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Week To Wicked: Building Our LS-Swapped 1969 Camaro from Start to Finish

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2/26/2021 Steven Rupp,Renz Dimaandal
a car parked on the side of the road: 001-1969-camaro-week-to-wicked-pol-build-ls-swap-efi-procharger-super-chevy © Renz Dimaandal 001-1969-camaro-week-to-wicked-pol-build-ls-swap-efi-procharger-super-chevy

Our Super Chevy Week To Wicked, presented by POL, 1969 Camaro goes from a pile of parts to a tire shredding hot rod in just 7 days!

We've done nearly a dozen of these Week To Wicked builds, and while we've fine-tuned the process, the task of putting together a car in just a week is still a daunting challenge. And, believe it or not, in all of those previous builds the project has never been a first-gen Camaro! Well, for this Week To Wicked Presented by POL we were presented with the task of building, arguably, the most popular first-gen, a 1969 Camaro, in just a week. Also, for the first time our LS swap was going to include a ProCharger supercharger system.

The key word here is "build." Since we don't do paint, body, and crazy stuff during the week, we'll let Hollywood try to fool you with that sort of project nonsense. We start off with a clean body ready to have all the bits and pieces bolted on, wired up, and otherwise installed. In the past we've started with running and driving stockish cars and then transformed them, but for this one we're starting with a painted, nearly bare shell from Performance Online (POL). Still, even with the paint and body already done, these builds make for a week of really long days as we go from a pile to parts to a car doing burnouts.

a motorcycle parked in front of a mirror posing for the camera © Renz Dimaandal

Every action movie needs a star, and for this one it was a 427-inch LS built on a Dart LS-Next block and filled with forged K1 guts. Topping off the Dart short-block were a pair of high-flowing AFR heads and a Holley intake with Terminator X EFI system. At Custom Performance Racing Engines (CPR) the low-compression 427 made 565 hp NA with a relatively small 227/243 Comp camshaft. Once broken in, it was time to belt up the Procharger and feed the 427 some boost.

On 91-octane pump gas, the non-intercooled mill made 737 hp at 8 pounds of boost with a very safe and streetable tune. For fun we dumped in 116-octane race gas, installed a smaller pulley, and made 906 hp at 6,800 rpm on 14 pounds of boost! Even cooler was that the engine was making 700 lb-ft of twist at 6,800 rpm! Fifth-gear freeway burnouts will be stupid easy. With the test and tune done, we hauled the engine back to our MotorTrend Tech Center for the build.

a large room © Renz Dimaandal

The POL Camaro showed up to our MotorTrend Tech Center painted with the glass installed, but very little else. We started by running some of the main Painless wiring looms, installing the pre-bent brake lines, and routing our battery cables. We also installed our Detroit Speed wiper motor. Day one's plan was to get all the suspension and brakes installed under the 1969 Camaro so we could get closer to our LS swap.

© Renz Dimaandal

This is POL's Camaro so, as you could guess, that meant we're bolting on their Stage 3 tubular control arm suspension kit (PN S4SK6769SB). This is their top-of-the-line kit that includes upper and lower arms, upper cross-shafts with offset cam plugs, Aldan American adjustable coilovers, and spindles. We also went with POL's stiffer sway bar along with their close ratio steering box (14:1 ratio).

a person holding a gun © Renz Dimaandal

POL was going to unveil these brakes at the 2020 SEMA show, but we know how that went. Turns out, they teamed up with Baer to produce their new, wallet-friendly Blackout big-brake system. The 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers (optional six-piston binders available) should have zero problems slowing down our '69 Camaro. For power assist we installed POL's Hydro Boost system, which uses power steering line pressure instead of engine vacuum to assist the brakes.

a man sitting on a motorcycle © Renz Dimaandal

While one team was tackling the front of our 1969 Camaro, another group was installing POL's new Lateral X four-link system under the F-body. The four-link system has been out for a while, but this new kit is designed for cars that have been mini-tubbed, and it incorporates a cradle assembly that bolts under the back of the car, providing mounting points for suspension bits along with a lot more chassis rigidity. Like the front, the rear had Aldan American coilover shocks.

© Renz Dimaandal

For the rear we installed matching POL Blackout brakes. This system was designed to look great, work great, and not empty your wallet in the process. The four-link system requires brackets to be welded to the housing. You can either go the DIY route and get the brackets from POL or pick up a complete Currie housing with the brackets already clocked and welded in place.

a close up of a camera © Renz Dimaandal

While the suspension was getting dialed in, the tech team started prepping the drivetrain for installation. First up was installing POL's adjustable engine plates. These plates make LS swaps much easier since they allow you to move the engine forward and back a few inches to help deal with any clearance issues.

© Renz Dimaandal

POL wanted to bang gears, so a manual transmission was invited to the party. Our plan was to swing the engine and trans into the Camaro as a unit, so that meant we needed to put it all together starting with the SPEC clutch. After the flywheel was torqued to spec (using GM torque-to-yield bolts), we were able to install and align the SPEC Super Twin clutch. This twin-disc clutch can easily hold 700 to 1,300 hp and features a composite Kevlar clutch material. We've used this clutch before, and it rocks on the street as well as the track.

a man holding a gun © Renz Dimaandal

With all the math done and the clutch set up, we could bolt the Silver Sport Transmission (SST) Tremec Magnum six-speed to the LS using a SFI-certified Quicktime bellhousing. For this build we were also using SST's upgraded billet shifter and their hydraulic clutch kit.

a group of people standing around a motorcycle © Renz Dimaandal

Dropping in the engine always makes it feel like we're almost done. Of course, that's a big lie, but getting the drivetrain in place was important so we could move forward with the thousand other things that still needed to happen. The good news was that we were only on day two.

