One day, while going through the Dealer Auto Exchange warehouse looking for a Real World Reviews car, I was halted by the presence of pure evil. In the far corner peeking out from behind a ’69 Impala was the devil himself.
Dealer Auto Exchange is the exclusive provider for the 2010 Mongoose Camaro, and no matter how much they tried to hide it in the back corner, this machine had a striking aura. This 1SS Camaro was transformed with a customized black body kit, black wheels, and limo black windows. Darth Vader was a wuss.
Backing up the new looks was a ProCharger supercharger, custom headers, larger exhaust with custom mufflers, adjustable coil over suspension, Hotchkis sway bars, and a new custom clutch.
“We solved the fuel problem,” was the first thing Jim Arnott of Dealer Auto said to me. I understood Jim’s somewhat cryptic message. One of the hardest parts of development was breaking the reliability barrier. It seems that at about 580 hp the 2010 Camaros hit a wall. Trying to go beyond that power, the computer’s fuel management won’t play nice. With the current software, getting close to 600 hp would result in the car constantly dumping fuel into the engine. That would be fine when running at high rpms, but it would cause the engine to flood at short stoplights. The solution was new fuel injectors, an auxiliary fuel pump, and a custom engine software mapping developed specially for this car by DiabloSport.
Jim showed me the dyno figures: 625 hp at the rear wheels and idles as smooth as a factory car.
DiabloSport created the new engine program to work with its Trinity tuning interface. Basically the setup looks like an iPhone that can track the car’s data, and, in the Camaro’s case, offers the choice of running in three modes known as “Valet”, “Daily Driver”, and “Unleashed”. Need to get across town for a dinner reservation in a few minutes, but don’t want Captain Acne at the valet stand to go joyriding while you eat your steak?…turns out there’s an app for that.
My first actual test drive was a few quick laps around downtown Miami before the Mongoose Camaro was featured at the Festival of Speed. I fired up the car and the custom exhaust had all familiar sounds…but nothing like I’ve ever heard together before. It had the low-end rumble of a classic muscle car, but there was also a second tone that was distinctly European. It’s like the love child of Richard Petty and Sophia Loren.
I found out the dampers in the Camaro cannot contain the exhaust. Anytime the car idled I’d get a small vibration in the bottom of the seat. It was not like the full body shake of the Dodge Challenger SRT8, instead it was more like a gentle massage to my rear. Oddly enough it was somewhat reminiscent of the rubdown function available from the seats in a Mercedes S-Class. But that’s probably the only comparable element between this street brawler and the three-piece suit luxury brand (other then this Camaro put about the same power to the ground as an SL 65 AMG Black Series.)
It didn’t take very long to gather enough pics and info to do the full story on the Mongoose Camaro, but there was still one element missing. Any good muscle car story needs a burnout, and this was surprisingly hard to schedule.
A burnout should be second nature to this car. It’s a bulletproof vehicle with simple controls. It should be easy for anyone to take a flat stretch of pavement, build a few revs, and drop the hammer. So why had Rich Mullen owner of Mongoose Performance insisted he be there to do the burnout? The proof is in the video below:
This was the product of nearly an hour’s worth of trials on a slick piece of asphalt. Once we finally got the shot, Rich pulled me aside to tell me how much the car was built to do the exact opposite of our footage.
This Camaro was built not only to be powerful, but to keep the power on the ground. So to make the Camaro dance like it did in the video, Rich had to manually override the stability systems of both the Camaro and the Trinity interface during the entire trial. To understand why anyone would want to build a muscle car that didn’t have all the usual muscle car tendencies, an explanation of Mongoose Performance is needed.
The crew at Mongoose participates in every kind of racing that happens on tarmac, including the kind with twists and quick launches. When they build a performance package, it’s not for one specific purpose. Rich knows anyone can add horsepower to a muscle car with a few bolt-on kits. So instead it is his vision to turn every car in his shop into something that can hold its own on any piece of pavement…even the curvy ones.
Driving the Mongoose Camaro proves this point. It still feels raw like a muscle car, but the suspension upgrades solve the understeer problem. The whole experience is like driving a Spyker: the car feels very raw, but it’s always in control.
Rich doesn’t mind if his Mongoose Performance is mentioned in the same breath as Lingenfelter and SMS. But he is also quick to point out that while those performance shops are like factories, his operation is more like a boutique. “We race; we don’t advertise,” says Rich, suggesting that other operations spend their time and money elsewhere.
I’ve encountered products from Mongoose Performance before - everything in the supercar world from a supercharged Ford GT40 to a custom Nissan GT-R. Just like the Mongoose Camaro, each time I encounter something Rich has taken a wrench to, I’m reminded that the best minds in custom supercars come from the track.