Noone can do things quite the way Texans do: big, beautiful, following no rules but their own. It would make sense, then, that a machine as brutal and rule-breaking as this quad-turbo 1980 Camaro would hail from the Lone Star State. Dubbed the Junkyard Bugatti due to its air of sophistication and luxury, Scott Harris’ monster ’Maro is a YouTube star. But what’s the story behind this elegant machine? Leave it to ROADKILL to find out. We hopped into the barely bolted-down passenger seat for a weekend with Scott and the Bugatti as they rolled into Houston for TX2K17.
The TX2K event is street racing made legal. Think early Fast and Furious movies on a dragstrip. It’s stupidly fast tuner cars, DJs blaring horrible techno, and barely organized roll racing. When we pulled in—rickety wood-top trailer bumping and rattling past swathes of Lambos and GTRs in the pits at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas—it was pretty clear we were the underdogs. Scott’s whole car cost less than what it would take to replace a carbon-fiber splitter on the competition. He shrugged it off as he started unloading the Camaro among a growing crowd of fanboys and confused onlookers. This was the kind of party that would follow him around the entire weekend. “Let’s put some more boost in it and see what she does,” he said. “Hopefully the engine survives.” Longtime friends Josh Kostroun and Austin Hammett, who’d rolled into Baytown with Austin’s beast of a Chevy S10, gave a hand where needed to get ready for the twilight test ’n’ tune session.
The Bugatti didn’t technically fit into any class for competition—surprise, surprise—but test ’n’ tune offered Scott his first chance to run the Camaro since he added a CX Racing intercooler and Texas Speed Stage 3 cam to the 6.0-liter LQ4. That operation, like the entire Camaro build, took place in an open, dirt-floor barn in Scott’s hometown of Columbus, Texas. Scott takes pride in the clapped-out and never-washed paint covered in “dust, dirt, rust, oil, tire rubber, and who knows what else.”
Scott’s adventure with the Camaro started after his brother went through a grenaded engine and a couple broken trannies with the car and got sick of it. Scott bought the roller off him for a thousand bucks with the intention to “run 10s for $10,000—basically make power with junk.” The best idea ever? Yeah, we think so, too.
When it comes to making cheap power with junk, LS-based platforms are a great start, though it takes a special mindset to think of a quad-turbo setup. Scott is a mechanical engineer and a mad genius, so it made sense to him. He scoured the interwebz for similar setups, and once he saw a few, he knew it was possible. That was all the motivation he needed.
Intending to thrift all the parts from junkyards and local stores to keep the cost under the limit, he had to figure out what he could easily get his hands on four of. The most common turbos lying around as junk? BorgWarner K03s from Ford’s EcoBoost engines that Scott picked up for about $150 apiece.
Those power snails from the Blue Oval factory would take a bit of magic (not the large hammer and WD-40 kind, either) to fit onto the otherwise stock mill, so Scott busted out the pen and pad to design and build his own manifolds, boost control system, and all the piping and wiring needed to run all four simultaneously. This would produce steady, reliable power with bucketloads of torque and be a much cooler direction to take than a single, cheap, knock-off brand turbo. When you cram that many turbos into any engine bay, you’re bound to run out of room for headers, so Scott stuck to ROADKILL’s exhaust mantra: When in doubt, up and out!
Although it might look like someone threw up a meal of SAE hose and round tube spaghetti all over the engine, there’s method to the madness, or at least lots of zip ties. Using a simple T-shaped plumbing fitting to control boost pressure, Scott can make adjustments on the fly by twisting a screw fitted to one end. One full revolution inward is roughly 1 psi gained, and Scott reasons this can be wound all the way to 17 psi. “After that I’ll need a longer bolt,” he says.
Unwanted high boost pressures during early tuning forced Scott to add restrictor pieces to the tips of the headers in order to add some extra back pressure and give the wastegates a bit of a break. It also cut down on the police attention flags of foot-high flames.
Sit in the passenger seat with the giant hole in the firewall, and you’ll soon understand the need for help with heat in the engine bay and the passenger cabin. Scott added a dual-nozzle AEM water/meth kit tucked in with the washer fluid bottle alongside the intercooler. Air intake filters are duct taped to the front corners to keep them away from the hot bits. Thanks to everyone’s favorite vacuum cleaner hose, cheap, good airflow is readily available. We expected to see the filters lift off on the dragstrip at 120 mph and wiggle around like wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men, but they stayed in place. Method to the madness!
