It's no secret that I'm a car nut. I'm a downright “petrol-sexual.” Specifically, a GM freak, and if I was stranded on an island with only one car, it would be a first-gen Camaro. I've had my second one now for a little over 10 years, and after the last rebuild, the editor of Camaro Performers magazine gave me the opportunity to have it honored within its pages.
I have to admit it's a bit odd to write your own feature after having written tons for others. I mean, if I'm writing about someone else's car I can use all the superlatives I want and no one bats an eye. Yet, I fear that I'll come across as conceited and arrogant if I talk the same way about my own ride.
Nick Licata, editor of this here mag, tells me, “Dude (he's always calling me 'Dude'), just write about the car and why you built it, that's all ya gotta do.” He always makes it sound so easy to pull off.
I can tell you that my infatuation with Camaros started way back in high school. My buddy Dalen Robillard and his brothers had purchased a '69 SS in pieces. Over the years they put it back together and one day they showed up to school with it sporting brand-spanking-new Kelly Green paint, a four-speed Muncie, and a big-block 454. It was the kind of motor where you can watch the gas gauge needle drop as you mash the gas pedal. That thing was bitchin. We had so many good times in that car. Dalen even let me drive it once. And despite cooking the clutch a bit, he forgave me.
From that point on I've loved Camaros. I've had this particular one since I was 21 and ended up building the car through graduate school, using most of my student loans to finance the build. In 2005, the car was pretty much done. It featured a warmly built small-block 355 with 445 hp and a T56 tranny, fancy TTII wheels, and some flashy blue paint. But all of that was just a dress rehearsal. In 2011, I was able to build the car it had always meant to be. Tom Fuehrer, a buddy from down the street and an avid SCCA racer, convinced me to try road racing. With that goal in mind it was pretty easy to determine the path that the car needed to take.
I have to admit that I still get super “jelly” when I see the big players out on the track, Mark Stielow and Mary Pozzi to name a couple. So, when I was given the chance to build the car of my dreams, I knew exactly what it had to include: an LS motor, a six-speed, mini-tubs, an uncompromising suspension, and a killer stance.
The motor part was an easy pick. I talked with the fellas at Mast Motorsports and they set me up with an LS3 with a 4.070 bore and a 4.000-inch stroke that came out to 416 cubic inches. It pumped out a solid 600 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque with the stock intake and a 90mm DBW throttle body. Mast slapped on a set of their proprietary CNC heads and a custom-ground camshaft.
Fuel delivery comes by way of a slick little (think big) aluminum gas tank from Rick's Tanks. It has a total of three fuel pickups—one on each side and one in the middle so that no matter how hard the cornering, the motor will never be starved for fuel.
I went with the strongest six-speed I could find: the Tranzilla. It's a Tremec T56 Magnum that's modified by Rockland Standard Gear. It can handle up to 1,200 hp and 1,000 lb-ft of torque. To transfer the power, I went with a RAM clutch, pressure plate, and aluminum flywheel.
With the engine and trans sorted, I needed to find a solid platform for my new combo to rest on. In went a Speed Tech Performance full front frame, complete with tubular upper and lower control arms, a massive front sway bar, a rack-and-pinion system, and then tied in a set of RideTech coilovers.