For all the evil and mayhem he created, Dr. Strangelove’s General Jack D. Ripper had the right idea when it came to keeping vital fluids intact. In much the same way, vehicles have vital fluids that have to be kept intact as well, or else catastrophic failure looms on the horizon. Project True SStreet is our Fifth-Gen Camaro aimed at blasting down the 1/4-mile in the NMCA’s True Street class. We’ve already made significant progress with the build, thanks to help from Rhodes Race Cars.
The full menagerie of Rhodes Race Cars parts going in True SStreet include a roll cage (not pictured), driveshaft hoop, fuel cell, and intercooler tank.
In previous articles, we covered the process behind installing a rollcage and parachute mount on the vehicle. As far as safety goes, these are definitely a couple of essential modifications if one expects to not only pass tech inspection, but also make a pass without injury or death. Welding created the attachment points for the cage, but it also paved the way for the installation of two more crucial components needed in the car: the fuel cell and an intercooler tank.
Providing the car with the aforementioned vital fluids – in this case, gasoline and water for the intercooler – the fuel cell and intercooler tank are a duo of all-metal add-ons, that will give us the durability we’re looking for. Follow along as we talk with RRC founder Josh Rhodes, and walk through the installation (hint: it went swimmingly).
Think Inside The Box
Rhodes and his business have made a great impact in the realm of racing since first opening in 2007. With its 11,000-square-foot facility located in the south side of Chicago, and staffed with less than a dozen employees, Rhodes Race Cars is striving to deliver great customer satisfaction by offering top-shelf products and helpful answers to questions.
Just as the company evolved to where it is today, so it is with Rhodes’ passion. As he said, “It was a hobby that turned into a full-time job.”
It may be small, but this five-gallon intercooler tank would be a vital component of Project True SStreet when all was said and done.
“I think you’re born with the passion for automotive enthusiasm,” he continued. “My main passion is drag racing. I started at 14 or 15 years old. I have been able to own and drive Camaros and Mustangs over the years, and I grew to love the sport, so I wanted to make it possible for other people to do the same with quality parts and products.”
Having already sampled the RRC quality associated with the cage and parachute mount we installed on True SStreet, we were eager to see how the RRC-provided intercooler tank and fuel cell would be of benefit as well. Rhodes was quick to touch on the reasoning behind both products as we inquired for more information.
Small electric terminals on the intercooler tank are placed high for easier access and route directly to the Rule 2000 pump that’s inside.
“With intercooling, there are two routes one can take: air-to-air or air-to-water,” he said. “Air-to-air intercoolers take cool air from the ambient atmosphere, and use that to cool the air that’s flowing through the charge pipes. They don’t require power or liquids to function, so they’re pretty easy to set up. They will not leak fluids everywhere in case of damage.”
“On the flip side, they are dependent on the ambient air temperature being cooler than the ingested air, and have to be placed in an area that sees a lot of airflow. That can limit the options of where an installer can put one.”
Air-To-Water Intercooler Setup
Using a water-to-air intercooler lets installers place the cooling tank remotely, provided they can route the plumbing where it needs to go. Using water-to-air intercooling does add complexity, as there is plumbing required for coolant flow, and power is required to run the coolant pump.
Air-to-water intercoolers do have strengths and weaknesses in other areas of comparison. “By exchanging heat through water instead of air, an air-to-water intercooler has a higher efficiency rate than an air-to-air intercooler,” said Rhodes. “When used with ice, this efficiency can be heightened even more, which is how most people use this type of intercooler. They can also be mounted anywhere along the charge-pipe route. In terms of cons, they do require a great deal of accessories to function properly, like the water pump and heat exchanger. They can also become heat-soaked when used for long periods of time without being refilled with cold water or ice. When this happens, it makes them practically useless.”
Since we decided to use the air-to-water option (the actual intercooler will come later), RRC’s intercooler tank (PN 21-0106) fit the bill nicely. Made from .100-inch thick 5051 aircraft aluminum, the unit measures 12 by 12 by 9 inches, and has a capacity of five gallons. When the time comes to drain the tank, a fitting can be installed with a gate valve to operate by hand.
