After a Major Explosion, Team ATI Revived this Camaro From The Ashes

October 19, 2017 / by Bradley Iger

After a blower explosion tore the car to bits, JC. Beattie Jr. and the ATI team resurrected their Camaro back to race-winning condition. 

JC Beattie Jr. is no stranger to the drag strip. As the second-generation head of ATI Performance Products – makers of race-spec drivetrain hardware – both racing and sponsoring drivers is an integral part of the company DNA and a means of conducting real-world research and development for their products.
After Beattie and the ATI team converted the Camaro over for Top Sportsman duty, the car was quick and consistent right out of the box, setting the team up for a solid 2017 season. But fate had other plans, and a hardware failure during a match race in June resulted in some pretty serious damage.

Years ago, ATI-sponsored Pro Modified racer, Chris Rini, commissioned Jerry Bickel Race Cars to build him a state-of-the-art ’69 Chevrolet Camaro drag car, and the build immediately caught Beattie’s attention. “When Chris bought the car, I told him that he wasn’t allowed to trade it in – we wanted it when he was done,” Beattie quipped. At the end of the 2015 season when Rini decided to move on to another chassis, that request came to fruition.

The power plant is a 388ci, LS-based mill with ported Brodix cylinder heads, a Jesel valvetrain, a custom Bullet camshaft, and a 4.5-liter Whipple twin-screw supercharger.

Beattie and the ATI team spent the next year wrenching on the Pro Modified Chevy to transform it into the racer he’d always envisioned for the Top Sportsman class. To motivate the car, Beattie tapped Shawn Miller of Precision Racing Technologies to build a methanol-fed, COPO Camaro-style LS-based power plant, a 388ci mill outfitted with an RHS solid block, ported Brodix cylinder heads, a Jesel valvetrain, JE Pistons, and a custom Bullet camshaft. The engine was topped off with a 4.5-liter Whipple twin-screw supercharger.

Although the exact sequence of events is still a mystery, Beattie theorizes that the bolts that hold the blower to the intake pulled the threads out and then the phenolic spacer blew apart, which sent the blower sailing off the engine and causing a fire that took a significant toll on the car.

“We now have JE pistons in all of our engines,” Beattie points out. “That’s two NHRA Super Stock COPO engines, one Dodge Hemi 6.1L NHRA Stock Eliminator engine, a COPO Ultra Street engine, and this Top Sportsman car. Zero issues, period. The Top Sportsman car even had some plug straps go through it (more than once) and banged up the top of a couple pistons and still zero issues. The Hemi was built by a 25-year veteran NASCAR Cup engine builder who is one of them most particular builders you will ever meet – no problems!”

Beattie says that, due to their consistent reliability, all of the motors the ATI team uses in competition are equipped with JE pistons. “Zero issues, period,” he noted.

Completed last fall, the car proved to be fast, consistent performer, knocking out a personal best ET of 4.40 in the 1/8-mile at the Mason-Dixon Dragway in November of 2016. 2017 was shaping up to be a solid season for the car, but the team would end up hitting a snag early this summer.

A collection of time slips from passes made during the Camaro’s first proper outing since the rebuild. How’s that for consistency?

“We had a hardware failure in June while running at Mason Dixon for a match race, and blew the supercharger off,” Beattie explains. “Not sure what happened first, but we think the bolts that hold the blower to the intake pulled the threads out and then the phenolic spacer blew apart. Not expecting anything like this to happen – it made a mess and caught fire.” Though the damage was substantial, Beattie and his team quickly got to work rebuilding the car.

The foundation of the 388 cubic-inch LS motor is an RHS block cast without water jackets.

Miraculously, the car was back in action earlier this month at Cecil County Dragway, where it was running better than ever.

“The car’s best ET to date was a couple weeks ago – a 4.32 @ 161 mph with a .974 60 foot, 2.801 330,” says Beattie. “This was our first time with everything back to 100%. Check out the time slips – pretty damn consistent for a fast car!”

In early October, just a few months after that catastrophic hardware failure, the Camaro was back in action and posting some of the quickest e.t.s of its Top Sportsman career. 


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Written by Bradley Iger

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