Project Lucky 13 Build Thread: Updates On Our Road-Racing Camaro

Chevrolet Camaros have been road raced for decades, and they’re still being campaigned in series like NASA Pony Car Racing and the Continental Tire SportsCar Series. With the fifth-generation Camaro’s thoroughbred pedigree and independent rear suspension, it’s just begging to be road raced – and that’s exactly what we’re going to do with it.

The 2013 Camaro you’re looking at is Project Lucky 13. We’re going to build it to take on daily driving duties, track days, and the once-in-a-while spirited canyon runs. If you’re thinking that our project looks a little lackluster at the moment, that’s because it was a theft recovery. We purchased the vehicle at an auction as a theft recovery vehicle. It was pretty much completely stripped of everything of value there were no seats in the front or rear, no engine, transmission, brakes, or wheels – the car essentially came to us as a rolling shell.

If you’re thinking Project Lucky 13 is going to Z/28 clone, you’re wrong. The project is heavily supported by Chevy Performance parts, but we’re not building the whole car out of Z/28 components. We’re really excited about this build, and can’t wait to get the ball really rolling. Since the car was a theft recovery, we have to first get the interior, engine, transmission, and driveline in the car to get it smogged and registered in our home state of California. After the car is registered, the power gains will begin!

Engine, Transmission, And Fuel System

The LS7 crate engine GM is supplying us for this build will remain stock until the car gets registered, but we’re throwing on some Z/28 tri-Y exhaust manifolds for better flow. The LS7 engine already utilizes a dry-sump oiling system, but we’re having a new tank and other dry sump goodies made by Peterson Fluid Systems with a breather, engine oil cooler adapter, and the oil pan adaptor built into it. As this car is being built and registered in California, it’s going to need some high-flow Z/28 catalytic converters, too. We are going to boost the output of the LS7 engine, but haven’t come to a conclusion on a forced induction system just yet.

Project Lucky 13 came with the six-speed automatic from the factory, but there was no sign of it when we purchased the car (obviously) other than the shifter and lack of a third pedal. Since this car is going to see quite a bit of track time, we wanted something heavy duty that would hold up under harsh driving conditions, but also be comfortable enough to shift in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Lucky for us, Chevy Performance supplied a TR6060 six-speed transmission to bolt up to the 505 horsepower LS7 engine; a twin-disc clutch will also be installed to harness all of the power and torque. We also received a ZL1 short-throw shifter from GM that will be installed onto the TR6060 transmission for crisp, precise shifts. We’re really excited about this engine/tranny combo!

Being that Project Lucky 13 is an automatic transmission car that we’re converting to a manual, we’re going to need to source a pedal assembly, master cylinder and lines, slave cylinder, and a transmission mount.

Chevy also supplied us with a ZL1 fuel pump to feed fuel to the almighty LS7, but the rest of the fuel system is still up in the air at the moment. We will be adding a surge tank to prevent fuel sloshing around and the pump from starving. A fuel pressure regulator will also be added to the build sheet, as well as some durable fuel lines and dependable AN fittings.

Driveline And Suspension

As far as the driveline goes, Chevy is supplying us with the ZL1 HD Driveline, which includes asymmetrical half shafts, a heavy-duty two piece driveshaft, and the 9.9-inch cast iron rear differential. This is the same driveline we installed on Project ZL1Upped, which made upwards of 600 hp at the rear wheels, so we’re not really worried about the parts not holding up; we know how much abuse this driveline kit can handle.

Project Lucky 13’s suspension is going to be great for the track, but also equally as pleasing to drive on the street. We will be installing some hight-adjustable, fixed-rate valving coilovers, but that is still to be seen. Whiteline is supplying us with polyurethane rear upper control arm bushings, and differential mount bushings. The car’s handling will significantly tighten up with polyurethane bushings. BMR Suspension is kindly supplying us with front and rear sway bars, rear lower control arms, trailing arms, and toe rods. We’re going to have a lot of adjustability with this setup, which is great for setting the car up at different tracks. We will also be stiffening up the chassis with some bracing from LG Motorsports.


