Project BlownZ28 – Part 2: Assembling The Camaro After Paint

Dragzine’s Project BlownZ28 began as a rendering and has been brought to life by Keith Engling and team at Skinny Kid Race Cars in Michigan. The Camaro has transformed from a pile of parts to a nearly complete racecar that’s drawing ever-closer to being fired up and taken to the track for testing. In this build installment, we’re going to take a look at what goes into finishing a car like Project BlownZ28, and the parts we used to help make this car a competitive Limited Drag Radial machine.

In the previous build article, we showed you how Project BlownZ28 has slowly come to life thanks to Skinny Kid Race Cars. The chassis was roughed in, the Pro Line Racing big-block was shown its home, and other major details were figured out. Now that the car has returned from paint, it’s time to button things up so BlownZ28 can be race-ready in 2021.

Chassis Work, Plumbing, And Headers

A build like Project BlownZ28 is a big undertaking that requires many steps and serious attention to detail. When the Camaro went off to paint and powdercoat, that wasn’t the beginning of the end…not even close. It was more of an end to the beginning. After the car is returned to Skinny Kid Race Cars, there are still hundreds of hours of refitting, assembly, and plumbing that needs done before the car is ready to hit the track.

Engling has assembled countless racecars in his career, so he has a firm grasp on what needs to be done to get a car ready the right way.

“When a car goes to paint it’s really only about three-quarters of the way done. That’s one thing a lot of people don’t understand when it comes to a build like this. When the car is returned to us after the body shop is done, there will be someone working on the car for a solid two to three weeks. All of that time will be spent assembling the car before it gets wired and plumbed,” Keith says.

After the car is returned to Skinny Kid Race Cars the long process begins to get the car ready for assembly.

You can think of a car when it returns from paint like a big jigsaw puzzle, but one that needs a lot of massage work so it goes together correctly. Before anything was bolted to the car, Skinny Kid Race Cars spent over four hours reaming and tapping holes that were filled with paint or powdercoating so assembly could begin. After that task was complete, the team had to reassemble the suspension, attach the brake lines, run the fire system lines, and that’s just a small portion of the work.

When a car goes to paint it’s really only about three-quarters of the way done. That’s one thing a lot of people don’t understand when it comes to a build like this. – Keith Engling

Keith explains that before the car went to paint, things like the fire system and brake lines were mocked up and finished. He has discovered that doing this in advance is much easier without the engine or other parts in the way, so when the car comes back they just need to remount everything, and that saves time.

With all of the work done, parts can be hung back on the chassis.

One of the key components that need to be assembled and installed after the car is done being painted is the rearend. For Project BlownZ28, we opted to use one of Skinny Kid’s own fab-9 rearend housings and elected to fill it with a Billet Aluminum Case from Strange Engineering. This case is designed by Strange to deal with the very demanding needs of drag racing. It’s made from aerospace-grade 7070-T73 billet aluminum to make it both strong and lightweight.

Strange Engineering’s JC Cascio adds some details on the Billet Aluminum Case.

“It all begins with the Strange patented cross rib design and beefy (.650-inch) thick mounting flange. The design of the case allows the pinion to be moved farther back so that larger bearings may be used, and a patented lubrication system maintains a more-than-adequate flow of lubricant. The oversize pinion tail bearings are surrounded by massive portions of billet case so that they may withstand greater loads with less torque shudder under heavy acceleration.”

The strange center section is a work of art.

The case features a unique design that allows the pinion bearings to be arranged inside in a way that provides a very secure fit. Since the pinion shaft is more secure, it gives the ring gear and pinion teeth the best alignment possible. This will ensure the gears have a higher level of longevity and a minimum amount of friction.

Cascio explains the process of creating one of these gorgeous cases.

“After rough machining, the aerospace quality 7075-T73 aluminum is vibratory stress-relieved using sub-harmonic vibrational energy, stabilizing the heavily machined aluminum. The part then goes through a solution heat-treating and artificial aging process that promotes consistent mechanical properties throughout. All this has yielded one of the most consistently durable and lightweight compounds on planet earth.”

When a car has been reassembled it needs to be plumbed before it can be wired. Keith provides some insight into what goes into that process.

“We will put hose ends on to start the process of plumbing everything. This gives us a chance to see how everything needs to be laid out and what lengths the hose needs cut to. Every car is a little different, so we just start with the fuel rails on the intake, the fuel pump, and other key areas to see how things need to be arranged. There’s no specific order to what we plumb when it comes to the fuel and oil systems, it all happens at the same time. You have to look at all of it, analyze what’s going on, and make sure it looks nice. I like to take the time to lay it out so it looks good with plenty of attention to detail — this also makes it have a high level of functionality.”

Since BlownZ28 is an extreme build, high-quality hoses and fittings are required. We hit up Skyler Drake at Earl’s for all of the parts needed to get the fluids moving for BlownZ28. Drake’s recommendation was a full set of Earl’s crimp fittings, along with its Ultra-Flex hose.

“Typically with builds like this we see extreme temperatures, high pressures, and drivers/tuners pushing their engine combinations to the limit. Power adders are an awesome thing, but the heat generated from them can quickly melt plumbing. The Ultra-Flex hose is rated to temperatures well over 500-degrees, so this means we can worry less about an oil or fuel line getting torched. The other advantage is its use of the same carbon lining as Kevlar hoses, but utilizing a steel outer braiding that saves up to 40-percent in weight. On a maximum effort racecar like this, we want to save weight wherever possible,” Drake explains.

