Peter Grandoni’s 632-cube Camaro

We caught up with Peter Grandoni and his monster big-block Camaro at Victoria's Summernats Slam earlier this year

Photographers: Shaun Tanner

While Top Fuel was the headline act at Victoria’s Summernats Slam earlier this year, there were plenty of other tough drag cars jam-packed into the Heathcote Park Raceway pits, including Peter Grandoni’s angry-looking first-gen Camaro. With a behemoth 632-cube big-block Chev barely contained within the thing and massive rear meats, the car cut an imposing figure, so we just had to stop and have a chat with Peter to find out more.

Tell us a bit about this amazing machine.

I’ve owned it for around two years now; it was originally the OzNos demo car when Rob Madden owned it after it was imported from America. He then sold it to the guy I bought it off, who never used it. I got it as a roller after that guy sold the 765ci engine out of it.

What’s the combo in it now?

It has a 632-cube Donovan big-block that I got from Queensland. I’m an engine builder, but because of COVID lockdowns at the time, we couldn’t go up to have a look at it, so it was a bit of a gamble buying it sight-unseen.

When we got it, I saw the bearings were a bit sad, but we just decided to throw it in the car anyway and see how it would go as it was.

So you’ve done some racing in it, then?

Being in SA means there isn’t much racing happening, so the first time we raced it was at a Sportsman round at Mildura. It ran a 5.09@137mph there and I made it to the semi-finals, but in the burnout box of that last run, I saw the oil light flicker.

I red-lit the start so didn’t do the run, which was lucky, because if I had, it would’ve ruined the engine. Red-lighting saved it!

We assume the engine needed some love after that?

Yep, we went right through it and freshened it up. Now it has some Bill Miller rods, a new cam, a whole new valvetrain and the pair of 1250 Pro Systems carbies.

It made just under 1200hp aspirated on my engine dyno, and we’ve built it to take a 400-shot of gas when we get there. So it’s 1600hp-capable, and we spin it to just under 8000rpm at the track.

How long have you been building engines?

I’ve had my business PG Automotive for around 20 years now; we specialise in performance V8 stuff. But I’ve been building engines right from the start.

My first proper one was a small-block Chev that I built for my HG Premier when I was 16, and that ended up going 11.6@123mph still aspirated through the four-speed manual, which was a pretty big deal back in 1992.

It sounds like you’re a bit of a GM man.

I certainly am. I had that HG Prem for a very long time, but I’ve had HQs, an HK Monaro, an HG Brougham, and I had an HJ nitrous ute that ran high nines at Adelaide before I sold it.

How did the racing go at Summernats Slam?

That was my first time going down the quarter with this car, and straight off the trailer we went 8.1@157mph. That was with a dud start, because I was in the left lane and couldn’t see the tree properly over the massive bonnet scoop! We sorted that and got a few more runs in, but we struggled with traction for the rest of the weekend.

Will we see the Camaro back at the track soon?

Oh, for sure. I’m already planning to do another Sportsman round up at Mildura soon. My goal is to run sevens and 200mph in this car over the quarter, and to travel around the country racing it. Building customers’ engines means I’ve been stuck at the startline watching for 20 years, so now it’s my turn!