The interior won’t be anything really crazy, as this car isn’t going to be a dedicated track car. 2013 Formula Drift champion, Michael Essa, was nice enough to send us the rear seats, and nearly everything else we needed to get the interior back to factory spec from his competition car. In addition to everything Chevy has supplied for the build so far, they also sent us some awesome, supportive Recaro seats from none other than the Camaro Z/28. They will be a perfect fit for this build.

To help stiffen up the chassis, and to also protect the driver of the car if an accident were to happen, Autopower supplied us with a really cool bolt-in roll cage with a removable harness bar and cross bar that we already installed in the car – we just couldn’t wait. The removable bars are great for making the backseat easily accessible when driving the car around town.

Wheels And Brakes

We’re not going to put huge wheels on this car because we want the best performance possible and the least amount of rotational mass at all four corners. We’ll be installing some 19-inch Forgeline GA3R three-piece wheels on the car, which are both lightweight and strong. The six-piston and four-piston Wilwood brakes we’re going to install on the car are of the two-piece billet nature, and have a really cool finish that we don’t want to let out of the bag just yet. Don’t worry, though, Project Lucky 13 will stop great, and look good doing it.

Exhaust And Cooling

As we stated earlier, we will be using the Camaro Z/28 tri-Y exhaust manifolds. The high-flow catalytic converters and cat-back exhaust options are still on the table, as is the radiator/fan combo and the engine oil cooler.

We really can’t wait to make more progress on this build. It’s going to be a really fun car when all is said and done. Stay tuned for updates as we churn them out!

Project Build Diary:

June 20, 2016: Wilwood Aerolite Brake Install On Our Project Fifth-Gen Camaro2016-05-09_23-24-50As the limitless potential we first saw in Project Lucky 13 began to slowly come to fruition, stopping power became the next item on our list. Obviously, when your intention is to shove an LS7 between the front fenders and subject it to as much aggressive driving as your manhood will allow, the ability to bring your car to a halt should be pretty high on your list of priorities. And since it certainly was for us (after all, we aren’t going through all of this trouble just to have our wicked track car catapult off the tarmac and into who-knows-what), we reached out to the brake-aficionados at Wilwood Disc Brakes.2016-05-09_23-25-31While selecting the right braking system for your car may seem like a pretty mindless undertaking, there’s a whole world of science and engineering that go into every rotor, caliper, and pads’ construction. Going with the “squeeze the biggest, most drilled-and-slotted rotor behind the wheels as possible” formula is typically not the best approach.

We spoke with Wilwood about what sort of factors to consider when choosing the brakes for a car, such as what the intended application is, the materials and designs involved, and even finish options. For all of the expert insight – as well as the full install on Project Lucky 13 – read the whole story here.2016-05-09_23-27-54May 23, 2016: Project Lucky 13 Camaro Gets Vogtland Coilovers2016-04-13_17-16-17Keeping with the theme of making Lucky 13 a best-of-both-worlds, daily-driven track warrior, we next turned to Vogtland to finish building up our suspension. If there’s any one thing that makes or breaks a road-racing machine, it’s the suspension; and if there’s any one thing that makes or breaks a suspension setup, it’s the coil-overs. Accordingly, our Camaro’s Vogtland units had a tall order to fill.

Of course, we knew that we made the right choice – Vogtland offers one of the most versatile, highly-engineered lines of suspension components on the market. The adjustable coil-overs we received would be able to offer all the practicality and performance that would be demanded of them and more. We already have one hell of a base built out in Lucky 13’s suspension, and we’re sure that the Vogtlands will compliment all of the other components perfectly.

To get the in-depth look at the technology and install of our high-performance coil-overs, read the full article here.

May 13, 2016: Project Lucky 13 Gets A Track-Ready Cooling System Upgrade2016-05-11_21-26-59As we continued to piece together our from-scratch Camaro, we began considering the task of keeping its high-output LS7 nice and brisk. Given the motor’s large displacement and the fact that we plan on really putting it through its paces, we knew that the demand for efficient cooling would be high.

When it comes to building our cars, we like to err on the side of caution – especially when they’ll be doing daily-driver duties. We’d much rather take care of our machines (and our drivers) proactively than reactively, so we make sure to balance all our go-fast parts with appropriate safety and supporting mods.

