When 61-year-old John Weber was coming up, he had no money for stuff like this. Now, he's the owner of a sales company in Wichita, Kansas. Now he and his wife Judy are empty-nesters, both of their kids grown and have flown the coop. Now it was time to do something epic, like build a 1970 Z28 to his exact specification, to engage a project with a car he'd lusted after ever since the day he graduated high school. This is how John formed his M.O.
"I've always loved the look of that car...I like its looks better than the first-gen Camaros," he declared. After many, many moons, he finally kicked caution to the wind. "It took until the last five years to feel comfortable with spending the money to buy the car. I wanted [something] that would go from point A to B in a big hurry. The car had to look good...and I wanted to update the interior to something that wasn't too wild but looked very nice." He didn't want a stripper, either. This car had to have a cozy sound system to go with the aftermarket HVAC because it gets hotter than hell in Kansas.
He did all that. He wasn't fooling. He wasn't after the penultimate corner-carver or Pro Touring anything. He thinks that skinnies in front and fatties on the back provide the ultimate street visage. And he likes to mash the loud pedal—a lot. So setting the Camaro up as a potential street-spoiler was his inspiration—the look of a drag racer with the manners of a street driver. The car was "finished" in October 2012, and since then he's rolled up 1,500 on the mileage meter.
Weber plotted the campaign with the folks at Wichita Dyno, who toiled with the engine, transmission, rearend, fuel system, the electronic fuel injection, and all the rest of the mechanical work and installation. The major contractors included Billy Briggs Racing Engines, Sterling Auto Body and No Coast Customs. The schedule was straightforward: complete the bodywork and the frame/suspension rehab, and then move to the engine, transmission, and back axle. The last piece of the puzzle was the "nice looking" interior that kept flashing incandescent in his mind's eye. At the time of this report, Weber is driving the car on weekends and has only ventured to one outing, the annual Darryl Starbird Rod & Custom show in mid-January. Quite comfortable with his lone wolf persona, he claims fealty to no group or organization.
"I pretty much have the car the way I want it; there is always something that I want to change, but I really like the way it turned out," Weber beamed. Then the stark realization of how far up the creek he really was set in. "I have too much money in the car to sell it and recover. I will just drive it and enjoy it for as long as I can."
Weber hooked up with Billy Briggs Racing Engines in Walled Lake, Michigan, to produce the power module, which is based on a 416ci LS-based cylinder block. Briggs performed the requisite machining and dynamic balancing. The dimensions of the original LS3 were stretched accordingly, to a 4.070-inch bore and 4.00-inch stroke born of a high-quality Callies crankshaft and connecting rods. The Diamond 11.5:1 pistons wrapped with Total Seal ring packs are no less impressive. BBRE stuck it with a Comp hydraulic roller (0.624/251 intake, 0.624/267 exhaust at 0.050) and connected it to the crank with a GM heavy-duty timing chain. They sealed up the bottom with a stock sump. Moving upward, the LS3 cylinder heads (2.165/1.59 inch valves) were CNC-ported and machined for the PAC Racing Springs valve springs, including companion PAC titanium retainers, steel locks and spring seats. Trend pushrods and a Jesel 1.7:1 ratio shaft rocker system complete the continuum. For fuel induction, BBRE chose a GM Performance single-plane intake manifold and anointed it with FAST throttle body fuel injection and Big Stuff 3 controller and associated electronics. Wichita Dyno applied the Hedman Elite long-tubes and constructed a full-length 3-inch system punctuated by Flowmaster 50-series silencers. The wizards at Wichita tuned and finessed until the 416 made 502 lb-ft of grunt at 5,300 rpm and 595 horsepower at 6,800 rpm. To make the best of this largesse, Wichita Dyno put an Ultimate Converter torque converter ahead of the vaunted Rossler Transmissions 4L80E. For the driveshaft, Dyno called Inland Truck Parts in Wichita to prepare the vital link to the 12-bolt axle that they'd endowed with an Eaton traction device and 4.11:1 gears. Light 'em up, Mr. Weber!
Weber surely wanted to upgrade the Camaro's underpinnings and Wichita Dyno concocted a fitting package from several vendors. For the main components, they chose a complete BMR system that contains a torque arm, tubular control arms, front and rear anti-sway bars plus the necessary bracing. The back springs are Calvert Racing Split Mono-Leaf and wheel motion is damped by air shocks. The rebuilt front suspension features QA1 coilovers with a range of adjustability. Notice that Camaro doesn't sit much lower than it did when it rolled off the Norwood, Ohio, assembly line.
Wheels & Brakes
Decidedly old-school but absolutely necessary for the aura John wanted to create, he couldn't escape the inevitable 15-inch wheels. To that end, he applied 15x6 Weld Racing RT-S rims with M/T 26.0/4.5-15 ET Front rubber and backed it with 10-inchers in the rear that capture 275/60 ET Street stickies. Though the brakes are stock, Dyno demonstratively amplified their performance with a Hydratech power system.
Paint & Body
To prep the Camaro for its street clothes, Sterling Autobody in freeway-close Wichita, stripped the shell down, cut out and replaced the rust behind the front wheel wells and rebuilt the grille section. Sterling leaned back and shot the PPG Shadow Gray paint (original code 17) and finished the job with complimentary black stripes.
Though Weber originally sought a mostly stock appearance for the Camaro's gut, things naturally got a little out of hand once the transformation was underway. No Coast Customs in Wichita built a custom dashboard and gauge panel (Auto Meter Phantom dials), a console that extends through the rear seats and on to the deck area, new door panels, LED accent lighting, 3-point retractable seat belts, and custom air vents to service the Classic Auto Air HVAC system. Weber twirls a LeCarra steering wheel. No Coast modified the Recaro buckets and molded the rear seat into individual buckets as well and aptly covered the tract with a tasty combination of Ultraleather and suede. If you have A/C you might as well go the hog on the audio phase as well. At the front of the cockpit, a Kenwood head unit and then a catalog of Rockford Fosgate equipment (in the doors), 6x9-inch speaker in the modified deck, P3 10-inch subwoofer and a 5-channel punch amp so Weber can hear it over that motor winging at 6,800.