Mike Xuereb, out of the San Francisco Bay Area, doesn't cycle through cars like many of us do. He's had the same project for the last 14 years. This 1967 RS Camaro came to his family when Mike was 15 years old; being 30 now, the Camaro was a huge part of his life. His dad, Bob, bought the car for commuting back in 1998 for $1,500, a great price for a factory original RS model. After driving it for a year, Bob traded it to a co-worker for some stupid truck, as Mike remembered it. Mike was absolutely heartbroken. He hoped it was going to be his car when he could drive, and couldn't believe his dad would let it go so easily. Lucky for the both of them, the Camaro broke down on the co-worker and he wanted his truck back. Bob gladly accepted the now broken down Camaro for the truck he traded because he knew how much the car meant to Mike. As predicted, his dad gave him the Camaro to work on as a father-son project. Nervous that a trade or sale was in the Camaro's future, again, Mike insisted on paying for the car, that way it couldn't be taken out from under him. Dad, being the good guy he is, refused his son's money and told him to save it for parts.
Mike's summer job as a curb painter earned him some extra money, so he and his dad could pick things up at car shows and swap meets for the build. He would also gather ideas on how to put it together and the team would make it happen. They tackled all of the rust and body damage first. Based on what the pair knew about the car, it had the typical wear for a car that's survived the decades.
Only a couple years would go by before Mike was old enough to take the project on himself. He was going to school while working part time at a mechanic shop to squirrel away money earmarked for the Camaro. The job sparked an interest in Mike and inspired him to take a machining class in high school, where he was able to put his first engine together. He built, with adult supervision, a 383ci stroker small-block Chevy. The engine held up great to the young enthusiast's abuse over the next couple years, but Mike tired of the sluggish performance.
He turned to Dave's Engine Machine Shop of Newark, California, to build him something built for boost that would entertain him for more than a couple years. While that was being assembled, Mike turned his attention to the rest of the car. Since just being able to accelerate in a straight line hasn't been super impressive for quite a while, Mike needed to make sure it could do it all. It had to go, stop, turn, and work flawlessly. That's when he filled the undercarriage with a completely adjustable suspension, upgraded to a four-wheel disc brake system, and an interior that had all the necessary instrumentation to keep track of things. He did all of the installation work himself from the tubular control arms to the headliner, but he knew when to hand the car over to the experts. He had Bill at Gallis Truck and Performance bend and weld up an 8-point roll cage then shipped it out to Grand Collision Center in Hayward, California. There, they painted the Camaro to Mike's specifications with wider-than-stock Z/28 stripes and custom Porshe RS fender decals sunk into the clear from the dealership Mike works at.
Post-paint assembly went quickly and smoothly since Mike did all the preparation ahead of time. The two-car garage was all the space he needed to get the car back together for his first car show in 2011. He parked at the same spot at the Pleasanton, California, Goodguys show every time. He hasn't gotten an award for his efforts, but the satisfaction of recognition from car show patrons and friends was more than enough reward for him. A little feature in Chevy High Performance magazine doesn't hurt either. Mike also went on to say that he couldn't have gotten through the final push without the help of Dave's Engine Machining, Grand Collision Center, Gallis truck and Performance, and CVR Customs Motorsports.
Engine & Drivetrain
Mike started with a seasoned 4-bolt main block from the 1980s, and took it to Dave's Engine Machining in Newark, California. There they punched it 0.030-inches over and dropped in a 3.750-inch forged stroker crank from Lunati. JE forged pistons with heat coated skirts connected to Lunati H-beam rods produce 8:1 compression in this small-block. AFR port matched 210cc runner heads with polished 64cc chambers were the perfect match for the heavy breather. He chose a COMP Cams solid roller camshaft with 0.608/0.578-inch lift and 242/248-degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift driven by a Jessel belt drive timing set. The rest of the valvetrain is completed with custom hardened pushrods, Isky Endurance Plus springs, Jessel shaft-mount rockers, and a set of AFR valves. Atop the long block is a matched-port Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake and a Stage 2 blow-through Holley 750-cfm Double Pumper. All of this base work was in preparation for the pièce de résistance, a Vortech YSi blower with a streetable 7-psi setup, for now. The heat generated dissipates through an intercooler system Mike built one piece at a time. In order to keep the oil temperatures, blower feed, and pressure under control, Mike used a Moroso 8-quart pan with a high-volume pump and deep pickup to match. Spark is managed by an MSD 6AL ignition control box, Pro-Billet distributor, Blaster 2 coil, and a set of Moroso race plug wires. In addition to needing sufficient spark, this blown small block needed sufficient fuel supply as well. He handled the need with an Aeromotive A1000 pump and boost-reference regulator. Finally, exhaust gets pushed through Doug's 1 7/8-inch primary ceramic-coated headers into 3-inch H-pipe exhaust into Magnaflow mufflers. This combination is good for an easy 600 horsepower at the rear wheels with the street boost level.
