Story and Photos by Scott Doerhing • Albany, NY
My love for driving started a long time ago. I was about ten years old when, one day, my father let me take over the wheel of his car. I couldn’t reach the pedals so Dad had to work them for me. When I first took the wheel I almost drove the car into an apple orchard, but eventually I got a feel for the car. It was a time I’ll never forget and hence my love for driving began.
From that point on I dreamed of owning my own car. There were many I liked, but I decided on a Chevrolet Camaro. It has always been my favorite car in terms of appearance. I believe my mother influenced me in this decision. She owned a Camaro back in the ’70s. But of course, when I asked her to buy me a seven thousand dollar Camaro at the young age of 12, her answer was no. Since my mom couldn’t afford to buy a Camaro for me, I had to put my dream on hold until I could afford to buy it myself.
At around age 21, I was working at my first job as a computer programmer in Albany, New York. It took three more months of searching to find what would become my Camaro; a used car I bought at Albany Dodge. It was arctic white, had all of the options that I wanted and only thirty thousand miles, which at the time was not bad at all for a 1998 3800 series 2 3.8L V6. I decided on a V6 to save me some money on insurance. The sticker price was very high at eighteen thousand, but I was able to bargain it down to fifteen thousand. So with my dream car and a voucher for a free full tank of gas I was very excited as I drove off of the lot. I remember my mother wasn’t exactly comfortable with me spending that much money on a car, but there was no hiding her smile when I pulled up the driveway. I’m sure the memories of her once brand new Camaro came flooding back. When I got out of the car her first words were, “It’s beautiful.”
I added a new paint job, a functional SS ram air hood and spoiler, a 3-inch Borla exhaust system, 18-inch chrome Corvette C5 wheels and a custom sound system that replaced the rear seats. It felt great to start placing and bringing home those trophies.
Although entering shows was fun, I really started looking for more of a rush. Now I wanted to see what this thing could really do. Luckily, I did not have to go very far. Lebanon Valley Speedway was only about a 20 minute drive from where I lived. I started spending my Saturdays at the track practicing my launch, lowering my 60-foot time and just getting a better feel for the car in general. It was fun to speed legally, but I have to say that after a while I became dissatisfied with the car’s sloth-like 1/4 mile ET’s. At this point, it was running somewhere around 16 seconds flat. Personally, that was just not giving me the sort of the rush that I was seeking. So, I decided it was time to work on my performance modification list. I had a few shops in the area who could do performance work on the car. Van Allen Automotive in Kinderhook, New York, had always done service and repairs on my car so I chose them to go to work on the suspension. I actually kept the factory shocks, but replaced the sway bars, lower control arms, panhard rod and torque arm with stronger aftermarket parts. The largest decision I ever made for the car came next; adding power. There were several options to choose from and my choice was nitrous oxide. Z1 Racing in Ghent, New York, handled the installation of a NOS dry nitrous oxide system, bottle heater and purge kit. I had already done a bit of research on nitrous and was very excited to test it out at the track.
My first runs with nitrous put the car into the low 14’s. Now I was getting somewhere! I started winning races against cars left and right, even against some V8s. Although, I was a bit let down when some people told me that I’d never see mid-13’s in the car and run with the new LS1 Z/28’s. However, instead of listening to them I began to start increasing the shot size. By the end of that season I had run a best 1/4 ET of 13.60 @ 103 mph on street tires and the stock 3.08 rear end. It felt great to be breaking into a mph in the triple digits and running with the LS1’s in a V6 and accomplishing something that people said I would never do.
Running 13.6 at 103 mph led to talk of my car becoming a 12 second V6. I didn’t know if I could really do it. This was my daily driver and the only car that I owned. I took the car to Frederick’s Performance in Ghent, New York. They installed a polyurethane transmission mount, upgraded fuel pump, a 3.42 geared limited slip differential and 30# fuel injectors. I also invested in some BF Goodrich drag radials and HP Tuners tuning software so that I could monitor my engine and PCM. I was still somewhat limited by the car being my daily driver and the fact that I also did not want to run it on the track any different than I ran it on the street. Bragging rights I guess. The car was now running 13.1 with me injecting the nitrous right off the line. I was coming close to maxing out those 30# fuel injectors. Any more nitrous off the line and I was going to break the tires loose, which were already down to 19 psi and had a limited side wall due to the wheel size. So, I had to improvise. I took a nitrous line and hooked it to my purge solenoid and then routed it to a second nitrous nozzle in my air box. I now had a second stage at the push of a button. I won’t say how much nitrous I was using at this point, but I can tell you it was a lot. It was also just enough to push my car into running high 12’s. I had finally done it! The car ran a best of 12.82 seconds @ 103 mph. Twelve second V6 Camaros aren’t unheard of, but I like to think mine is a little different. It is my daily driver, has the stock four-speed auto transmission, drag radials mounted onto heavy 18-inch chrome wheels and is the stock full car weight. I didn’t even remove the spare tire from the car. People ask me now what the best modification is that I did to my car. I always have to say the driver. It takes years of practice and dedication. After that, you can outrun anyone with more power than you if they don’t know how to use it.
Story and Photos by Scott Doerhing • Albany, NY