The internal Rule 2000 pump, was chosen for its status as a popular and dependable unit. “It’s super-reliable, and Rule has been around forever,” commented Rhodes. “The company offers the industry standard in this regard.” RRC also offers the intercooler tank with an even higher-capacity Rule 3700 pump installed (PN 21-0108), which is recommended for applications making upwards of 1,500 horsepower. They can also build a combination intercooler tank/fuel cell (PN 21-0110) as an additional option for builders.
A Rule 2,000 pump is used to cycle cold water through the intercooler.
The 15-gallon fuel cell was ordered with RCC’s mounting strap kit, consisting of four aluminum pieces that conform to the shape of the fuel cell.
Then there is the Pro Series fuel cell (PN 18-0115-PS) that we chose. Made of the same material as the intercooler tank, the fuel cell is a purpose-built unit meant for high-horsepower vehicles requiring ample flow and capacity. We picked up the optional mounting kit (PN 18-0115-MK) to have complementary fitment already designed around the fuel cell, meaning we wouldn’t have to make our own.
“Our fuel cells are made with our top-tier process, involving CNC-machining and forging, as well as TIG welds to put them together,” said Rhodes. “Everything we make is made in-house, even our fittings. The fittings are offered in -12AN or -10AN sizes, where others use -8AN as the standard. This leads to people hacking off the fittings and welding up the right size they want to use, which is risky. By doing it ourselves, our customers have access to a well-made product right out of the box.” As a bonus, a built-in sumped area at the bottom of the fuel cell pushes fuel into the sump, thus preventing fuel starvation to the engine during high-G moments.
Though you can’t see it, there is a sump area at the bottom of the fuel cell, thus preventing fuel starvation.
Put It All Together
Like many other race-prepped vehicles, Project True SStreet’s trunk area was deemed a suitable place to mount our RRC fuel and intercooler tanks. But, since GM doesn’t just make it a fit-it-and-forget-it process to installing these kinds of aftermarket parts, we had to weld up our own structural mounting points for the tanks.
Using 1-inch DOM tubing, we measured the spare tire well, and tack-welded plates to where the steel supports would be fused to make the structure. This would distribute the load across the factory sheet metal once the tanks were installed. We would have a total of six mounting points between the structure and car’s sheet metal. Afterwards, two plates were tack-welded to the structure, followed by final welding after a test fitment. A coat of white paint was applied prior to final installation.
Some of the places where the DOM-tubing structure support the tanks, and how they mount to the car's sheet metal can be seen here.
An overall view of the structure supporting the intercooler tank and fuel cell.
Now here is where things get interesting. The way we decided to have the tanks mounted made it difficult to install the intercooler tank as it was shipped, with four mounting tabs on opposite sides of each other. Using a hand grinder, we ground the RRC-made welds, and removed two of the tabs. The tabs were relocated to where they would still be useful without affecting the tank’s ports, while also not interfering with installation of the fuel cell.
The fuel cell and intercooler tank sit snugly inside the Camaro’s trunk area.
Once we removed the tabs on the intercooler tank, we did a test fitment so we could locate where the tabs had to be affixed. Once proper positioning was determined, The tabs were TIG-welded to the tank, and new mounting points on our DOM tubing were attached. Two bolts on opposing side of the intercooler tank went in to hold it together with the structure.
The fuel cell, meanwhile, did not require as much modification to install. Everything cleared without cutting off the tank’s mounting tabs, and the mounting kit that was supplied by RCC added extra security and support to the tank that will prevent it from moving forward or backward.
Every Little Bit Helps
No amount of progress, however small, is a waste of time. Such is the way we perceive Project True SStreet, which we’re building in small steps on our way to crafting a a street/strip car made for 30-mile street drives and then runs in the True Street class. With our Rhodes Race Cars products installed, we have taken care of the concerns of how the car will keep the incoming power-building air and fuel cooled.
Speed will come in time, and patience is a virtue, after all. Until next time, we’ll be plotting and planning how to route the plumbing, wire the lights, find an interior, pick a battery and wiring harness … the list goes on and on.
Bought at auction and stripped of much of its vital components, Project True SStreet was a bare-bones coupe that we knew would make a great foundation for our project.
If you have been dreaming about your own ride and how to fix it up with parts like we installed here, we highly recommend you peruse the Rhodes Race Cars website for the full view on axle shafts, rollcages, fittings, and more. Until next time, stay safe and good luck at the next race car budget meeting with your spouse.