Not just any transmission and rearend would handle the combination of power and traction that Mike had secured. He used a modified Tremec 5-speed TKO 600 with a street-friendly 0.64:1 Fifth gear. A Hays billet aluminum flywheel and Ram clutch make the transfer while a Hurst shifter changes gears. The conversion from the factory non-overdrive setup was packaged up in a nice little kit by Classic 5-speed, making the swap a cinche for Mike. A stout 4-inch driveshaft connects the TKO to a well-built Currie 9-inch differential. He ordered up the factory-width nine with Trac-Lock posi unit and a 3.89:1 gear set. With these super-strong parts backing the small-block, he should have no failures in upcoming racing environments.
The suspension and body rigidity were just as big of a concern to Mike as a healthy drivetrain. It's pretty common for these unibody pony cars to twist and bend without the help of some strengthening measures. Bill at Gallis Truck and Performance out of Hayward, California, built a fully custom roll bar to tuck into this primarily street-driven Camaro. The door bars were placed for not only strength, but to keep it from being too cumbersome for him to climb over. The underside got a set of Competition Engineering subframe connectors and Slide-A-Link traction bars.
The frontend is outfitted with QA1 coilovers, Global West upper and lower control arms, and is kept flat with a Global West 1 1/8-inch sway bar. In the rear are a set of factory multi-leaf rear springs controlled by 12-way adjustable QA1 shocks. The affordable but well-practiced parts list will surely make Mike's Camaro a real competitor at the next Goodguy's Autocross.
Wheels & Brakes
Wheels can make or break a car; they can also dramatically change the vibe from tasteful to tacky. In the world of first-generation Camaros, there isn't a whole lot that hasn't been done, and in the Pro-Touring scene, oversized wheels with skinny spokes seem to rule the field. Mike wanted something a little different. He chose a more drag-style Billet Specialty Street Light wheel in 17x8- and 17x10-inch sizes. He gets a unique look with the stance of a road car, and the wheel design of a drag car. Lucky for him he gets the performance of both. The Street Lights get a pair of 235/45R17 Dunlop Direzza's up front and some ultra-sticky 275/40R17 Mickey Thompson ET Streets out back. All of the sticky rubber keeps the Wilwood 12-inch rotor brake system from being underutilized.
We're not saying this Camaro was a piece of junk, but it was pretty rough for a California car. Even after he and his dad re-worked a lot of the body years ago, it still needed a major makeover. Mike replaced a little bit of every panel it seems. He scrapped the over-puddied fenders and doors for a hard-to-find set of clean factory originals. The hood, front spoiler, trunk lid, rear spoiler, trim, and bumpers were all removed and replaced with the best the aftermarket could supply. Mike saved the quarter panels and rear-window surround with some extensive rust repair. Other than that, the body is all original.
Once the panels were in place, he sent the roller to Rod Bumanlag, a painter at Grand Collision Center in Hayward, California. There, Rod smoothed the body to perfection and sprayed it with a General Motors Gunmetal Gray and a pair of wider-than-stock Z/28 style stripes.
This guy loves his gauges, that is apparent the moment you peek through the window of his 1967. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that though. When you have a high-powered engine with a power adder, it's imperative you keep an eye on the vitals. Mike managed to manipulate the factory wiring harness to accept the total of nine gauges, and only two of them came in the car when he got it. He has Auto Meter liquid-filled Pro-Comp boost, fuel pressure, oil pressure, and water temperature gauges, standard Pro-Comp oil temperature and voltmeter gauges, and finally a Sport Comp 5-inch tachometer. General Motors took care of speedometer and fuel level instrumentation in the 1960s.
Mike kept the factory bench seat in the rear, but upgraded to Procar buckets with Sparco 5-point racing harnesses. The steering credit goes to ididit for the tilt-column and an aftermarket billet aluminum wheel wrapped in black vinyl. Don't see a stereo system? That's because there isn't one. Even though this is a street car, Mike doesn't need music to distract him from the Camaro's songs.