When we first came across Dennis Doney and his wife Diane back in the spring of 2011, their dark blue fifth-generation Camaro RS/SS was brand spanking new and a sight for sore eyes. Since returning from forced hiatus the previous model year, Chevy’s much-missed pony car had galloped back to its rightful place at the helm, swiftly recapturing the hearts and minds of car people the world over.
Upon closer examination, Dennis’s Camaro revealed its even higher position on the special ladder, having been massaged by the high-performance hands at Hennessey Performance Engineering (HPE) out of Sealy Texas. At first glance under the hood, it was something to behold, as the chrome blower case left little illusion to the up-gunned powerplant.
BOW TIE BACKSTORY
Doney, a retired businessman has been a Chevy man since the word go. From his first car back in 1965, which just happened to be a ’57 Bel Air, Dennis proudly states, “I’ve had, I don’t know how many Chevrolet’s”. That initial tri-five ride was later followed by a trio of Camaros spanning three generations, including a ’69 396-cid/4-speed SS and a pair of automatic Z28s, from 1979 and 1984 vintage. Dennis’s Chevrolet resume also includes time spent as a service writer at multiple Long Island, New York Chevy dealerships throughout the ‘60s and being a self-branded hot-rodder, tinkerer and fast car builder extraordinaire. After marrying car-girl wife Diane in 1982, the Chevy’s came and went and the birth of their daughter took precedence over Dennis’s propensity for performance. And although this reality set in fast, his Chevrolet heartbeat never stopped pumping.
It wasn’t until 2006, around the same time his daughter was finishing up college, that Dennis started to look at cars again; and as talk of a new Camaro dawned on the horizon, his intrigue grew. With the 2010 model year release drawing closer, Dennis did his due-diligence, researching the 5th-Gen Camaro and viewing any and all available images.
During the summer of 2010, Chevy’s retro-styled, Zeta-platform pony was everywhere and to many, was the car of their dreams. Likewise for Dennis, by September, he remembers saying to himself “I’ve seen enough, I’m getting one”. By that time ,however he was too late to get a ’10 model the way he wanted it, so he would have to be patient. Dennis eventually ordered a 2011 Imperial blue LS3/6-speed-(Hurst) RS/SS, but that wasn’t all. During his extensive research, Dennis found that many aftermarket tuners had seized on the opportunity of modifying the new Camaro with power adders, suspension, wheels and a myriad of interior and exterior enhancements, creating some very powerful, unique and rare iterations. Dennis considered many prominent names in the game, but one stood out amongst the rest: Hennessey.
Dennis’s decision to have his new Camaro hooked-up by Hennessey was certainly an educated choice and not made on a whim. The company and founder, John Hennessey had become synonymous with turning the world’s fastest production cars and making them even faster, stupid fast-to be precise. The Hennessey Performance empire began back in 1991 when in his own garage, John Hennessey modified his Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 to run the Pikes Peak race in which he finished fourth-overall with no prior experience. This early triumph led Mr. Hennessey to offer his twin-turbo modifications to the open market and Hennessey Performance Engineering was born.
By 1993, the Viper R/T10 roadster slithered from the Chrysler/Dodge factory and Hennessey Performance became the ultimate snake charmers. Throughout the ‘90s, HPE offered ever-increasing performance packages for Dodge’s super serpent, like the naturally-coiled 650R and the Twin Turbo Venom 1000.
By the new century, HPE extended their potent paws to just about every American high-performance offering and Europe’s finest exotics, along with the creation of Hennessey Special Vehicles division, to build their own production supercars -the Venom GT/F5. With a two-decade-old resume of this caliber, it was easy to see the wisdom in Dennis’s choice.
THE CAR: 2011 HPE600 CAMARO
For 2009, Chevrolet unleashed what still stands as one of the most powerful and best-performing Corvettes ever built. This third salute to the great father of the V8 Corvette, Zora Arkus Duntov took the already legendary ZR1 moniker and launched it forward with rocket-like thrust into the royal realm of the supercar. Still among the top dogs almost a decade later, the C6 ZR1’s LS9 motor makes 638 horsepower and 604-lb-ft. — the forced-induced result of an Eaton R2300 positive displacement, twin four-lobe rotor, intercooled supercharger snuggly seated on top of its 6.2L all-aluminum Chevy V8. Soon to follow suit, Cadillac’s new super sedan the CTS-V smoked the same model year with its blown 556-horsepower LSA motor, putting the all-American luxury division out front of its German rivals. It seemed blatantly obvious that on the dawn of the new Camaros release, GM had embraced the supercharger as a means to make incredible high-tech power.
