As Marc Bodero approaches his 30th year, he reflects on the cars he's had. At first it was imports, lightweight weapons like the Civic Si, Corrado SLC (supercharged), and the '70 BMW 2002ti, all of them exponents of agile handling, exemplary road manners, and almost enough grunt to get him in trouble. Though woefully underpowered compared to a muscle car, they were the instruments that taught him about vehicle dynamics, where power matched the capability of the chassis. There were others, of course, but he never forgot what he learned from those experiences. Now, he makes his living as a master tech at a BMW dealership.
Somewhere along the line, a paradigm shift occurred, a change in his way of thinking. After seeing his high school buds laying rubber and taking names with their deep-throated American muscle, Marc went domestic.
It was then he found a '74 Camaro, straight body and a straight-six motor. He sold the Honda for $5,000 and bought the Camaro for less than half that. His parents weren't happy but they saw the joy in him and let it pass. He'd had an excellent argument, too. He'd use the car as his senior project. Ostensibly, the theme was how the trials and adversity of the project had helped him grow. Marc embraced an entirely different agenda. That was in 1999.
He'd be growing his muscle car. He tore the straight-six asunder, sliding a 355 ci and a Turbo 350 in its stead. He fixed the 10-bolt with an Eaton differential, for there was much rubber to burn and a peg leg would have royally sucked. He covered it in suede and drove the hell out of it. Then fate stepped right in front of him. Three months before he was to reveal his assignment, "Some nice guy decided to run into my car-when I had the right-of-way!" Adding salt to the wound, his insurance only paid out a whopping $2,500 for his rumpled mess.
The project deadline loomed like a buzzard on his roof. He began a frantic search but soon found the car in a trailer camp. The 3 inches of water in the trunk hosted a mosquito theme park. The "interior" was crushed velvet. Marc was happy. "It had a six-cylinder, too, but it didn't matter because I still had the wreck in my garage and knew I could pirate almost everything I needed for the new car." Enter good friend Bill McCool. "I built 90 percent of the Camaro myself with Bill's help and guidance," Marc declared. But certainly, life wasn't that simple. "I had an after-school job, a girlfriend, and was relying on buddies for rides to school."
Marc and McCool thrashed for two solid months, mostly at night. "I learned a lot during that whole process and was able to finish the car with a week to spare. I got an 'A' for my effort and got to drive the car for the last month of school. When I look at those photos from 1999 today I'm amazed at how far it's come. It's on its fourth motor, third transmission, and second rearend."
Always hungry and always inspired, Marc continued to refine his ride, mostly with a straight-line, dragstrip vibe, but a lot can transpire in 10 years, including dispositions about what the car was meant to represent then and what it is now. For the past two years, the Pro Touring ethic has eaten its way beneath our protagonist's epidermis. Since then, he's made the shift, happier to cruise around with his wife Lara and their young ones, Chenoa and Kylee, than rattle the citizenry with boom, smoke, and fire.
"I have to thank my car because it pushed me and gave me the confidence to work at a profession that has supported my family and recently afforded me to buy a house. I'm just glad that my girls have great interest in it and are never short of questions about how things work, and show me what someone can do on their own if they want it badly enough. I think I could build it all over again for $18-20K." Young guns, please take notice.
Pistons And Gears
That fabled 350 ci swelled up like a sow's belly, displacing a sumptuous 406 ci. McCool and Marc did the build after Performance Products in Phoenix, completed the necessary block work and balancing the rotating assembly. The plan was moderation; big displacement for a vivid low-end and just enough stick to let it breathe well on the top. Keith Black hypereutectic pistons with Total Seal ring packs squeeze up a compression ratio of 10.35:1 with Trick Flow Super 23 195 CNC-profiled combustion chambers holding 2.02/1.60 valves. A Scat nodular iron crankshaft and Scat forged rods hold up the bottom end. A semi-bumpy stick was in their thoughts, too, a Comp Cams flat tappet XE284H-10 hydraulic sporting 240/246 degrees duration at 0.050 and a lift of 0.507/0.510-inch. Complementary equipment includes Comp valvesprings, pushrods, and 1.6:1 roller rocker arms. Pushrod guides, retainers, and locks are Trick Flow items. A Moroso sump, windage tray, and pump do the oiling and return via a Chevy truck oil cooler. Fuel is atomized by a 750-cfm Race Demon carburetor and dispersed through the tunnels of an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold. High voltage rips from an MSD 6A box; gases resultant are sucked away by Hooker Super Comp headers measuring 17/8x30 inches. Though rarely invoked, Marc's got a button for the NOS Super Power Shot juice system worthy of 100-150 hp. On the pump, the big little-block produced 503.5 hp at 5,900 rpm and 496.6 lb-ft of grunt at 4,450 rpm. Though he aims to feature an overdriven 700-R4 to bring his car in compliance with the Pro Touring shtick, Marc currently runs a manual shift Turbo 350 and a 10-inch B&M Holeshot converter with a 3,200-rpm stall speed. Transmission fluid courses through a Flex-A-Lite cooler. South Bay Driveline made him a custom driveshaft (that passes through a Marc-built driveshaft safety loop) to transfer torque to the 10-bolt (3.42:1 gears, Eaton differential, and Moser axleshafts) that was once beneath a WS6 Firebird. With the old 3.90:1 gears, Marc's 3,700-pound car ripped off a best quarter-mile of 11.44.
Rubber And Steel Vintage Wheel Works V40 alloys, with media-blasted spiders and machined lips, seem the perfect complement to the Camaro's dusky suit. The "littles" are 17x8 with 255/45 BFG g-Force Sports. The "bigs" are 17x9.5, turning 295/45 Mickey Thompson Street Radial II stickies. Peeking from behind those spokes, are stock front calipers and R1 Concepts 11.01-inch front and 11.45 rear discs. The back brakes came with the WS6 axle and utilize drilled and slotted R1 Concept rotors.
When Marc was fixing the sheetmetal and tending to the former mosquito theme park, he shaved all the script and sundry markings from the body. Brett at Capitol Auto Body in San Jose, California, finished the sheetmetal and applied DuPont single-stage blue and the contrasting Z28 accents to the decklid and the 3-inch cowl hood.
On The Dark Side
Bodero and McCool tempered the chassis with Hotchkis front and rear lowering springs, homemade subframe connectors, and accompanying Bilstein shock valving. They also relocated the mounting points for the rear shock absorbers to the inside of the frame for tire clearance. Wheelhop is doused by Competition Engineering Slide-A-Link traction bars. The steering is manual.
Marc padded the interior with a field of vinyl, up the doors and over the Scat Procar Rally Series 1000 buckets and matching bench. Fat lap belts replace the OE strips, otherwise the theme is a return-to-stock but accented by a Grant steering wheel and a gauge cluster built by the owner to house a gaggle of Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges. Climate control is by open window but the sound system is a bit more sophisticated-Pioneer head/CD player and Polk speakers. There's a roll-control button within easy reach on the shifter and Marc arms the juice system by flipping a switch next to the radio. His right hand is on the B&M Pro Bandit ratchet.