A Gathering of Eagles – Finding the Fastest Street Car in America – 1987
In 1987, Car and Driver Magazine set out to find the fastest street car in America. In that same year, the Ferrari F40 proved to be the first-ever production car to break the 200mph barrier; however, urban legends told of street machines that could hang and beat it. It was at the dawn of the horsepower wars, and the exchange rate of 500 ponies in 1987 is as daunting as 1,000 in 2020. Knowing full well that such demons lurked in the shadows, a call was put out by the legendary Csaba Csere of C&D, promising the ultimate bragging rights and a crown for the king of American asphalt. In return, seven men turned up at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio for the ultimate shootout, each with a car in tow. One of those men, having arrived with his own third-generation Chevy Camaro equipped with a Keith Black 541-cubic-inch all-aluminum big block, was my father, the original Mike Burroughs.
I've grown up hearing the stories of what was eventually known as the "Keith Black Camaro," from its tire-boiling power and its incredible handling characteristics, to the mid-night teardown and rebuild required to throw down an incredible effort at the Gathering of Eagles, head to head against the fastest street cars on planet Earth. I've seen the magazine clippings, the artwork, and last year, I even tracked the KB Camaro down, only to find that its current owner won't let it go for less than $75,000, making it not only the (once) fastest F-Body on the planet, the also the most expensive. What I've never seen, though, is video. Until now.
During a dive to hunt for some Callaway info, I stumbled across a somewhat-recent upload on the Callaway Youtube Channel. "A Gathering of Eagles 1987," the title said. I've searched up and down in the past, hunting for possible photos and details, but this one fell right into my lap, and today, I'm thrilled to share a piece of history - both with respect to the world of horsepower and speed, but also, history of Mike Burroughs... the real one... - in full 480p glory.
The KB Camaro was initially born as a Hot Rod Magazine project with two goals: a street car capable of a 10.99 in the quarter mile, and 1.0-G on the skidpad. Technology has done tremendous things for automotive performance over the past 32 years, but once upon a time, both figures were seemingly insurmountable. Keep in mind that in 1987, Ferrari's F40 was beat in the quarter mile by the Buick GNX to the tune of a 12.7-second run, one of the quickest of any production car, ever, at the time. Smoking that time by two seconds? My old man had his work cut out for him, to say the least. The project brought in a slew of big names, and perhaps the biggest player was responsible for the car's namesake: Keith Black, legendary American engine builder and Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee. Giving the KB Camaro its earth-turning power was a nearly 9-liter big block, with 12.5:1 pistons, roller lifters, an 850CFM Holley carb, and a bit of magic to pump out north of 650 horsepower and 750lb-ft of torque.
The Gathering of Eagles saw an interesting mix of cars arrive: A Porsche 911, a pair of Ferraris (one with a Chevy V8, no less), the original AMG Hammer, and of course, a pair of Callaway Corvettes. The shootout pit the cars head-to-head, comparing them in every aspect, but it was the the top-speed, averaging two runs in opposite directions, that stood as the deciding factor for a champion.
While I'd love for the history books to say that it was my dad that took home the crown, it was the $155,000 Callaway Top Gun Corvette that managed to average 222.4 miles per hour, just a smidge over the 216.0 my dad's second-place Camaro snagged, with only half the budged (and bested, cost wise, only by the base-model Callaway Vette that Reeves Callaway brought as a baseline. It goes to show what some of that Burroughs magic can do with a bit of ingenuity. So, if curiosity's got the best of you give the article a read, the video a watch... and Callaway, if you're reading this? Let me know when you're ready for Round 2.