Trying to kick-start a racecar project from scratch isn’t always easy when you aren’t able to find a suitable car to start with. Auto body shop owner Keith Sletvold wished to build a small-tire car and in the end, he turned a 2002 Craigslist Camaro special into a gorgeous twin-turbo racecar.
Keith’s mechanical adventures first began on motorcycles, something he picked up from his father who was also in the automotive industry as a profession. Even though Keith never reached the same level of success on two wheels as his father, he deeply enjoyed the rush of adrenaline that motorcycles provided, and that set the tone for anything he would do going forward.
“You could say that I’m an adrenaline junkie with my hobbies. I really enjoy going fast and the sensation that traveling at high speeds provides. Starting out on bikes was fun, but making the move to four wheels was what I really wanted to do. To this day, I just have to make everything I own faster … it doesn’t matter what it is. I have to see just how far it can be pushed,” Keith explains.
Mashing the gas and going fast and tinkering with engines kept Keith’s attention for many years. Building his first twelve-second quarter mile car was a milestone for him. Taking his car to the track to push his own abilities as a mechanic was fun, but a friendly rivalry lit a competitive fire in Keith that has only grown larger as his cars got faster.
“Growing up, one of my friends had a car that was way faster than mine, and I decided I needed to change that. I put a nitrous system on my car to beat him, and I really haven’t ever stopped trying to make my car faster than someone else’s. To me, that’s what’s the most fun, just being faster than the person in the other lane,” Keith says.
After getting his start during test and tune events, Keith moved straight into the world of small-tire racing. He has mostly run Outlaw Limited Street and some Drag Radial events with his various cars that included a 1968 Camaro, 1970 Nova, and a 1989 Mustang.
“I got into this type of racing because I wanted to go as fast as possible. I get bored pretty easy, so index and bracket racing just doesn’t do it for me. If I go racing, and my car just keeps going the same speed for a whole race, I have to go home and make the car faster for the next race. It’s just a quest to go faster and find ways to get the most out of whatever it is I’m driving,” Keith says.
Keith’s 2002 Camaro project actually began with the purchase of his 1970 Nova. When he purchased the Nova, it already had a driveline in it that he converted to alcohol before purchasing a 540 cubic-inch engine to bolt between the framerails. That meant that the 434 cubic-inch small-block Chevy that guzzled alcohol needed a new home — and Keith had an idea to make that happen.
I got into this type of racing because I wanted to go as fast as possible.
“I’ve always loved how the fourth generation F-bodies looked, and I had been talking with Jeff Lutz about building a new car, so because I had an extra engine and transmission to play with, I decided to start a new build. This car was actually listed on Craigslist for like $300 and was only a few miles from my house. I needed a shell with a title, and this car fit the bill, so I picked it up and got things started,” Keith explains.
To say the car was rough around the edges would be an understatement, as Keith describes the car as a “total piece of crap” when he purchased it. There was no engine or transmission, and the interior was beyond trashed, but none of those things mattered to Keith. Since he was in the auto body business, he needed something with just enough structure to be used as the base for his new car.
“I knew this car was going to get totally cut up, so I wasn’t really hung up on the initial appearance. This was going to be a lightweight build and be on a set of small tires, so if it wasn’t needed, according to the rules, it was going to get cut out. This build is all about seeing how fast I can get the car to go on a small tire at any track,” Keith says.
With all of that in mind and after the car was totally stripped down, Keith sent the Camaro to Jeff Lutz to begin the chassis fabrication process. Lutz, who is a good friend of Keith’s, began to work his magic to build a suitable backbone for the Camaro. After just eight months, the car was done at Lutz’s shop and ready for Keith to begin finalizing the project.
After Keith got the Camaro back, he began the process of fitting his 434 cubic-inch small-block Chevy into the car. The engine is based on a Brodix aluminum block that features a rotating assembly with a Lunati crankshaft, GRP connecting rods, and CP-Carrillo pistons. A set of Brodix BD2000 aluminum heads, custom sheet metal intake, and Wilson Manifolds 135mm throttle body bring all the oxygen into the mill.
Providing fuel and spark to a stout engine like this requires a substantial fuel system, so Keith added the best parts he could to accomplish this task. A dual fuel injector system that uses a bank of Precision Turbo & Engine 550-pound and Billet Atomizer 230-pound injectors work with the Kinsler mechanical fuel pump and Weldon fuel regulator to feed the beast. Ignition comes from an MSD box, coil, and magneto. A BigStuff3 box controls all the engine functions and is tuned by the duo of Jeff Lutz and Mark Vinson.
The stars of the show in the engine bay of this Camaro are the twin 88mm Precision Turbo & Engine Pro Mod turbos. These turbos work in conjunction with a ProCharger blowoff valve and Precision Turbo & Engine wastegates. The turbo system fabricated by Lutz uses two-inch hot side piping, four to five-inch cold side piping, and a four-inch downpipe. This helps the small-block Chevy create 45 pounds of boost and an estimated 2,500 horsepower.
To round out the driveline, Keith elected to use a Rossler Transmissions-built Turbo 400 unit that works with a ProTorque torque converter. A custom pit cooler helps to bring the transmission temperatures down between runs while an EZ Stage and external dump assist Keith in getting the car staged for each pass.
Since Keith planned on running this Camaro in various small-tire events, he paid close attention to how the suspension was set up in the parts department. A custom fabricated rearend uses a set of 4.57 gears and Mark Williams Enterprises axles and spool to transfer power to the Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels rubber in the rear. A set of Penske Racing Shocks and springs are on dampening duty and work with a custom four-link built by Jeff Lutz.
I really enjoy going fast and the sensation that traveling at high speeds provides.
Up front, Keith added a set of Racecraft front control arms and spindles along with a set of Penske shocks. Lamb Components brakes in the front and Strange Engineering brakes in the rear assist in bringing the Camaro to a stop after each pass.
Being a body man by trade, Keith wanted to make sure his Camaro looked just as good as it ran. To save weight, he added a VFN fiberglass front end and hood while the factory roof, quarter panels, and doors remained. Keith then laid down a stunning House of Kolor Sunset Pearl metallic paint job on the F-body. The bodywork and paint is one of Keith’s favorite things about the car since it brings so many compliments.
Inside the chrome-moly chassis, Keith resides inside a custom carbon fiber seat on his eighth-mile trips in the Camaro as he monitors all of the car’s vitals from a Racepak dash.
When Keith began this project, the goal was to build a car that would surpass what his Nova was capable of and do it on either a radial or slick, depending on the class he was running. “When this engine was in my Nova, it was running 4.30s at 3,100 pounds. This car with everything in it weighs 2,600 pounds and was built to be a lightweight car from the start.”
Due to a busy schedule, Keith is still working on getting the Camaro fully sorted out in Outlaw Limited Street and Outlaw Drag Radial trim.
“The car drives really well. It tracks so well, I barely have to touch the wheel to keep it straight. We’re going to work on trying perfect this setup and just start really stepping this car up to see what it can do. The goal for this car is to run in the low four-teen range, and it needs a lot to get there. It just comes down to getting more laps in and testing the car as much as possible.”
Keith Sletvold took a car that was destined for the scrapyard and transformed it into a small-tire racecar that could win at thetrack or at a car show on the same weekend. Having a knack for creating speedy works of automotive art provided Keith with the skills to make this happen, and now he’s ready to turn his new creation loose.