With that said and following GMs example, Hennessey’s HPE600 package produced a beautiful whine, not the kind drawn from grapes by the similarly-named cognac maker, but the sinister squeal emitted from a 2.9-liter intake-mounted supercharger system. The main component of that system is a Magnuson-supplied blower built to Hennessey’s specs, with their own HPE custom pulley and flanked by custom-modified engine covers. The rest of the power bump comes from increased airflow via an HPE Air Induction System, a lower temp 160-degree thermostat and an upgraded fuel system with higher-flow injectors. The whole kitten-caboodle is professionally installed with HPE’s Engine Management Calibration and doesn’t leave Hennessey’s shop without extensive dyno tuning and road testing. Completing the HPE600’s basic accouterments, are HPE600 exterior badges, serial-numbered engine/dash plaques, and HPE-embroidered headrests and floormats.
On top of the HPE600s basic fare, a lengthy list of appearance and performance options were available and Dennis was more than happy to add even more punch and style to his awesome machine. Choosing wisely, Dennis added a full Corsa S/S exhaust, starting with a set of heavy-breathing long tube headers and paying homage to another great Camaro performance purveyor, he adorned his 21st-century Camaro with throwback “Yenko”-style silver stripes with “Hennessey” call-outs across the car’s rear haunches. Dennis also added a couple of personal touches including, “SS” badges on either side of the hood dome and a race-style gas cap from the Chevy catalog.
Dennis took delivery of his Imperial Blue/black-gutted beauty in Dec 2010- quite the Christmas present to say the least. And if you want to talk about rarity, let’s go there. Dennis’s Hennessey Camaro is serial No.55 and after our friendly phone call to Texas, it’s confirmed as one of only 26 of a proposed 100 HPE600 builds for 2011 and 1-of-140 2010-’17 HPE600s in total.
A PAMPERED YET POWERFUL EXISTENCE
From the word go, Dennis’s rare ride was the main attraction at local car shows spanning Long Island. Dennis admits to the car’s babied treatment, referring to its relegated usage for weekend cruises and dry weather-only operation. But even with this truth known — and who would argue — increased performance and roasting the asphalt was definitely part of the plan.
About four years into ownership, Dennis was ready to up the ante a bit on his already healthy Hennessey hot rod, both in the horsepower department and where the rubber meets the road. The original HPE600 package designates 600-horsepower at the crank or engine-rated ponies. After Dennis optioned his example with the Corsa long tubes/exhaust, it’s a safe bet, that about 30-40 additional rear-wheel horsepower joined the mix. Being the experienced hotrodder, Dennis knew that even more power and pull was to be had by way of modifying the supercharger, namely the size of the blower pulley. For this and the other goodies he had in mind Dennis sought the performance prowess and installation expertise of The Vette Doctors in Amityville, New York.
Starting with the heart of the beast, The Vette Doctors exercised their medical muscle by surgically implanting a new, smaller spinner to the supercharger. This increased boost by about 2-pounds over stock to 9 psi and after installing an appropriate tune, horsepower jumped to a dyno-proven 615 rear-wheel ponies. Although never track-tested, The Vette Doctor’s estimate a 10.5-second ¼-mile pass should be expected. At this time, Dennis felt a little more attitude — a bad attitude that is — was needed. So why not have a pair of QTP electric cutouts welded into the exhaust system to wake up the whole world? The raspy rumble and roar definitely give the modern pony car some old-school appeal.
To complement and harness the blower’s perfected punch, Dennis saw to it that the rearend was beefed-up as well by having the stock 3.73 ratio gears yanked for a set of Richmond 4.11s. Also installed was a pair of BMR rear control arms to better help the powerful pony plant its rear hooves. And to really add some blinged-out eye-catching flair, Dennis swapped the stock SS silver-painted five-spoke rollers for a set of chromed-forged ZL1 wheels, 20x10s in front wearing their factory Pirelli P-Zeros and 20x11s out back, wrapped in serious and sticky Nitto NT05 drag rubber.
It’s hard to believe with this level of fun factor that Dennis’s Hennessey HPE600 Camaro has only amassed 6,800 clicks on the clock. But to go along with those scant and pampered miles, are over 70 — yes that’s right, 70 — “First in Class” and multiple “Best of Show” awards at various car shows and events, with that number sure to increase as Dennis and his wife, continue their show-going ways.
For now, Dennis is more than satisfied with his rare and powerful machine and has no immediate plans to add anything but who knows what the future holds. As Dennis says “I might get a bug up my ass, you never know”.
Dennis would like to thank his loving, supportive wife and partner in performance, Diane, and the talented techs at The Vette Doctors for making his dream ride come to fruition. From the looks of things, it’s obvious that Dennis’s Hennessey HPE600 Camaro will continue to age gracefully–cheers to that.