© Renz Dimaandal

For this build we chose a Holley Frostbite (PN FB148) three-row radiator that can easily support our 750-horsepower blown LS. This radiator was sized for our 1969 Camaro core support and came with provisions for a transmission cooler. We're running a manual transmission, but we might end up plumbing the power steering fluid through here at a later date. The fans that came with the Frostbite shroud were a pair of 10-inch units. These high CFM (1300) fans should easily be able to keep our Camaro cool once it hits the road. Fan relays came with our Painless kit, but if you need them, Holley has a complete Frostbite relay kit (PN FB403) for under 100 bucks.

© Renz Dimaandal

In hindsight, we should have chosen one of their sweet LS-swap (FB300 or FB301) dual-pass radiators since both the inlet and outlet are on the passenger side and you can change the size of the inlet and outlet fittings. But hey, when you have a week to build a car, you play the cards you're dealt. Besides, this way we got to show you how to do it if you're doing an LS swap and want to keep your original radiator using some parts from Summit Racing.

© Renz Dimaandal

Our engine is running a Holley Terminator X systems and it, like all EFI kits, has very specific fuel needs; one of those is an EFI-ready and fully baffled fuel tank with a high-volume fuel pump. To handle this we chose a Holley Sniper EFI tank. This aftermarket tank is a lot like a factory 1969 Camaro tank but better. One aspect of this tank that will make your life easier is that the forward corners are cut off. This makes it way easier to route exhaust out the back of the car. To make up for the loss of volume., the tank is an inch or so deeper, but it comes with replacement gas tank straps to get it bolted in place.

a close up of a motorcycle © Renz Dimaandal

We only have a week to get this done, so no fancy exhaust routing for us. A simple Hooker exhaust system would get the job done for now.

a motorcycle parked on top of a car © Renz Dimaandal

With the drivetrain installed and exhaust completed, we could install the front sheetmetal along with some trim and grille parts from Classic Industries. It was early on day five and we still had a lot to get done, but it certainly looked like a complete car at this point.

a close up of a motorcycle engine © Renz Dimaandal

One of the big tasks was wiring and plumbing all the engine bay bits together. That involved lots of runs to the local speed shop for oddball fittings and more than a little troubleshooting of the wiring. Would we fire it up sometime on day five? Not even we were sure of that, so we just keep installing parts and checking things off our ever-diminishing to-do list.

a man sitting in a car © Renz Dimaandal

We were pretty excited when the wheels showed up wrapped in Falken's new Azenis RT660 200-treadwear high-grip tires. Having rollers on the car meant we could finally get it off the lift to make installing the interior easier.

a close up of a car © Renz Dimaandal

Not all of our parts had to do with going fast; many were just functional eye candy. For this dress-up, we had a huge stack of parts from Eddie Motorsports. Hood hinges, fender struts, billet taillights, door handles, overflow tanks, catch cans, steering wheel, door sills, and these slick side-view mirrors were just a few of the trinkets they sent over to the MotorTrend Tech Center.

a man driving a car © Renz Dimaandal

With the wiring getting closer to being done we could start installing the parts from United Pacific such as these LED headlights.

© Renz Dimaandal

Did we mention wiring? Well, wiring the car is the biggest time suck on these projects. It typically starts on day one and is one of the last things to be finished at the end of the week. It's a deal where you can't cut corners, and if something is wrong it can stop you cold in your tracks. Painless sent over a complete wiring system that included everything we needed, but getting it integrated with all the other systems, such as the Holley Terminator ECU and Dakota Digital gauge system, just took a ton of man-hours.

© Renz Dimaandal

With the car off the lift we could get busy on the interior, which included installing the Dakota Digital HDX gauge system. This kit fits in the factory bezel and replaces the idiot lights with gauges that provide useful information. The twin LCD displays adds even more options to the mix. Thankfully the system is pretty easy to install since it was very late on day five at this point.

© Renz Dimaandal

The last piece of the wiring puzzle was to install the Duralast Gold battery with the Eddie Motorsports holder and attach the battery cables. With power to the car, we could start checking systems and chasing gremlins.

a motorcycle parked on top of a car © Renz Dimaandal

Day six, and it was lights, camera, and action! Day five was a late night chasing a wiring issue that wasn't letting the car fire, but the team figured out what wires were swapped, and the Camaro roared to life around lunch on Saturday! The rest of the day was spent making adjustments, looking for leaks, and squaring everything away.

a car parked on the side of a building © Renz Dimaandal

And, we have to say, the 1969 POL Camaro was looking pretty damn good on day six, and it was sounding good, as well, but it was late and a bit too dark outside for our final task of the build.

a car driving down a street © Renz Dimaandal

And that final task was our obligatory set of burnouts. It was early Sunday on the seventh day as we shredded the poor sacrificial Falken RT660 rear tires. Six full days to turn a huge stack of parts and a stripped 1969 Camaro shell into a running, driving, tire-melting, blown-LS hot rod. In a hobby where builds can take years, it's the sort of nearly instant gratification we could get used to.

SOURCES:

Air Flow Research

661.257.8124

AirFlowResearch.com

Classic Industries

800.854.1280

classicindustries.com

Dakota Digital

800.593.4160

dakotadigital.com

E3 Spark Plugs

904.567.5994

e3sparkplugs.com

Eddie Motorsports

888.813.1293

eddiemotorsports.com

Falken Tires

800.723.2553

falkentire.com

Holley/Hooker/Frostbite

270.781.9741

holley.com

Painless Performance Products

817.244.6212

painlessperformance.com

Performance Online - POL

800.638.1703

performanceonline.com

ProCharger

913.338.2886

procharger.com

Silver Sport Transmissions

865.609.8187

shiftsst.com

United Pacific Industries

562.421.3888

upcarparts.com

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