By Steve Turner
Photography courtesy of Daren Poole-Adams
Modern muscle cars are built to do it all and do it all well. While they deliver outstanding performance, driveability, and handling, they aren’t always geared toward straight-line performance. The power is there, but maximizing it is up to the end-user. That’s why it was so exciting when Chevrolet Performance used its Camaro SS Drag Race Development Program to engineer an upgrade package designed to help the 2016+ Camaro “conquer the quarter mile.”
“From sportsman classes to the pro ranks, Camaro has been one of the most popular cars ever to launch down the drag strip,” Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, said when the program was announced.
“More than simply achieving quick ETs in the Camaro, we are exploring the supporting components that help the car to go quicker with great durability,” Mark Dickens, director, Performance Variants, Parts and Motorsports Engineering, added. “We’ve tested stronger axles and chassis components aimed at improving launch and traction attributes.”
While all Bow Tie enthusiasts could rightfully get excited about this news, one man in particular was overcome with joy. A Stock Eliminator racer since 1995, Daren Poole-Adams is a dyed-in-the-wool Chevy enthusiast. He’s raced Firebirds, Camaros, and these days owns several COPO Camaros, which are prepped for the drag strip right from the factory. He has set records in IHRA and won classes with the NHRA, but when he heard about this package, he instantly started planning to put it to the test on the track.
“When I first saw the teaser video of these two cars in 2016, I was taken totally by surprise. For years the Chevrolet Performance Parts catalog has left me envious of all the hardcore pieces that are available to the road-race guys. I am thrilled that they now offer parts aimed at the weekend drag racer,” Poole-Adams explained. “For almost two years I have been working with my friends at Chevrolet Performance to come up with a cool way to showcase this awesome program. This build is my spin on the concept!”
His spin was to purchase two identical 2018 Camaros with the 1SS package, eight-speed automatic transmissions, and magnetic ride control. With those in hand he began in earnest building up both cars with the full complement of parts developed by Chevrolet Performance along with a few select aftermarket upgrades. All the while he has a mission in mind.
“I was born in 1967, so everything that I know about the factory muscle car wars of the ’60s is what I have read. One thing that always stood out is the factory clinics that traveled the USA in the late ’60s,” Poole-Adams explained. “When this new program was announced, I immediately recognized it as an opportunity to introduce a new generation to that kind of experience. That is what I proposed to Chevrolet and that is what I will be bringing to NMCA events this year with the help of Chevrolet Performance and Scoggin Dickey Parts Center.”
The parts developed in the Camaro SS Drag Race Development Program include a calibration, cold-air intake, exhaust, torque converter, smaller brakes, Weld Racing wheels, rugged halfshafts, and more rigid mounts for the IRS cradle.
“This is an exciting program,” Poole-Adams said. “Chevrolet has put together a well-rounded package that enables any Camaro owner to prepare their car for consistent drag strip operation.”
That is the trick after all, as the latest Camaro carves the corners quite well right off the dealer lot. However, hooking up its potent output can be more of a challenge.
“The LT1 makes stupid power,” Poole-Adams enthused. “The downside when going drag racing is that the chassis is geared toward road handling.”
Before he started with the mods, Poole-Adams weighed the base cars and then put them on an intense weight loss program. I removed many bits and pieces that aren’t necessary on the drag strip.
“I was surprised at how light some of the parts are,” Poole-Adams detailed. “The air bags are much lighter than expected. If it wasn’t for the cage, I wouldn’t even dream of removing them to save weight, but more weight reductions are coming.”
While the reduced weight will make the car quicker, it also paved the way for adding the necessary safety equipment, including a roll cage that fit within the confines of an interior that still retains many of the factory pieces.
“As we are using these as purpose-built test cars, safety is our number-one priority,” Poole-Adams said. “Secondly, I feel that you can’t make a stock-bodied car too stiff. I think installing cages was a good call. One of my COPOs was involved in a 140-mph accident last year. The driver walked away with little more than his pride hurt.”
To ensure he could add safety that would fit these machines perfectly, Poole-Adams turned to a company with a specific level of expertise when it comes to drag racing the latest Camaros.
