Yeah, that's right, look again. This time it's OK to stare. Once you've taken a peek at Dean Strickland's Camaro, you can only react two ways. The first being all-out admiration for the level of skill, work, and creativity it took to pull off; the second being a head shake because you simply don't get it. No matter which way you react, you'll want to look and keep looking. Dean's Camaro is the perfect example of hot rodding at its finest, as it embodies every element of creativity you could imagine.
As we take a peek inside of Dean's mind, we get an idea of how he came up with such a terrific project. His family is made up entirely of hardcore gearheads, through and through. From his wife, Beth, to their children and parents, all of them almost exclusively bleed Chevy (with a Mopar or two in there for good parody). He owns and operates their successful family tattoo parlor called Xtreme Ink Slingers near his home in Reddick, Florida. There, he and Beth have been working with their family to create meticulous pieces of art without four wheels. However, when Dean shifts his mind to building cars, things can get pretty crazy. With a stable filled with classic Chevys, from trucks, Novas, and El Caminos, he was looking to add a centerpiece that would shock at shows.
The car was seen in passing sitting in someone's backyard in Bronson, Florida. "I sent my parents over one day to see if the car was for sale," he explains. "Sure enough, they were looking to get the car out of their yard and let me steal it away from them for a measly $100." Sure, it wasn't in good shape, but it was still a Florida car and didn't have much rust. After taking the F-body home, the plan to street/strip it spun into building a unique Pro Streeter. "My friends said it would be too much of a task and take too long," he recalls, "but I didn't care. I already had the idea in my head."
One of the first things you'll notice about this street freak are those gigantic rear wheels. Much like the A-10 Warthog being built around its 30mm cannon, Dean crafted his Chevy around what would be the centerpiece of his creation—the 20x18 Coy's C5 wheels out back. Yes, you just read that correctly. The wheels are 18-inches wide and wear Mickey Thompson Sportsmans in the swollen size of 29x18x20. While you may begin to chuckle a bit, bite your tongue until you know what lurks under that Goodmark cowl hood.
In 1982, the General was churning out some pathetically depressing powerplants. The carbureted 5.0 squeezed out a whole 145 hp. That's not even enough power to turn these steamrollers, so something had to be done. After contacting his friend Mike to build the new motor, a plan was put in place. A World Products Merlin III punched out to 540 ci with 345cc aluminum AFR heads acts as the heart and soul of this Camaro now. The pistons were sourced from JE while the rods and crank came from Eagle. High-quality internals and heads are worthless without the right cam, so a custom 258/266 0.647/0.647-inch Comp hydraulic roller spins inside. A single Quick Fuel 950cfm carb is bolted to an Edelbrock Victor Jr., and ingests the copious amounts of air the big-block consumes all the way up to redline. It was strapped to an engine dyno, where it climbed to 820hp and 795 lb-ft of torque.
A Lane's Transmissions Turbo 400 with a Hugh's 3300-stall converter was selected to keep things streetable. It's shifted with a trick B&M shifter that was incorporated into the custom interior. Ocala Driveline manufactured an aluminum driveshaft that feeds into the S&W Race Cars 9-inch rear that Dean put together. A set of Hooker 3-inch ceramic-coated headers spill into a custom-made 3-inch stainless exhaust fabricated by local shop Modern Muffler, and features a set of Magnaflow mufflers.
To take the car from a run-of-the-mill Camaro to something this wicked took more than just Dean's vision; it took a paint and body guy who could execute it. "I took it over to my buddy T.J. at Mayhem Customs to have him work on the body of the car," he explains. "He created this custom body kit you see here and molded it into the body."
My friends said it would be too much of a task and take too long, but I didn't care. I already had the idea in my head.
The door handles were shaved and electronic poppers were installed to give the car a certain cool factor. It's just another design element that keep those onlookers staring. After the sinister hood was lowered into place and the bodywork was finished, T.J. strapped on his mask and meticulously applied House of Kolor Candy Apple Red paint. The finish has a rich, deep look that you just want to take a bite out of.
With the outside looking snazzy, it was time for Dean to take his creativity inside. Once again, he enlisted the help of an equally talented mind to execute the ideas he was looking for inside the cabin. Daran Abella at Paulie's Custom Interior completely transformed the bland '80s cockpit to something more modern, yet interesting. The tops of both doors were redesigned with metal instead of the traditional fabric or plastic. Custom Recaro seats were bolted into position over the new carpet and are covered in custom-colored leather. Daran took Dean's ideas from his head and turned them into reality as he fabricated a totally custom dash, center stack, and console that would be sprayed in the same Candy paint as the outside. Ultra-Lite gauges were sculpted into the custom dash to achieve the classic look, yet provide Dean with all the necessary vitals from the Rat. The car now features some modern creature comforts such as Bluetooth, navigation, killer audio, and DVD screen stereo—also installed by Daran. With well over 800 ponies on tap, and quite a bit of street time, Dean enlisted Drew Buckley to come up with a rollbar system for the car that wouldn't interfere with driving comfort, yet provide the safety he needed.
Underneath the Camaro are a plethora of suspension goodies to deliver the stance, ride, and performance Dean was looking for out of his Pro Street/Race car. The front 20x7 Coys wheels are tucked into the fenders nicely with a set of 2-inch drop Belltech spindles. Lurking behind those custom powdercoated spokes are Wilwood Pro Series four-piston calipers clasping 12.19-inch rotors. A set of adjustable QA1 struts were fashioned into place with the stock A-arms and stock-style springs. "I felt that 2 inches was just the right amount of drop that I wanted," he claims.
Out back, Dean contacted S&W again, and the folks there suggested their back half kit that would convert the car to a pure four-link. This would alter the position of the factory control arms so those wide rear tires could be used with the fully tubbed wheelwells and custom narrowed 9-inch rear. All said and done, the rear suspension was lowered a total of 5 to 6 inches on the adjustable height QA1 coilovers until the exact stance was achieved. A set of matching rear Wilwoods keep the tail in check during braking.
The whole build took about a year and it would have taken longer if his family wasn't there to push him every step of the way. Needless to say from the photos, the third-gen receives almost limitless attention wherever it goes—sometimes even the police take notice. It's almost unfair to bring it to shows at this point.
Either way, it's OK to stare. Dean built the car for you to look at and for him to enjoy.