar­ket sup­port is huge. We wanted our en­gine to use as many stan­dard off-the-shelf LS parts as pos­si­ble.”

The first pro­to­type be­gan life as two Holden LS1 blocks that were cut, welded to­gether, resleeved, and bored. The 12-cylin­der con­fig­u­ra­tion bumps the two grafted blocks up to 519 ci us­ing the fac­tory LS1 bore and stroke of 3.898 inches and 3.62 inches. The alu­minum heads are also LS1-spec, while the crank­shaft and camshaft are cus­tom bil­let pieces that Shane has de­signed and de­vel­oped. The rest uses fac­tory-style pis­tons, rods, bear­ings, and val­ve­train. On the dyno, on its first pull, it pro­duced 717 horses on reg­u­lar pump gas, which ex­ceeded their ex­pec­ta­tions.

By July, the crew at QCR took de­liv­ery of the pro­to­type. They had a large part of the fab­ri­ca­tion work from the fire­wall back com­pleted and quickly dropped the en­gine in place. The new mill was only 8.8 inches longer than a stan­dard LS block, so is­sues with space were min­i­mal. They did have to elim­i­nate the stock ra­di­a­tor sup­port and move the cool­ing hard­ware for­ward, but the over­all shape of the front end re­mained fairly true for a ’67. The last ma­jor body hur­dles were the engi­neer­ing of the sui­cide doors and the 1.5-inch chop on the top. Mike al­most hit the mark by get­ting the car down to 42 inches of height, 2 inches shy of a GT40. Beyond all the sheet­metal work, one of big­gest me­chan­i­cal chal­lenges faced was the fab­ri­ca­tion of the six-into-one stain­less head­ers and ex­haust. Clear­ance is­sues due to sus­pen­sion

travel with the Air Ride sys­tem re­quired a com­plex set of pipes to be fab­ri­cated.

It was all hands on deck at QCR with only a few weeks lead­ing up to the show. With time run­ning out, they were able to get the car prepped and painted. The heart of the project was the en­gine, so

Mike mixed a char­coal-gray metal­lic for the body, while the en­gine was treated to a bath of translu­cent DayGlo green for max­i­mum vis­ual im­pact. This en­sured the en­gine would be the build’s fo­cal point. With the car al­most com­pleted, it was loaded up and shipped to Las Ve­gas for the un­veil­ing.

To say the Ca­maro was a fan fa­vorite at the show would be an un­der­state­ment. That en­thu­si­asm was reaf­firmed when Matt and Shane were be­stowed with the run­ner-up award in the SEMA Launch­pad pro­gram, as well as run­ner-up for Best En­gi­neered New Prod­uct. In a sea of thou­sands of new prod­ucts that show up at SEMA every year, these awards val­i­dated their ef­forts. As a re­sult, they’ve moved for­ward in the evo­lu­tion of the block by also of­fer­ing an LSX-based V12 that dis­places 580 cubes and LS7-fla­vored heads that will soon be avail­able. De­pend­ing on the ap­pli­ca­tion, they’ve even started of­fer­ing the block in alu­minum or cast iron. The cash regis­ter is now open for busi­ness, and they are of­fer­ing po­ten­tial clients dif­fer­ent pur­chase op­tions. You can pick their ba­sic kit, which in­cludes the block, heads, crank­shaft, and cam, or you can have them build you a com­plete plug-and-play V12. They’ve made it easy to be found; their busi­ness name is their web­site. All the in­for­ma­tion can be found at V12LS.com.

[ The stock Ca­maro grille was pushed for­ward and mounted flush to al­low for the ad­di­tional space that was needed. Beyond the shift for­ward, it re­mains stock in every as­pect.

[ Stain­less Head­ers part­nered with GP Head­ers to cre­ate the

six-into-one pair of pipes for the Ca­maro. They were chal­lenged with the con­struc­tion of these pipes due to

the sus­pen­sion.

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