As time went by, the Camaro was still fast but the other cars kept getting faster. Of course, credit to the Camaro staying near the top was the seemingly limitless amount of wheel talent possessed by Mary, and the car being well-sorted out and balanced perfectly to Mary’s driving style. Still, there were limits to what the leaf springs and heavy carbureted small-block could do. The excessive weight on the Camaro’s nose certainly wasn’t helping either. It came to pass that Camaro Performers magazine needed a car for an LS engine swap story and Mary’s was the perfect candidate. Mary and Dave pulled the old drivetrain in preparation for the swap, and that’s when the project snowballed. After talking with Cris Gonzalez over at JCG Restorations and Customs, she decided that the paint was a bit tired, so her plan was a simple reshoot, and of course, the leaf springs would stay. Well, rust was found so the simple re-paint became a “down to bare metal” full-blown rebuild. Eventually, the “while we’re here we might as well …” syndrome kicked into high gear. First up were mini-tubs, then a smooth firewall. “Cris taped a little sign on the top of the windshield that said ‘RACE CAR.’ I’d go down to see progress and he’d say ‘Hey, Mary, I’ve got this idea!’ Which usually involved some cool custom stuff he was working on. I’d take him out to the Camaro and just point to the sign causing us both to look at each other and laugh,” Mary relayed.
She managed to resist temptation, mostly. The body was massaged, and to save weight, an Anvil Auto carbon-fiber RS nose, hood, inner fenders, trunk lid, and other bits found their way onto the Camaro. When it came time for color, Mary went bold with Inferno Orange from the fifth-gen Camaro. As Mary noted, “This color isn’t seen on very many early muscle cars, and when blended with the carbon-fiber panel accents, it definitely stands out. I chose a light gray paint for the interior, engine bay, and undercarriage, as I wanted to be able to see any leaks or cracks.”
With the car coming along so well, Mary was no longer content with the stock LS3 crate engine, so she started eyeing the engine Dave had put aside for his Camaro project. It was actually the 402ci LS2 stroker that Bad Penny, our ’68 project car, had ran prior to the current 461ci monster that resides between the framerails today.
Filled with treasures like a Lunati Pro crank, matching rods, Wiseco slugs, and fitted with a baffled Canton oil pan, it could stand up to serious abuse. Topping the short-block were a set of massaged AFR heads, CHE bushed rockers, and a FAST intake. On the engine dyno it made 580 hp, and in Mary’s Camaro it puts 482 hp (at 5,975 rpm) and 478 lb-ft of torque (at 4,850 rpm) to the tires. Exhaust is handled by a set of Edelbrock 1⅞-inch long tubes mated to a Magnaflow system. Replacing the Richmond is a Tremec T-56 Magnum six-speed with a Centerforce clutch and Quicktime SFI-certified bellhousing. Power transits back through a 3.5-inch aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline and into a Currie Ford 9-inch with TrueTrac posi and 3.89 gears. The reduced weight combined with the increased power still has Mary grinning, a slightly evil grin, but a grin nonetheless.