One of the parts getting plumbed into the fuel system is the Rage 1400 series fuel pump. These pumps are custom-made for each engine, produced on CNC machines, assembled, and then flowed to make sure they match the required specifications. Rage pumps can flow an impressive 28 gpm at just 4,000 rpm, so they work well in a variety of applications. Rage also has inlet size options of -16 through -20AN male or female, and outlet sizes of -8AN or -10AN. The pumps can be mounted in a variety of ways, including bolt on-quick release flange or clamp-on styles.

The most fun part of the fuel pump might be the custom name the team at Rage added to the front of it for us!

The Rage fuel pump is plumbed with brand new fittings and hose from Earl's

Mike Kopchick from Rage explains why a 1400 series pump is the best choice for BlownZ28.

“Because of the boost this engine makes and the fact it is an EFI system, a 24-gallon pump is required to meet the fuel consumption demands of engine, as well as having extra volume to keep the regulator supplied with enough fuel to feed the engine and keep the pressure consistent. To size a pump like this, we look at the given amount of boost, the compression of the engine, and the size of the camshaft. These items dictate how much fuel a given engine will burn, and we can then add a percentage to that for regulator function.”

Rage also makes additional pumps that flow up to 40 gpm, so quite literally they can supply a pump for any fueling needs you will have.

Fabricating a set of high flowing zoomie-style headers was a requirement for BlownZ06 and Skinny Kid Race Cars was ready for the task. Woolf Aircraft supplied all of the raw materials needed to create the custom headers for BlownZ06. The high-quality stainless steel provided by Woolf Aircraft was perfect for creating the perfect set of zoomie headers. This material is not only strong, it’s highly resistant to heat, so it will be able to deal with the extreme conditions a supercharged big-block engine will present.

Skinny Kid Race Cars uses and works with Woolf a great deal on projects like this.

Lots of planning went into the zoomies for BlownZ28.

“With this car, there was only a certain amount of room we had for these headers. If you look at the firewall, you’ll see we built it so the zoomies could be there…we planned both, way back in the first three weeks of the build. So the car was built around where these were going without even building the headers until the end. That’s a mistake that some people will make: they don’t plan on where a set of zoomies will go and that’s not something you need to do. The angle of the zoomies is a performance thing that needs to be thought about, too, so they create a good amount of downforce.”

Woolf not only made our 2.5-inch tubing and the material for the zoomies, but they have the capacity to fabricate pretty much any tube you would ever need. While the average tube diameter is between 1-4 inches, Woolf can actually make and produce any tubing up to 8 inches in diameter!

Woolf makes standard header kits as well as a “Zoomie Header Kit” made from 304 stainless that includes 8 primary tubes and a set of header flanges. The standard header kits come with U-bends, flanges, collectors, and 02 bungs. You can get anything in between though, which is the benefit of dealing with Woolf and their inventory capabilities.

Safety And Other Items

Thanks to its stout Pro Line-built powerplant, BlownZ06 should run in the low 4-second range at nearly 200 mph in LDR trim. To match the safe chassis that Skinny Kid Race Cars has built, safety gear from Simpson has been added to the Camaro.

The Simpson safety products fully installed and ready.

Inside the car is a camlock five-point harness that will be used to keep our driver strapped in on each pass. This 62-inch lap belt system bolts into the chassis and uses pull up lap belt adjusters to make sure everything is as tight as possible. The belts are 16.1 SFI approved and use a CNC-machined camlock and military spec 3-inch webbing.

Bringing the Camaro to a stop after each pass will be a pair of 10-foot crossform Air Boss parachutes from Simpson. The Air Boss parachute is designed to stop cars that run upwards of 200 mph and are activated via a pneumatic launcher. The pilot cute pulls the Nomex chute pack out so the kevlar lines can do their job.

If you look at the firewall, you’ll see we built it so the zoomies could be there…we planned both way back in the first three weeks of the build. – Keith Engling

Shifting the ATI Performance Products transmission on time and smoothly required a high-performance unit. To get the job done, an M&M Shifter was selected for its durability and functionality. The great thing about these shifters is they can deal with the severe vibrations and G-forces a high-horsepower racecar like BlownZ06 will produce.

Mark Micke from M&M Transmission talks about the design of this shifter.

“When we first started designing our shifter, we wanted to build the ultimate piece in both looks and functionality, that had the ability to operate in the most extreme applications. Since we build racing transmissions for the quickest and fastest door cars in drag racing, while racing our own cars, we have a unique knowledge of what needs to go into a shifter of this caliber.”

The ProCharger that’s used to produce the boost for BlownZ28 is a very powerful unit, so it should make the car a contender in LDR right out of the box. That boost comes in quickly and since there’s no boost controller available, there won’t be an opportunity to start on a low boost setting. This means the ECU will have a critical role in power management, so a FuelTech FT600 was selected to control the engine through fuel and timing.

“Using the orders defined by the tuner, the ECU will precisely allow fuel to move to the intake runners and start the combustion process thanks to the FTSPARK to make the power it needs. After that, the FT600 will look at what’s going on inside the headers, the O2 sensor, and make real-time adjustments to ensure the tune-up is spot on. All of that happens over 600 times per second on a run, so about 2400 times during a 4-second pass,” FuelTech‘s Luis De Leon says of how the FT600 and FTSPARK will help keep BlownZ28 under control.

We are getting closer to having Project BlownZ28 on the track and making some noise. In the next installment of the build series, we will finish the Camaro up and show off the final product. You can follow along with the entire Project BlownZ28 build series right here.

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About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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