One of the freedoms you have to admire about America is the ability to drive almost anything on public roads. Lilian Smith’s supercharged Camaro, a convertible no less, fits the craziness perfectly.
Bright orange, roll caged and a big old BDS supercharger hanging in the air up front means this is not a car you will easily miss on Florida roads.
Smith said the Camaro was his first car, and he had to simply work with what he had.
“I bought it in 1974,” he said. “I was looking at a Road Runner or a Camaro and one came up. A 1968 S/S Camaro 396 with four speed. My brother told my mom because I was only 17 at the time. So I couldn’t buy it!
“The convertible was $900.00, all my money at the time, and started as a 327 with four speed.”
Obviously, things have changed rather significantly in the following 45 years, though much of the action has been in just the last couple of laps around the sun.
“The car ran 10.90 in Super Street for 20 years and I was fine. Then it got nitrous, then a Procharger, then fuel injection, then the roots blower. Turbos are the only thing I haven’t experimented with.”
Now living up front is a 540ci big block Chev with a 10-71 BDS supercharger. The FAST fuel injection uses 16 injectors to deliver methanol while an MSD Digital 7 does the ignition work. A TH400 transmission, nine inch rear with 4.30 gears and 14×32 Goodyear slicks complete the picture.
“A basic back half car with ladder bars, and 58.5 inch wheelie bars so it will fit in the garage on an open trailer,” explained Smith.
The Camaro is not restricted to the track and Smith frequently posts images on social media of the car on trips around his home city of Orlando.
“It has current tags, insurance and is street driven when I am bored from the track,” he said. “It has a 16 gallon cell with two batteries and an alternator charging 160 amps. Everything works: tail lights, LED headlights, wipers, and even the cigarette lighter to charge my phone.
“It does run on alcohol so two five-gallon jugs are behind the seats. It will always be street legal.”
Running as quick as 5.9 on the eighth mile at 133mph, Smith enjoys racing wherever the rules will suit – he even played in NHRA Super Comp in 2015.
“I mostly race heads up, I hate a full tree,” he said.
“I call it the slowest blower car in the world, but at 3976 pounds with me in it it always prevails. Every race I go to it seems like I’m the slowest and heaviest, but for 2018 I had five out of six races in the finals. I am extremely lucky with this car, but I paid my dues in the last 40 years. Maybe blower cars intimidate people.”
For now Smith said he is enjoying the car no matter what success it has – and the wide variety of comments it gets.
“The car is tapped out, the only way to go now is too much money. I’ll just enjoy what I have, it’s fun now.
“Everyone comments on how beautiful the car looks. It cracks me up! The only reason it gets attention is the blower of course, that it’s convertible, and it still looks like a street car. People can relate.
“At some car shows the young bucks ask, ‘Excuse me, sir. What kind of car is this?’ I laugh tell them it is an experiment 2020 Camaro!”
If the 2020 Camaro comes as a supercharged convertible – sign me up.