Like most of us gearheads during our high school years, Mike Reckley remembers many of his friends driving modern muscle cars—cars that performed well from a driveability and handling standpoint but lacked immensely in the "looks" department. "I preferred the classic lines of the '60's and '70's muscle cars," states Mike. "All through high school and college, I had dreams of figuring out how to upgrade classic cars to handle like modern sports cars."
Years after the education process Mike's dream of owning a classic hot rod came to fruition via this 1967 Camaro. What started out as a few simple upgrades turned into a five-year overhaul. Not uncommon, stories like this are a fairly regular occurrence in the muscle car world.
Mike purchased the car in the spring of 2005 for what would have been a fair price had the car been exactly what it appeared to be from the exterior's standpoint. Unfortunately, as Mike dug into the car a little, hidden problems were exposed from various subpar backyard repairs to the body, brakes, engine, transmission, wiring, and cooling system. These not only added extra work but increased Mike's frustration as he tried to execute his simple upgrades. But like most of us hot rodders, Mike wasn't about to shy away from a challenge. It was on!
"With a lot of work in the balance, the initial plan was to improve the front suspension, steering, brakes, and rebuild the engine," tells Mike. "It was about that time I stumbled across the lateral-g.net website where I discovered new parts from a company called Detroit Speed and Engineering. I couldn't believe it; others were doing what I had thought about for years. This changed everything."
With Mike excited about the car's Pro Touring build direction, finding a qualified shop to perform the work wasn't going so well. "I couldn't find a shop with the experience to do the upgrades I wanted," said Mike. "And when I did come across an able shop, the money they wanted to do the job was out of my budget, so I decided to do the work myself."
Mike teamed up with his dad, Fred, a mechanical engineer and former sprint car engine builder, to move forward with the upgrades. Starting with the bodywork, Mike and Fred were introduced to a host of reckless sheetmetal repairs done by the previous owner. Fortunately, the less-than-adequate work was done with OEM GM panels so the plan was to salvage those pieces since he knew the fitment would be precise. With a new MIG welder at the ready, Mike and Fred began correctly re-installing the quarters. He even went as far as to build a body fixture to ensure the framerails were put back to GM specs. From there the duo grafted in a new roof panel, floorpans, outer wheeltubs, DSE mini-tubs, subframe connectors, smooth firewall, and more—all in Mike's three-car garage. Talk about ambitious—the Reckley's were on a roll.
With the bodywork healing process taken care of, a modern engine with serious horsepower was next on their to-do list. Fred went ahead and assembled a killer 402ci LS2 stuffed with a forged rotating assembly featuring a K1 crank, Wiseco 10.6:1 pistons, GM LS3 heads and pushrods, and a COMP LS2 cam (0.607/0.621 lift and 219/235 duration at 0.050-inch). Fuel and air distribution comes by way of a GM LS3 intake manifold and fuel injectors, while a CTS-V VaporWorx fuel pump provides ample amounts of swill. Air introduction comes via a K&N element and custom-fabbed Speedkraft inlet tube and housing. Not entirely happy with the stock routing, Mike rebuilt a pair of 1 7⁄8-inch stainless headers, fabbed up a 3-inch X-pipe exhaust system, and topped off the ensemble with 3-inch MagnaFlow mufflers. The final reward is 550 hp at 6,500 rpm and 500 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. That's ample giddy-up to get this pony car around town, cones, and a quick exit of any apex Mike comes upon.
As is the case with the majority of Pro Touring builds, a manual trans is the best option for performance in an autocross or road course environment, so a Tremec T-56 got the nod with the clutch and pressure plate sourced from an 2006 GTO. A 3-inch aluminum Dynotech driveshaft sends twist to a Ford 9-inch rearend armed with a Detroit Truetrac and 3.70:1 gears.
To accommodate Mike's early aspirations of building a handling vintage Camaro, he joined the efforts of ATS 1-inch drop spindles and DSE tubular A-arms up front and employed a full DSE QUADRALink rear suspension system out back. Koni shocks on all four corners smooth the ride with stopping duties handed over to '06 Z06 Corvette brakes front and rear.
Forgeline ZX3S wheels (18x9 front, 18x11 rear) sporting polished hoops and gray centers accent Mike's vision while framing up the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 (265/35-18 front, 315/30-18 rear) rubber.
The interior embraces a race car attitude fused with a comfortable Pro Touring scene where a duo of black Recaro seats and a set of RJS four-point harnesses are at the ready while Mike steers the Sparco suede-wrapped steering wheel. A custom-built Speedkraft rollcage provides Mike additional confidence when the bar is raised and offers a bonus round of chassis stiffness at the same time. A Speedhut Revolution tach, speedo, and fuel gauge populate the custom-fabricated steel dash, while Drew Technologies' DashDaq modernizes the scene and illuminates with additional vital properties and crucial information. Add in the Vintage Air A/C unit and Mike is cruising in a comfy climate regardless of the outside world's offerings.
With the Camaro's new lease on life, Mike took the once wounded warrior to Bill Utley at B&B Classics in Ortonville, Michigan, for final bodywork and a luscious slathering of PPG Lamborghini Titanium Metallic pigment. The Bumper Boyz did their magic on the chrome while GT Performance Coatings powdercoated the necessary ancillaries.
It was a five-year project sidetracked by miscellaneous rust, faulty welds, and mountains of body filler, but the outcome of this ultra sanitary 1967 speaks for itself in appearance and functionality.
We asked Mike what his most memorable moment with the car is to date. "Finally driving the car out to some Pro Touring events was great, but getting to road race the car at Gingerman Raceway was the absolute best," an excited Mike replied. "It's a good feeling to drive the car hard and have it perform to our expectations. My dad and I put a lot of heart and soul into this build, and we look forward to getting it out a much as possible."
With a wealth of knowledge coming out of this build, Mike and his dad took their passion of taking vintage muscle to the next level and decided to use their experience to start Speedkraft, a small performance business they hope to grow into a full-scale shop. "I'd like to be able to provide all the services I was originally looking for when I started my project," said Mike. "Currently, through a few small builds, our little business helps me fund my addiction to Pro Touring cars and getting out to track events."
If Mike and Fred continue turning out quality rides like their initial build, they'll have no trouble finding themselves behind the wheel of a large-scale shop. And that wouldn't be a bad gig for a starry-eyed high school kid who at one time only dreamed of putting modern performance parts into classic cars.