It’s unfortunate but true that LT1 fourth-gen Camaros are considered the red-headed step children of the Camaro legacy. But this notion leaves plenty of room for surprises-whether it’s from a built LT1 that can kick the competition’s butt, or an LS conversion with a relatively stock looking exterior like Brandon Gruninger’s 1993 Camaro we came across at the Super Chevy Show in Colorado earlier this summer. With the hood closed, you’d never know this fourth-gen with recessed headlights is wielding a beast under the hood, and the LT1 emblems gracing the exterior pillars certainly wouldn’t lead you to believe this beast was of the LS3 variety. But that’s why we particularly like Gruninger’s Camaro – it’s subtle yet ready to rock and roll with some interesting touches that make the car one of a kind.
Early LT1 to Today’s LS3
Gruninger has been into cars his whole life. “Ever since I can remember I have always been fascinated with anything that goes,” he told us in an email conversation. “Then at around 15 I started wanting to understand how and why everything works. [My] first car was a 1992 RS Camaro, then in 1998 I bought this ’93 Camaro and have kept it since. I was in high school at the time.”
“Fourth-gen Camaros have gotten real affordable lately and [are] a good start for a budget racer looking to get involved in the car scene,” Gruninger added. “And everyone that owns one loves it, even if its falling apart. The aggressive smooth styling of the first half of the fourth-gens is my favorite.”
Having a love for the early fourth-gen F-body and a eagerness for knowledge, Gruninger first opted to keep the standard LT1 in the car, equipping it with a few bolt-ons. But as we all know, the power your car has eventually becomes normal to you, making you want even more. At that point, Gruninger decided to equip his car with a 2010 LS3 Corvette engine, while looking at his built 1998 LS Camaro for a template.
The Camaro’s LS3 is set up with an Aeromotive fuel system, custom intake and tuned using HP tuners software. It also boasts QTP long tube headers that dump into a 3-inch Magnaflow exhaust. “[My] favorite part of the build was dropping the car down on the ls3 and watching it fit perfectly,” Gruninger said.
The engine is strapped to a Supermatic controlled Chevrolet Performance 4L65E automatic transmission that mattes to a 3-inch aluminum driveshaft, shooting power to the rear wheels by way of a Strange Engineering 12-bolt rearend with 3.42 gears. This powerful combination gives Gruninger’s car about 400 rwhp and 385ft-lbs of torque, equaling a 12.2-second quarter mile time at local Bandimere Speedway at 5,800 feet above sea level.
Of course with a powerful setup like this, you have to have a good suspension system to back it up. That’s why Gruninger equipped his car with a complete tubular system, including a tubular k-frame engine cradle, upper and lower control arms from Spohn Performance, as well as adjustable torque arms, a tubular pan hard rod, trailing arms and 3-point tubular subframe connectors from BMR. This setup is complimented with urethane bushings.
For stopping power, the Camaro makes use of C5 Corvette disc brakes with slotted and cross-drilled rotors. These are hidden behind a custom-made set of 17-inch Centerlines wrapped in sticky BF Goodrich g-Force Sport Comp-2 tires.
The build didn’t take Gruninger very long, especially considering the immensity of the task. “It took me about a year and a half,“ he told us. “There were a lot of points during the build that tested my knowledge and I had to think some things through for months at a time.” But with the help of his friend and skilled specialty technician Zach Smith, the car came together quite nicely and was well-worth the work, even dealing with the miles and miles of wiring for the three harnesses the car has, which Gruninger fondly remembers working on.
Among the things Gruninger and Smith came across when doing the build was a wealth of insight on what is the 1993 Camaro. “The most interesting things that happened were the constant discovery of little things about a 1993 Camaro that makes it so much different than all the other years,” Gruninger said. “It’s like a hodge podge of left over IROC mashed together with the next generation LT1 cars. Really strange how some things would work perfect and other things had to be completely fabricated.”
Adding to the uniqueness of Gruninger’s Camaro are the modifications to the exterior and interior of the car. On the back, the Camaro sports a Xenon ground effects one-piece spoiler that Gruninger told us was from the car’s earlier years acting as a test car for Kenny Brown Performance. The fiberglass rear hatch was added by Gruninger for a different look and features a pop-out back window. Other exterior mods include custom laser cut badges and front grill.Inside the Camaro, you’ll find a fully leather interior with powder coated roll cage and custom dash with Dakota Digital gauges. “I would have sent the dash out first, opposed to trying to keep the original cluster,” Gruninger told us when asked what he would’ve done differently looking back. “It was a pain trying to get the gauges working, but the digital solved it.”
Enjoying the Ride
With all the work done, Gruninger’s car is a sight to see and certainly a source of pride for him. With future plans of removing the ABS controller and putting a nitrous shot on it, there’s not much more to do than enjoy it. “I am going to drive into the ground, cruise and enjoy it,” Gruninger told us. “Street/strip car for sure.”