Behind all the turbos and zip ties is a 4L80E that came with the engine. Scott relocated the original Camaro crossmember to suit the truck trans, lines, and cooler, and just like the rest of the car, Scott rebuilt the 4L80E himself. “I found a YouTube video on how to rebuild and modify one, and the video was 2.5 hours long,” he said. “So I’d watch 15 minutes of it, walk out to the barn, work on what they were saying, watch another 15 minutes, work on that bit, and so on.”
In the back of the Camaro is a Dana 60 rearend that Scott found on Craigslist for a grand. It’s packed with 3.54 gears, a 35-spline Strange spool diff, and a Moser cover, probably the shiniest piece of the entire car. Calvert shocks are on all four corners, and the Camaro gets a bit of traction-finding aid with a set of Caltracs in back. The rubber sprayed across the sides of the fenders comes courtesy of the Mickey Thompson ET Streets, in 295/55R15. At first, the wide meats didn’t fit, but that’s nothing a hammer couldn’t fix.
Inside it’s all business and loose wires. The factory cabin is a mix of old plastic, accumulated filth, and load-bearing duct tape. Scott does have the luxury of a Pioneer stereo, but what music can compete with four turbos singing an angelic chorus of horsepower?
Back in Baytown: Scott passed tech inspection, something he was nervous about. Then it was helmets on and wheels up to lay down a base for tuning the new intercooler and cam setup. An 11.27 at 121 mph was decent, but he knew there was more. He’d run a 10.85 in 2016, so with a quick session on the HP Tuners EFI program and a half-gallon of Boost Juice in the washer reservoir, he hit the staging lanes again.
Things don’t always go to plan, and outlaw race events tend to have more than the usual breakage and oil downs. After a few hours of being stuck in a staging-lane traffic jam, sunlight and temperatures fell, patience faded, and a late-night 11.02 at 124 mph was deemed good for tuning data. We decided it was time to check out the vibrant Houston street scene.
Filled with wide-open highways and large industrial zones, Houston has birthed an energetic underground scene for guys and gals who like to flex their muscle with what you could call spirited driving events. Considering the astronomical hp count hitting the city for TX2K, this swells into hordes cruising around and meeting up for showing down.
The dig scene is a great chance to let loose and hang with like-minded people, but the local constabulary do stop by and say hello once in a while. With many drivers still hyped from the day’s drag racing efforts in Baytown, it was a constant game of cat and mouse to see some of them perform out on the street without getting into any of the kind of trouble. We tried our best to keep up with the giant crowds and ever-moving meets, which mostly meant hanging out in gas stations, eating jerky, and trash talking.
Deciding that catfish po’boys and oven trays full of boiled crawfish sounded like more fun than sitting in crowded staging lanes, we headed in the opposite direction to TX2K the next morning, filled our stomachs, and ended up at HP Motorsports in Katy, Texas, for their night meetup and dyno session.
The Junkyard Bugatti pulled onto the dyno and drew a large crowd. “I don’t know what it’s gonna do; everyone back up,” Scott warned as he did some last-minute checks. The noise was enough to either make you run for the hills or fall madly in love. Cobwebs, dust, and pieces of insulation from the HP Motorsports roof came falling down like junkyard confetti as the Camaro rattled off a ridiculously loud and respectable 502 hp and 604 lb-ft at the rears.
Looking at the tuning data, Scott was incredibly confident he was nowhere near hitting the effective power of the new Texas Speed cam or dialing in transmission and traction. Keeping that stock bottom end in one piece and not splayed out on the highway like a box of dropped Lego bricks might be the trickiest hurdle in the coming months, but we’ll be seeing low 10s and more horses in that stable shortly.
After achieving his 10s for $10K goal with a no-sweat 10.85 and a receipts pile to the tune of only $9,780, Scott is determined to keep the Camaro faster than any factory-fresh car. “I wanna beat anything stock,” he said, “but the Hellcat keeps getting faster, so I guess I gotta keep going!”
A recap: That’s 502 horses from a quad-turbo LQ4 sitting in a ratty Camaro oozing Mad Max vibes built in a dirt-floor barn and running 10-second quarter miles all for less than $10,000. Way awesome? Yup. ROADKILL approved? Absolutely. Clinically insane? Probably! Ask your physician.
Here’s a good 1320 intro to the Junkyard Bug.