Newly-crowned Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings champion Ryan Martin unveiled his all-new 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 today at the Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Built by chassis-building wizard Billy Gilsbach — who also constructed what eventually became known as the Fireball Camaro — the car is a true work of art, featuring the many tricks of the trade that Gilsbach is known for, in addition to a host of lightweight titanium and one-off carbon-fiber components that make it one of the most advanced racing machines in any drag racing venue.
Built specifically for the purpose of no-prep and street racing, the new ZL1 features a wheelbase of 111-inches — 2-inches shorter than the Fireball Camaro — and the engine is moved back in the chassis for better weight transfer.
“The Fireball Camaro was built for drag radial and Outlaw 10.5-style racing — back then they were moving the motors really far forward to they to keep them from wheelstanding and to achieve the desired weight bias,” Martin explains. “When we first bought that car and got to racing on the street and in no-prep, we said, ‘this car shouldn’t work good, because the motor is too for forward.’ It’s got a 92-inch axle to mid-plate centerline measurement. That makes for a long driveshaft, which in turn sets the motor forward. But we made it work, and obviously it’s one of the fastest no-prep cars there is. But I knew when we were building the new one that we could do better, that we could improve upon it.”
“Now, we have done things to gear it more toward a no-prep car, so we have the motor set back in the car,” Martin goes on to share. “The engine was moved back approximately 8-inches, and the double framerail has been built to be both higher and wider, which should make for a more stable car. And we wanted to gear it to being lighter. The old car, when we first got it, had factory framerails — it wasn’t built with the intent of being really light. With street racing, there are no rules, and with no-prep, who knows where it goes, so I wanted to build the lightest car that I could. Anywhere that we could put carbon-fiber and titanium, we did. And it came in almost 200-pounds lighter than the old car.”
The drivetrain is identical to the Fireball Camaro: a Pro Line Racing 481X with twin Precision Pro Mod 98mm turbochargers, an M&M Turbo 400 and lock-up converter, with a FuelTech FT600 ECU. Said Martin: “I went that direction one, because I have plenty of spares, but also because I’ve never had a lack of power with that combination. While we’ll have to get ahead of the game and get on the chassis to make it work well, I won’t have to fight the tune-up, because we know it like the back of our hand. By sharing parts between the two cars, if I have an issue, I can rob parts if needed. So it just made sense.”
Martin first commissioned the new car after the Discovery Channel’s Mega Race, contested between he and Alex Laughlin, driving for Gas Monkey Garage’s Richard Rawlings. At the time, No Prep Kings was in its infancy, and knowing it would be a hit, Martin took his sizable winnings from that show and set the ball in motion for a purpose-built machine. In the time since, he has contributed much of his winnings to its completion.
With no carbon-fiber components available, Gilsbach invested hundreds of man-hours in building the custom doors and front end, starting with the factory parts, from which he built a plug to have one-off ZL1 parts made. Adding to the complexity of the process, he and Martin modified the front end to shrink the wheel openings and changed the hood for a more visually appealing look.
“He modified the fenders, and we had one of our Fireball 900 hoods that we had designed for our street car line that I wanted to put on it — so I agave him a hood, two fenders, and a ZL1 front clip and said, ‘see what you can do with this.’ ”
Despite the considerable time and investment, Martin contends this car wouldn’t be seeing the light of day had his season not gone to plan.
“I told myself mentally that I wasn’t bringing this car out until I won a championship with the other car. I missed winning it the first two seasons by so little, and I didn’t want all the haters to say, ‘ you couldn’t win it with that car, so you changed it up.’ And it was so important to me to win that championship so that I could bring this car out. Because I told myself I wasn’t if I didn’t do it — I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but it was going to sit in my garage or we’d have put radials on it something. But I’m so glad we won it, because now we can come out season four of No Prep Kings with it, which is what I wanted to do with it anyway,” he says.
The more you look at the car, inside and out, the more you see of the infinite detail that Gilsbach put into its creation.
“Everything that Billy does is amazing. His builds take a little longer, but it’s because everything he does is so intricate and well thought-out,” Martin says. “The front end in itself is a work of art, in the way that the factory headlights are molded in (HID LED just like a factory ZL1), and the thoughts of where to put titanium in it.”
Of note are a true carbon-carbon-fiber steering column, titanium gas and brake pedals and transmission tunnel, much of it provided by TMS.
“The way he did the upper framerail bars — some people are starting to catch on to that, but he did it before other cars got moved up and out, which makes them more stable,” Martin adds. “He built the wing out of carbon-fiber, the rockers are custom carbon-fiber using his own molds. It’s all just over the top.
For Martin, this project signified not only a reward for his tireless work and resulting success, but also a personal achievement in developing a car from the ground-up, using many of his own concepts and ideas.
“This is the first purpose-built racecar that I’ve built using my own ideas and with goals that I wanted to hit. It was a big deal, and I wanted it to be special and mean something. And winning the championship made this like my reward to myself, to be able to bring it out.”
Martin and his team burned the midnight oil to make the unveiling at PRI; the car was picked up three weeks ago, and with the help of his team and the staff at Homier Fabrications and RK Racecraft (whom Martin credits the tireless efforts of for even making it here) the car was wired, plumbed, and fired for the first time just before midnight on Tuesday. By 1 p.m. the following day it rolled into the Indiana Convention Center following an eight hour trek from Georgia, and into position at the Precision Turbo & Engine booth.
Supporters on the project include Strange Engineering, Summit Racing Equipment, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Weld Racing, Boninfante Clutches, LAT, FuelTech, Race Parts Solutions, AJPE, Turbosmart, BMRS, Schoneck Composites, Moroso Performance Products, PTE, Wiseco, Visner Engineering, T&D Machine, Pro Line, TMS Titanium, Tim McAmis Race Cars, GRP Rods, Peterson Fluid Systems, Stock Car Steel and Aluminum, Woolf Race Products, and Optic Armor Windows.
Stay tuned for additional images!