When Dennis Patterson retired from racing Super Late Models, he didn't take a step back, he simply went in a "different direction." Inspired by his former '72 Camaro, and the Hotchkis Suspension Camaro project car of similar vintage, Patterson casually kept his eye open for a suitable 1970-'73 Camaro to become the first serious musclecar build of his life. An RS Split Bumper version would be an exceptionally nice catch.
Though not completely overlooked, it's safe to say that the 1970.5 to 1973 Camaros have taken a distant second place to the golden-boy '67-'69 Camaros. The eleven-year run of the second-generation Camaros might have made even the good looking '70-'73 chrome bumper versions a bit long in the tooth. However, when one is built "right," it not only grabs attention, it presents great possibilities for someone looking to build a unique bowtie. This genuine '72 RS car was purchased through an eBay Motors auction for the bargain price of $2,200.
The '72 Camaro Dennis had owned after his high school years was the plane-jane front end with the lowly 307, and a three-speed stick. Somehow, that blank space between the headlight and grille never looked right, and that full length bumper on the base Camaro seriously interrupted the view of one of the most dramatic grille openings ever produced by Chevrolet. The idea was not simply to replace a high school ride. More accurately, Patterson wanted to take a car that he liked and update it, modernize it with the best the aftermarket has to offer. The vision was to build the ultimate expression of a particular body style, and create a whole new persona for that car. The newly acquired '72 RS split bumper front end, clearly the more sought after look for that car, was now safely awaiting transformation at his Madera, California home. Soon it would be Split Bumper splendor, and it would be built by Dennis, at home, in his garage! Dennis Patterson works for Classic Soft Trim, a company that sells interior parts to OEM manufacturers and restoration suppliers. Dennis' job includes a more recent venture on the part of Classic Soft Trim to build Special Edition Vehicles for major car companies considering limited edition runs. Dennis supervised the build of the awesome Hot Wheels Ford Focus that debuted at SEMA a couple years back, and now resides in the Petersen Museum. Dennis also worked with Toyota and Toyota Racing Development to produce and build the ultimate Sequoia (yes, an SUV) by adding all the right suspension pieces, interior electronics, and supercharged performance. It's safe to say that Dennis was more than qualified to build a car using the finest pieces available.
Dennis completely disassembled the original RS California car and built it from the ground up. The undercarriage was thoroughly blasted and cleaned. Many suspension pieces were powdercoated, including the entire 10-bolt housing. The 10-bolt was filled with 3.73 gears and an Eaton Posi-traction unit. For ultimate handling, Dennis chose the complete Hocthkis Performance TVS Suspension kit. The TVS system includes Sport Coils with a 2.5-inch drop, Sport sway bars, heavy-duty tie-rod sleeves, and Sport leaf springs. Bilstein shocks were also a part of the package Dennis ordered from Hotchkis. Needless to say, the car drives like it's on rails.
Dennis wanted to keep the heritage of the Camaro intact, but update it. The new Weld Forged Cragar SS wheels accomplish that goal as well as any wheel on the market. After installing the Hotchkis suspension, Dennis was able to put an eleven-inch rim into the stock wheelwells without mini-tubbing the car. The rear Weld Forged Cragar SSs measure 17x11 with a 6-inch offset and mount Toyo Proxes 275/40R17 meats. About half of the wheel lip was trimmed to avoid rubbing, but no further work was required. The fronts are 17x8 with a 4.5-inch offset and Toyo Proxes 245/40R17s that fit with no problem at all. Since the wheels provide a good look at the brakes, Dennis chose Stainless Steel Disc Brakes all around, with a Wilwood proportioning valve for adjustability. In order to tighten up the chassis for optimum handling, Competition Engineering subframe connectors were installed by the owner.
Moving this spectacular split bumper along is a 383 small-block estimated at 440 horsepower with 475 ft.-lbs. of torque. Built by A.R. Racing in Richmond, Virginia, the stroker motor features an Eagle steel crankshaft and Keith Black 9.8 to 1 pistons. Valve motion is supplied by Competition Cams with .520-inch lift and 226 degrees duration. The Edelbrock Performer Aluminum heads have been ported allowing the 1.6 roller rockers to keep the 2.02-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves on the job. Exhaust exits via the Hedman Tork Step headers, 2.5-inch pipes and Dynamax mufflers. Helping the motor to fire properly, Dennis chose a Mallory Distributor. On top, the polished Edelbrock RPM intake is home for an Edelbrock 750 cfm carb. A K&N air cleaner properly sanitizes the breathing. Dennis reports that the car really likes the Muncie M22 transmission and Hurst shifter. A McLeod clutch, flywheel and bellhousing package make shifting a bulletproof combination.
As vice president of Classic Soft Trim, Dennis was well versed in making the interior as up-to-date as any SEMA showcar. Distinctive Industries handled the custom upholstery, which features black leather with '69 Camaro style silver inserts in the Sparco seats. Leather covered door panels and console tie the interior together nicely. Trenz of Bakersfield, California, supplied the beautiful Billet steering wheel, which was wrapped in matching black leather by Distinctive Industries. The Trenz billet custom gauge cluster became home to a slew of Autometer gauges, while maintaining the factory look. Tunes are supplied by a Rockford Fosgate stereo system with a 351S 350-watt amp.
In order to get this split-bumper car sparkling, Dennis chose the non-metallic Chrome Yellow from House of Kolor. Body work for the car was handled by the owner himself, because in his words, "I love to build them." The cowl hood from Classic Industries looks right at home under the black Z28 stripes. Dennis located the short style rear Z28 spoiler that is an absolute necessity to completing the look of this car. When it came time to spray the car, a mobile home canopy was purchased, the canopy was attached to the side of Dennis' house, portable fans were inserted, and the car received its new hue. Dust was not a big problem, but the Southern California heat was a definite challenge. The look of this car was topped off in magnificent fashion by the one-off billet grille built by Trenz using the exact dimensions of the stock grille for the openings. Dennis wanted to especially thank his wife, Irma, good friend Brian Jones, and John Hotchkis for the invaluable help and assistance. Everything was handled by the owner in first-rate fashion and driven by a passion to build an exciting, up-to-date musclecar. Though painting the car in a mobile home canopy next to his house will certainly bring back fond memories, Dennis has plans for a new shop to be the home for his next project, a 1968 Mustang Fastback that promises to be as striking and as owner-built as this Camaro, the "first of a few more to come."