The Pro Touring shtick continues to inflame us like the pages of a pulp novel, and from the reports we have written over the past two years there seems no end to it. Indeed, many cars featured on these pages are formulaic, routinely outfitted with the hottest suspension and powertrain modules. People see what the usual suspects are using to win certain categories at Pro Touring festivals and are preternaturally drawn to assume the same build pattern with their own cars.
Steve Martin subscribes to that Pro Touring vibe, too, but as a workingman, his funds weren’t unlimited. So just like most of us would, he did all the work in his home garage, ably abetted by his wife, Linda, and good friend and metal man, Troy. Steve was prolific. He managed everything, save for the interior construction and actual application of paint, in the solace of his man cave. Relationships with a half-dozen F-bodies had prepared him for the mental and physical hit.
And didn’t he have the schedule right from the very start? He found his bride and bought his house before even thinking about messing with hot rods. And wasn’t the payback beautiful? “I do need to thank my wife, Linda, for the support that she gave,” Steve gushes. “She actually bought a lot of the parts without me knowing. I would just show her things that I wanted to buy but did not really want to spend the money on and she would just surprise me.” (Wow, don’t we love this girl!) Halfway through the project, the Martins discovered they were pregnant. Ever the brilliant husband, Steve elected to stop work on the Camaro for months at a time and to always be available.
As for the Camaro, he didn’t want to inherit someone else’s problem. He wanted a car that he could make his own and it worked out that way. A coworker tipped him to the ’67, which turned out to be a donor car. But the body looked pretty solid. He gave the man a grand and dragged it home. He stripped it down to a roller and found some nasty stuff. There were patches of Bondo and the typical small rust issues at the backlight surround, but on the main it was a solid buy. Steve did the work and got guidance from his bud at Troy’s Body & Paint in Tracy, California. He and Troy proceeded to apply the replacement metal as well, welding up and smoothing every seam in sight.
For the ancillary systems, Steve simply extrapolated vehicle weight and engine output to design suspension and braking that would accommodate his notions and nothing more. For him it was simply a matter of what he needed to get the job done. And more importantly, this Camaro would not be a lounge lizard awakened only in time for the next autocross flog. Nope. Steve would be driving his car on a regular basis.
After a more than four-year gestation, the Camaro was finished in May 2005. And as of Christmas 2011, the silver bullet has received more than 30 awards. The next big appearance will be at Run To The Coast that terminates on thousands of splendid acres of concrete, tarmac, and 10,000-foot runways at the defunct Marine base in El Toro, California.
Alright, time to close the hood on this fantasy. C’mon now, what are those famous last words again Steve? “This car has exceeded all my expectations and is a blast to drive.” Yes!
One of Ben Smeding’s finest twirls in the engine bay, a run-forever 383 crate that makes 460 hp at 5,500 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The motor stands on a nodular iron crank, hypereutectic slugs, and steel connecting rods, has 9.8:1 compression, and ported Edelbrock Performer RPM cylinder heads with Manley 2.02/1.60 valves and COMP springs. The COMP hydraulic roller (234 degrees duration at 0.050, 0.521-inch lift) bumps Scorpion roller rocker arms with COMP swizzle sticks. Much closer to the ground is a Melling high-volume pump and a 5-quart steel sump. The fuel system is founded on an Edelbrock Air-Gap manifold hosting a 750 Speed Demon carburetor drawing through a K&N filter element. Ye old faithful MSD Pro Billet distributor and 6AL box manufacture the zap. Coated Hooker Super Comps extract the brown junk and expel it through a 21/2-inch-diameter Dynomax system. A Bowtie Overdrives 700-R4 provides the vital link as well as an 11-inch converter with a 2,400-stall speed. Tracy Driveline Service built an aluminum prop shaft to ensure the experience. Steve found an F-body 12-bolt that would fit and staffed it with C-clip eliminators, an Eaton Positraction, and 3.73:1 gears.
Prior to the soft stuff, Steve rewired the Camaro with a Painless outfit. He installed Dakota Digital instruments and acquired a radio delete plate. To prepare the scene, JD Daniels Auto Upholstery in Stockton, California, installed a field of cut-pile carpeting (including trunk). They restructured the bench to simulate bucket seating and then swathed it and the Corbeau seats with sleek, two-tone black leather. The lap belts are RJS. Steve retained the factory console, outfitted the pedals with some bright billet bits, included electric window lifts, and stuck a Billet Specialties Fast Lane tiller on the tilt steering column. No audio needed.
The body went immediately to rotisserie. Floorpans, rocker panels, and firewall were all in good shape, limiting hard amendments to the rear quarters, light panel, and window filler panel. Steve and Troy also re-skinned the doors and added a ZL2 cowl hood and a somewhat familiar deck spoiler. Before Troy misted it all with PPG two-stage, two-tone silver/charcoal, he coated the underside of the car in gloss black.
We like that Steve’s approach doesn’t mimic the expected and that it’s even a little old school. Before there were completely restructured frames and subframes already outfitted with the right components and infused with specific geometry, you mixed and matched with what the market offered. The OE front subframe was powdercoated to match the body color. From there, it accumulated Global West upper and lower control arms, a QA1 coilover conversion, Hotchkis antisway bar, and an AGR 12:1 power steering box. Competition Engineering frame connectors add torsional stiffness. In the rear, Steve pulled a move retro, retaining the leaf-spring suspension as prescribed by Hotchkis. Axle movement is damped by QA1 adjustable shock absorbers. Before he quit, Steve put another Hotchkis bar in the back.
For nth-degree handling, it is essential to limit unsupported or unsprung weight, e.g., brakes and wheels. The lighter these components, the less spring rate required. Steve bucked the big-brake braggadocio with conservative but balanced Wilwood 12.19-inch diameter rotors and four-piston calipers at all corners of the car. After using them for six years, he still sees no reason to go any larger. Rather than the usual Michelin mondo skins, Steve chose 245/45 and 275/40 BFGoodrich KDW stickies and put them on 18x8 and 18x9.5 Rushforth Whiplash hoops. CHP