photos by: Brian Wagner
Somebody once said that perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. In Ray Litz’s case, that’s totally true. When we first met Ray at the 2010 Holley LS Fest, he was the seemingly quiet guy parked in the corner of the pits with his silver 2002 Trans Am.
Initially being drawn in by the T/A and the Ohio plate attached to the back bumper, we struck up a conversation with Ray regarding his mods and what he was looking to do that day. As it turned out, the Pontiac was equipped with a Kurt Urban 427 LSX and a 91mm turbo – and was deep in the 8s at 167 mph at the time.
After going on winning plenty of races and competing in the x275 class over the course of two years succeeding that, unfortunately, the T/A fell victim to a premature death with Ray at the wheel. Fortunately, however, Ray made it out OK but the Trans Am had seen its last race.
“How much boost is it running? All of it.” -Ray Litz
A year later, he was back in the game with this car; a 1998 Chevy Camaro that has been progressing into one of the most competitive and successful x275 cars in the game. In fact, Ray ultimately won the x275 points championship at Milan Dragway for the 2014 season, making all of his efforts worth it.
It was quite a hill to climb to get there, and this is the part of the story where we have to peel away the Camaro’s body to see what exactly is hidden underneath. You see, much like his Trans Am that proceeded it, the Camaro is a finely-tuned, serious piece of machinery.
Starting with the body itself, it’s mostly standard-issue 1998 Camaro, save for the Glasstech fiberglass hood, sponsorship decals and the parachute out back. Oh, and the turbo poking through the front grille, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Remove the fiberglass hood and what you won’t find is a run-of-the-mill LS1. Instead, sits an ERL Performance 5.3L-based block stuffed with some of the best hardware currently available; including, a Callies Magnum crankshaft and connecting rods in addition to Ross forged pistons. ERL slid one of their cutom-grind, boost-friendly camshafts in place and completed the engine as a long block with All-Pro cylinder heads.
Stuffed inside the heads are a set of Jesel aluminum 1.7 rocker arms that help provide the right amount of lift with the help of the ERL cam. A CNC-ported All-Pro aluminum intake manifold with a Wilson 105mm throttle body feeds air into the boosted LS mill, while Mike Brown headers and a 5-inch diameter downpipe expel the spent fumes.
Oil lubrication is a significant part of the powertrain, and Ray has enlisted the help of a Jeff Johnston’s Billet Fabrication pan and a Peterson 5-stage dry sump pump to handle the task at hand. A simple set of stock LS truck coils are called upon to provide the spark, with the help of Fire Core 50 plug wires. A high-horsepower boosted engine required needs a very capable fuel system, and Ray tells us his Camaro relies on a set of Billet Atomizers 235-lb injectors, a Weldon 23435A pump and adjustable fuel pressure regulator dialed in at 43-psi.
Now we’re getting to the part you really want to know about; that aforementioned turbo from earlier that pokes through the front grille. As it turns out, Ray switches back and forth between a Garrett 76mm (GTX5008) and a 88mm (GTX5518R) snail, depending on what he’s trying to accomplish and what class he’s running on that particular outing. They keep their cool, thanks to a Garrett from-mount intercooler, utilizing 4-inch cold-side tubing and 2-3-inch merging hot side tubing.
Boost? We would be happy to tell you how much the rotating Garretts make – only that when we received the tech sheet back from Ray, he put down “all of it.” You have to understand that Ray, although a very competitive racer, likes to get a little comical sometimes. He also typed in, “LOL” onto the line next to “mufflers,” obviously trying to tell us that his Camaro isn’t equipped with such nonsense. All we can tell you is that the turbos are teamed with a TiAL wastegate and blow-off valve – and they apparently work.
With Ray himself handling tuning duties with BS3 software, the Camaro pumped out an astonishing… wait, he left a smart aleck comment there, too! Gotta love those drag racers… OK, so the combination is good for a best of 7.17 at 198 mph in the 1320.’ Ray’s best short time to date is a 1.132.
Naturally, it takes more than just a very competent engine, tuner, builder, crew and racer to create such an impressively running dragstrip missile; you still need a solid running gear and suspension setup to tie it all together.