“COPO Parts Direct supplied a good bit of the roll cage tubing, the racing seats, and rear-seat delete parts,” Poole-Adams said. “They have been a long-term supplier that always delivers high-quality parts.”
With the safety gear in hand Poole-Adams and friends welded in the cage, bolted in the seats using adjustable brackets, and mounted the harnessbelts using factory anchors and the roll cage cross bar.
“We started with parts from COPO Parts Direct and MPR. My buddy (and employee) Jesse Brooks helped me and did all of the TIG work. We were able to fit it without a lot of issues. As I am running the stock suspension and not the four-link, we had to make a few custom pieces,” Poole-Adams said. “The hardest part was working with the factory wiring, exhaust, drivetrain, gas tank, etc. My past projects have always been full-on race cars. Taking everything apart and putting it all back was special to say the least!”
With the safety gear in place, Poole-Adams began in earnest with the Chevrolet Performance upgrades — including engine, drivetrain, chassis and suspension bits. We are focusing on the suspension and chassis parts here, but we will follow up with the go-fast gear in a future issue.
“We will be testing and doing exhibition runs with all of the currently available parts plus a few aftermarket parts as needed,” Poole-Adams said.
When the cars are fully upgraded, you will see them running at select NMCA Muscle Car Nationals series events this season.
“We will be working to promote this package and safe drag racing in partnership with Scoggin Dickey Parts Center and Chevrolet Performance,” Poole-Adams explained. “They will be run on a best two out of three heads-up exhibition format. We will have a guest driver in one car and good friend AJ Currie will drive the other.”
It will be definitely be fun to see how quickly these cars run, as they duke it out during those exhibition runs. Stay tuned for more on how they prepped for the battle…
Drag Strip Diet
Door Speakers 4.8 pounds
Rear Quarter Speakers 6.4 pounds
Driver Lower Air Bag 1.8 pounds
Passenger Lower Air Bag 2 pounds
Seats 104 pounds
Rear Seat Upper 18 pounds
Rear Seat Lower 11 pounds
Seat Belts 11.2 pounds
Driver Air Bag 1.6 pounds
Trunk Trim Panels 11.4 pounds
Rear Quarter Sound Proofing 3.2 pounds
Tow Hook And Holder 3.4 pounds
Front Floor Mats 2 pounds
Track Deflector Kit 1.2 pounds
Side Air Bags 5.8 pounds
Dash Speakers 0.8 pounds
Passenger Air Bag 4.2 pounds
Coil Covers 1.8 pounds
Engine Cover 2.4 pounds
Camaro Engine Trim 1.2 pounds
Hood Liner 1.6 pounds
Heater Ducts 3.6 pounds
Wiper Assembly 8.2 pounds
Rear Seat Brackets 1.2 pounds
Under Floor Covers 1.4 pounds
Door Sound Deadener 2.2 pounds
Heater Box 16.6 pounds
A/C Compressor 13.6 pounds
Misc. Sound Deadener And Padding 22.8 pounds
Windshield Washer Assembly 2.2 pounds
Plastic Covers Under The Engine Cradle 5.6 pounds
Total Reduction: 276.48 pounds
Stock Weight Before Reduction/Roll Cage 3,680 pounds
Final Weight After Roll Cage: 3,600 pounds
The Mod List
Part Part Number
6.2-liter Cold Air Intake System w/ Race Filter 84329125
American Racing Headers 1-7/8-inch Long-Tubes CAV8-16178300LSNC†
BMR Suspension Driveshaft Safety Loop DSL019
Chevrolet Performance Exhaust Kit 84028865
High-Stall Torque Converter System 24290897†
ProCar by Scat Pro-Sport Seats 80-1790-XX
Rear Small Brake System 84396515†
Weld Racing Rear Drag Wheel 88B-610SB-GM†
Weld Racing Drag Frontrunner Wheel 88B-1806N-GM†
ZL1 1LE-Spec Solid Rear Cradle Mounts 84341929†
ZL1-Spec Heavy-Duty Halfshaft System 84398126†
ZL1-Spec Heavy-Duty Propshaft System 84398125†
COPO Parts Direct
MPR Race Cars