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1971 Chevy Camaro - Jail Break!

Tim Bowler Busted his Camaro out of Paint Jail and has Been Living the Pro Touring Dream Ever Since

Stephen Kim Aug 13, 2013
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If the hot rodding bug had a cool binomial name, it would be best described by the fake latin phrase Projectacarus Stagnatitus. This is the wicked syndrome where a project car sits stagnant for years on end because of some silly sentimental attachment plaguing the car owner, common sense be damned. When progress comes to a halt, a lack of time, money, or motivation are all likely culprits, but the end result is an expensive pile of dusty parts. Tim Bowler’s project could have very easily met a similar fate, but he’s a man that has foresight and pragmatism on his side. By managing adversity like a thinking man instead of a sentimental fool, today he rips through the autocross in an LS-powered, four-linked ’71 Camaro instead of watching from the sidelines in a lawn chair.

As a kid who grew up racing go-karts and Late Model stock cars on dirt ovals, Tim’s always needed to satiate his fix for going fast around corners. When he couldn’t fit in a go-kart anymore, Tim started looking for an adult-sized solution. A lifelong Camaro fanatic, it seemed natural to combine both of his passions. "I have always loved Camaros, but most of the ones I had seen in the past were built Pro Street style. Then at a show one day, I saw a second-gen Camaro with a mean stance and big wheels and tires, and decided right there that I had to build one too," Tim recalls. "Back in 2007, a friend of mine wrecked his ’70 Camaro. I bought it off of him, took it back home, and replaced almost every single panel on it. Two years later, it was up and running with an LS small-block and a Tremec T56 transmission. Unfortunately, every single paint shop around me was backlogged for a year."

At this point, Tim could have done what most hot rodders would have done—fart around on the couch waiting in queue or trade some hillbilly a six-pack to paint his car in a barn. Instead, he came up with a more creative solution. "When a shop tells you it’s going to take them a year to paint your car, that means it’s really going to take two years. I didn’t want to get stuck in paint jail, so I started looking for another car," Tim explains. "I found a very nice ’71 Z28 online that already had a straight body and a very nice paintjob. I bought it and swapped all the parts onto it off of my other Camaro. Then I sold the ’70 Camaro for $5,000 as a rolling chassis and used that money to finish up my new car."

The genius in Tim’s scheme is that his new Camaro required no paint, body, or interior restoration work whatsoever. Right off the bat, he ripped out the tired Gen I small-block for a Scoggin-Dickey L92 crate motor. While the long-block is mostly stock, it has been hopped up a bit with a cold-air induction system, an LS3 intake manifold, and Stainless Works headers. The L92 is essentially the same motor found in the Cadillac Escalade, but since Tim didn’t want to fiddle around with the variable valve timing system, he swapped out the stock camshaft for a Chevrolet Performance 226/236-at-.050 hydraulic roller. Thanks to the ridiculous airflow provided by GM’s outstanding rectangle-port aluminum cylinder heads, the simple-yet-potent combo lays down 435 rear-wheel horsepower on the dyno. A Tremec six-speed trans and a Moser 9-inch rearend divert the power to the ground.

To make sure the second-gen has enough stick to match its grunt, Tim installed SPC control arms up front and ripped out the factory leaf springs for a RideTech four-link suspension in the rear. Hotchkis subframe connectors and cowl braces stiffen up the chassis and Detroit Speed Inc. coilovers provide the damping at each corner. Granted that Tim’s no stranger to hustling around corners, but he quickly discovered that circle track habits die hard. "Learning how to turn left and right is a whole new world for me. You definitely have to recalibrate your approach to driving," says Tim. "Karting teaches you great car control, but going from a 500-pound car that has no power to a 3,000-pound car with 500 horsepower is a whole different ballgame. This car is a kick in the ass to drive."

So far the second-gen has proven extremely formidable in combat, and over the past two years Tim has been hammering on the Camaro hard in the autocross. At the Goodguys Lone Star Nationals last spring, Tim ran in the Top 10 on the autocross all weekend long. Always looking for more performance, future plans call for upgrading to a RideTech front suspension system and taking some weight off the nose of the car. Like a true hot rodder, Tim is having a whale of a time trying to up his game while smoking out the weak links in the chassis setup. Any way you slice it, powersliding through a sea of cones sure beats waiting around for your paint guy and clinging onto a stagnant project car. If Tim didn’t make the call to move on from his first Camaro project, he’d still be farting around on the couch.

Tech Check
Owner: Tim Bowler, Sorrento, Louisiana
Vehicle: 1971 Chevrolet Camaro

1971 Chevy Camaro Rear 8/11

Type: GM L92 small-block
Displacement: 376 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Bore: 4.065 inches
Stroke: 3.622 inches
Cylinder Heads: Factory GM rectangle-port aluminum castings
Rotating Assembly: Stock
Valvetrain: Stock
Camshaft: Chevrolet Performance 226/236-at-.050 hydraulic roller; .525/.525-inch lift; 110-degree LSA
Intake: Factory GM LS3 intake manifold, throttle body
Ignition: Stock GM coil packs, plug wires
Exhaust: Street and Performance headers, custom 3-inch X-pipe, dual Spintech mufflers
Output: 435 rear-wheel hp

Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed manual
Rear Axle: Moser 9-inch rearend with 3.73:1 gears and Truetrac differential

Steering: Stock
Front Suspension: SPC control arms, DSE coilovers
Rear Suspension: RideTech four-link, DSE coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front; 12.2-inch rotors and four-piston calipers, rear

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline ZX3 18x8, front; 18x12, rear
Tires: BFGoodrich 245/40-18, front; 335/30-18, rear

Seats: Corbeau
Carpet: GM Black
Shifter: Twist Machine

Paint: PPG Midnight Blue
Hood: Goodmark 3-inch cowl



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