In this respect, the cooling system is a two headed snake; it serves as both a supporting mod and a go-fast part in and of itself. With heat generally being the enemy of efficiency in an engine, the lack of proper cooling can have drastic repercussions on engine life and reliability and on performance.

As you can imagine, it was highly important to us that we get a decent cooling system in Lucky 13. Naturally, then, we went to Be Cool for a high-capacity, dual-core radiator with dual 40-amp fans. Check out the full article for the theory behind our setup, as well as expert insight from Be Cool’s own Justin Larocque.2016-05-11_21-27-17April 7, 2016: Tightening Up Project Lucky 13 With BMR, LG Motorsports, Whiteline2016-03-21_17-31-07With a radically revitalized interior and a world-class drivetrain underway, it was time for Project Lucky 13 to really buckle down and receive the makings of an unstoppable track machine. Looking toward some of the best names in the industry, we equipped our Camaro with the tools it needs to relentlessly cling to the road and effectively transfer its barrage of horsepower to the pavement.

The fifth-gen Camaro – being a thick, heavy and typically hard-driven car – is notorious for having issues with body flex, suspension deflection and subpar power delivery. Performance around a road-course is dependent on how well the vehicle can carry itself around corners and get power to the tires, so we recruited the help of BMR Suspension, Whiteline Suspension & Chassis Products, Chevrolet Performance Parts, and LG Motorsports.2016-03-21_17-30-29The help they supplied us with came in the form of adjustable lower control arms, upper control arm bushing, toe rods, trailing arms, front and rear sway bars, a Camaro ZL1 driveline kit, differential mount bushings, and a chassis brace system – a laundry list of hardware, all working toward making Lucky 13 an absolute monster when it comes to handling.

For an in-depth look at each component and a step-by-step install, read the full story.2016-03-21_22-22-17February 9, 2016: Project Lucky 13 Gets Engaged With A New Mantic Clutch2015-10-21_18-43-22With the big plans we have laid out for Lucky 13, we knew that every part we utilized to get her back on the road would have to be high-caliber. For car parts in general, being able to withstand the demands of both daily driving and getting wailed on at the track is a tall order – for a clutch, this is especially so.

Keeping in mind the same goals that we had for our interior upgrades – matchless performance without compromising comfort – we reached out to Mantic Clutch for a unit that would give us an edge around the road-course, be easy on the driver and withstand its frequent (and aggressive) use.

Being a theft recovery vehicle, Project Lucky 13 was missing the LS3 and 6L80E it was originally equipped with; in their stead, we’d be substituting a stout LS7-and-TR6060 combo. While the power and shifting capabilities of the two make for a formidable drivetrain, the last thing we wanted was for our fifth-gen to be hindered by a factory clutch.

Check out the full article for all of the tech and expert insight about the Mantic Clutch we chose.2015-10-21_18-41-28September 23, 2015: Project Lucky 13 Gets Some Much-Needed Interior Love2015-08-26_00-00-02Sticking to the Camaro’s roots, we knew from the start that we wanted our fifth-gen to be a peerless track warrior. However, rather than be a thoroughbred, dedicated track car – complete with all the uncomfortable, less-than-street-friendly features and components – we decided to include another facet to our road-racing Camaro and have it double as a daily driver.

Seeing as how it’s the driver’s direct connection with the machine, the interior is arguably the biggest player in a car’s comfort level. As such, finding a balance between performance, safety and user-friendliness can be quite a challenge. We found our perfect combination with a set of Chevrolet Performance Camaro Z/28 Recaro seats, a bolt-in Autopower Industries roll-cage and Schroth Racing four-point harnesses.

For the full lowdown and install of our track-prep hardware on Lucky 13, check out the full story.

About the author

Josh Kirsh

Born in Van Nuys, Raised in Murrieta, Joshua Kirsh is a SoCal Native. With a love for anything on wheels since the ripe young age of two, Joshua Managed to turn his love for automobiles into a career. As Power Automedia's newest writer, he plans to bring you some of the industry's hottest news topics while he's not out in the shop wrenching on some of our badass in-house project builds.
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