In Middletown, CT, just off of Route 9 and a few blocks from downtown, a beast is being built. Even with over 1,500 ft-lbs of torque on tap though, you’ll never hear this 9-second, 1981 Chevy Camaro coming, because its 100% electric.
*“This is it,” he says, opening the door and guiding me through big block and small block Chevy engines, thousands of tools and snippets of automotive memorabilia that clutter/decorate the inside of the garage. It’s impossible to miss the ’81 Camaro, sitting unfinished atop the shops only lift.
The Camaro, formerly of Lithumaniacs but now of Team Haiyin EV Racing, is as much a custom project as any drag car. A custom tunnel and floor house two Net Gain electric DC motors paired together, and the engine bay has been converted to hold two used Zilla 2k controllers. A lighting bolt is etched on the passenger’s floor of the sheet metal, done by Sean Liddy, and a lonely race seat hints at the plans Ron has for this car (as though the huge motors weren’t clue enough.)
“It’s going to be fast. We want to be the fastest there is,” he says with enough enthusiasm to spare. Ron drag raced for 15 years, and is a veteran of the biofuel business before he “saw the light” and jumped on the electric vehicle bandwagon. “I saw what guys like Dennis Berube, owner of the ‘Current Eliminator’, were doing and I wanted in,” says Ron,” says Ron. So he formed his own drag racing league, ECEDRA, and after being rebuffed by the mostly-west coast National Electric Drag Racing Association, or NEDRA, decided to go it alone. His flagship dragster is this Camaro, which will make its racing debut this Saturday.
“I am aiming for 9 seconds (in the quarter-mile) but we’ll see how it does. Additional batteries should be here before the race,” he says, patting the huge black 70 amp hour lithium-polymer battery pack that takes up the entire trunk as well as where the rear passengers’ compartment. It is actually made up of 80 individual batteries in series that come from a Chinese company, Haiyin, who are Ron’s primary sponsor. “These batteries have a C-Rating of between 45 and 90, which means they can dump all their power very quickly,” he explains. “I have over 4,000 amps to play with, and those electric motors should be good for between 1,500 and 2,000 ft-lbs of torque,” he says with a smirk. “But like I said, we’ll see how we do on Saturday.”
Since this is a direct-drive setup, there is no transmission, so Ron and Bill have it geared fairly high for a drag car, with 3:23 gears in the Ford 9-inch rear end. “This is so I don’t top out my max speed before the end of the track. If we find that there’s still some top end speed left, we might drop the gearing down.” If Ron is to make his goal of a 9-second quarter mile run, he’ll have to hit at least 120 mph in just 1,320 feet. A tall order, but with this setup, it should be easily attainable.
So why a Camaro? It’s actually a brilliant move, as it takes a lot of the difficult out of finding and customizing parts. For one thing, Ron is equipping the Camaro with plenty of VFN fiberglass body bits. So even with the huge battery pack (which should be reduced in size with additional engineering) the Camaro will have a race weight, with Ron in it, of around 2,700 pounds. And those aforementioned control arms come straight out of a performance catalog. Another factor is that since this is a Camaro, one of the best known muscle cars in Americana, and legendary for its high-horsepower gasoline-powered applications it’s bound to get attention (both positive and negative) from the extensive Camaro community.
I’ve never hidden the fact that I love muscle cars, and I’ve been waiting for someone to take older American muscle, and turn it into a drag racer. Ron is that man, and he’s got Bill Scrivener’s 30+ years of race car building experience at his back. And since it’s an ’81 Camaro, the last year of the draw-out 2nd generation , emissions choked Camaro, and not some 60’s high-price classic, even old school gearheads will have to nod their head in begrudging approval (though I’m sure more than a few will find something to whine about.) Though the car looks imcomplete currently, consider that all the major components, such as the motors, battery pack, wiring, and rear end are already done. All its missing is a steering wheel, some huge tires (look at those tubs!) and the rest of the body bits fitted, which is all about a day or two’s worth of work (gotta love the simplicity of old cars.)
What’s more, this is the opening chapter of what is sure to be an interesting battle between two competing EV leagues. It was only a matter of time before some upstart stepped up to the plate and challenged NEDRA’s dominance of EV drag racing. Without choosing sides, I have to say that I’m excited to see this kind of competition building up. Reminds me of the days when the NHRA and AHRA were fighting to be the foremost drag racing league in America.
Team Warp Factor II’s EV Camaro is scheduled to make its maiden ride down the drag strip this Saturday, with Ron behind the wheel, and this could usher in a whole new era of electric racing vehicles. Or it could be just another blip on the radar of EV’s. I’ll find out first hand this Saturday. For now, make sure you check out the pictures of the Warp Factor II Camaro,and read the whole build thread from start to finish over at DIYelectric.com.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.