Backing the boosted ERL engine is a RPM Transmissions TH400 gearbox, a Driveshaft Shop carbon fiber propshaft, and a Midwest Chassis 9-inch rearend with 3.70 gears, 40-spline axles and a spool. Ray squeezed a TCI flexplate and a PTC 9.5-inch 6,000-7,000 rpm stall speed (varies depending on turbo) torque converter between the block and the transmission. Ray shifts the Turbo 400 with a Precision shifter.
“I’d like to thank all of my sponsors… and of course, my wife and parents, for their help.” -Ray Litz
Ray threw the entire Midwest Chassis catalog at this Camaro, installing their sway bars, Panhard bar, upper and lower control arms, rear LCAs, torque arm and subframe connectors. Mark Mener socks/struts and springs are part of the recipe as well. There’s also a Midwest Chassis roll cage inside the cockpit for increased safety, body/frame rigidity and to obviously pass safety regulations while at NHRA and LSX Challenge Series events.
Ray did want to say one thing, “I’d like to thank all of my sponsors, ERL performance for a great engine, All-Pro Cylinder heads, RPM Transmissions for a bulletproof transmission, Midwest Chassis for the lightest, strongest and most well thought-out parts in the industry, Garret turbo for a durable high performance product, Shearer Fabrications for all of there work on the turbo kit and intercoolers – their products are a work of art – VP fuel for a consistant high performance fuel, and of course, my wife and parents, for their help.”
Since this car was shot towards the end of the last season, Ray had an unfortunate spill with the Camaro. It’s been under reconstructive surgery inside and out, top to bottom ever since. With race season about to kickoff, we’re looking forward to seeing Ray and his Camaro at LSX-based shootouts all over the Midwest once again for 2015. You can follow along with Ray’s race car build, by checking out their Facebook page.
- CAR: 1998 Camaro
- OWNER: Ray Litz
- ENGINE BLOCK: ERL; 5.3L block
- DISPLACEMENT: 409 CI.
- BORE/STROKE: 4.125 x 3.825
- CRANKSHAFT: Callies Magnum
- PISTONS: Ross; forged
- CONNECTING RODS: Callies Ultra/ERL propriety
- CAMSHAFT: ERL; custom-grind
- CYLINDER HEADS: All-Pro 12-4
- COMPRESSION RATIO: Top Secret
- INDUCTION: All-Pro; CNC-ported intake manifold, Wilson 105mm throttle body
- POWER ADDER: Garrett 88mm (GTX5518R), 76mm (GTX5008) turbochargers
- INTERCOOLER: Garrett front-mount; 4-inch cold-side tubing, 2-3-inch merging hot side tubing
- WASTEGATE/BOV: TiAL
- BOOST: “all of it”
- IGNITION: Stock truck coil packs, Fire Core 50 plug wires
- EXHAUST: Mike Brown headers, 5-inch downpipe,
- FUEL DELIVERY: Billet Atomizers 235-lb injectors, Weldon 23435A pump and regulator
- OILING: Jeff Johnstons Billet Fabrication pan, Petersons 5-stage dry sump pump
- TUNING: Big Stuff 3 (BS3); tuned by Ray Litz
- TRANSMISSION: RPM Transmissions; TH400, TCI flexplate
- CONVERTER: PTC; 9.5-inch (stall speed varies between 6,000-7,000 rpm, depending on turbo)
- DRIVESHAFT: Driveshaft Shop; carbon fiber
- REAREND: Midwest Chassis; 3.70 gears, spool, 40-spline axles
- SUSPENSION: Mark Menser springs, shocks/struts (front/rear), Midwest Chassis sway bars, Panhard bar, torque arm, upper and lower control arms
- CHASSIS MODS: Midwest Chassis subframe connectors, roll cage
- BRAKES: Strange
- WHEELS: WELD Racing 15-inch
- TIRES: Mickey Thompson skinnies (front), 275/60/15 Pro Drag Radials (rear)
- HP/TQ.: “Not enough/Ditto”
- BEST 1/4-MILE ET: 7.17/198
- BEST 60-FT.: 1.132
Being infatuated with cars since he was a toddler, AutoCentric Media Founder and Editor, Rick Seitz, has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.