If you're a regular reader, you already know that the goal of most car customizers is to create something that stands out from the crowd. While there may still be many recognizable features, the car should be loaded with unique upgrades and thoughtful details. When every inch has been subtly massaged to trophy-winning standards, that's when the owner steps back to admire his handiwork. Ray Aquit fits that profile perfectly.
Mechanically inclined since he was a kid and passionate about cars, Ray told us, "I enjoy throwing myself into something and figuring it out as I go." Now a general contractor living in Miami, Ray has used that philosophy to create a unique collection of highly personalized vehicles like his F-650 that sports a Cummins diesel under the hood. His NSX goes a little quicker, thanks to its new turbocharger. His 1932 Factory Five replica hot rod is equipped with a new LS1 V-8, and his 1972 C10 Chevy pickup runs a 454 Chevy big-block. But this '67 Camaro is his true favorite.
It's only the second car that he's built from the ground up and it was a four-year process. He found the nicely restored car on the Internet, flew to New York to look it over, and had the car shipped home the following day. Although it was a running 396/four-speed car, Ray had other plans. After stripping it down to bare metal, he sold the engine, transmission, interior, wheels, brakes, and rearend. Then he started from scratch, rebuilding the car the way he wanted it.
With everything removed and the Camaro down to a shell, the upgrades began. While the vintage lines of the car were certainly worth retaining, the half-century old technology was not. Subframe connectors and suspension upgrades were first on the list with the new four-link setup holding a narrowed Moser 12-bolt rear with 33-spline axles and 3.73 gears. Mini-tubs were added to clear the new, wider wheels. Up front, the Speed Tech A-arms, 2-inch dropped spindles, and Hotchkis antisway bar team up with a Unisteer power steering rack and QA1 coilovers to give the 47-year-old car rock-solid, autocross-level handling. A 15-gallon stainless steel tank with internal pump from Ricks easily handles the Saturday night cruise.
Ray started with a 454 V-8 truck block, given to him by a friend. He knew that with some judicious upgrades, the engine had the potential to become a street-screamin' special. Bored 0.060-over and stroked, it now displaces 496 ci, thanks to all new internals. Autotek Motors in Miami machined the block, then assembled the engine with a long list of new parts. The Eagle forged 4340 crank was fitted with H-beam rods and Keith Black domed pistons, creating 11:1 compression. A COMP cam (274/280) activates the valves in the Edelbrock aluminum heads. The FAST, direct-port EFI system with 80-pound injectors creates the air/fuel mixture that's ignited by an MSD electronic ignition. Speed Tech stainless steel headers dump spent gases into a 3-inch stainless steel system, just slightly muted by the pair of MagnaFlow mufflers. An American Autowire wiring harness establishes proper connections between all the components, and the PRC aluminum radiator with its twin 14-inch SPAL electric fans keeps everything cool. The Concept One serpentine pulley system not only energizes all the engine accessories, it also looks good and is even a close match to the Camaro's HRE wheels. Aftermarket hinges and Moroso brushed aluminum valve covers add to the look. Black braided steel lines with AN fittings carry fluids. If you look closely you'll see that there is no oil filler on the valve covers. A braided hose connects them to a combination breather and catch can mounted next to the radiator. When it's necessary to add oil, Ray undoes the passenger-side hose and uses a special AN fitting to top off the fluids. Lots of time was spent making the engine compartment a showplace, hiding cables, A/C hoses, wires, and more giving you the impression that this engine is too clean to run. Trust us however, the beast fires on the first turn and sounds impressive! How far did Ray go to personalize the big motor? It's adapted to run on E85! The new Tremec T-56 six-speed trans manages the estimated 650 horsepower, sending it to the rear using a custom aluminum driveshaft.
Short stopping distances are guaranteed thanks to the Wilwood brakes, using six-piston calipers up front and four-piston units in the rear along with 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors. The brush-finished wheels are from HRE with a custom offset. The 20-inch rims in the rear are 12 inches wide with a 7-inch lip, planting plenty of rubber on the ground thanks to the Nitto INVO 345/25s. Up front HRE 19x9 rims with Nitto INVO 245/35s handle steering and stopping chores.
A long list of modern improvements transforms this '67 into a car five decades younger. It begins with a keyless ignition and power everything, including door locks and windows. Look closely and you'll see a custom-made center console with a unique handbrake from a modern-day Camaro. Since the new fuse panel is located where the old emergency brake used to be, the new location was required to solve the problem. The console also holds the shifter for the Tremec, the power window switches, and monitor for the audiovisual system. Vents for the Vintage Air A/C system were built into a custom lower valance to keep the Camaro cool during hot Miami summers. Ray chose seats from a Hyundai Tiburon with the headrests trimmed. The rear seats were custom-made to match. EMJ Custom Interiors in Miami wrapped the seats, door panels, and console in matching black leather and diamond-quilt black suede. For a hands-on connection, Ray added a steering column from ididit and used a brushed steering wheel. The dash is filled with brushed-face Auto Meter gauges. The stereo begins with a Pioneer double din head unit with a 7-inch monitor that controls a four-channel Pioneer amp inset into the trunk in a custom glass enclosure. Bass comes from a Kicker 12-inch sub, also mounted in the trunk in a matching glass enclosure. The sub is ported to the passenger compartment through the rear package tray. The tray also holds a pair of 6-inch R-Series Alpine component sets, mounted with separated tweeters. The same separated component set approach was used in the kick panels to round out the sound and fill the cab with music. An Optima YellowTop battery, concealed in the trunk, provides power. Jorge Busquet of Pro Auto Sound in Miami did the install.
From a styling standpoint, there are lots of subtle changes like the seamless front clip with all the body lines welded smooth. The front end has been updated with the combination of a '68 grille fitted with HID headlights and driving lights, along with a '69 lower valance. The factory cowl-induction hood hints none too subtly about the Camaro's enhanced level of performance, warning all to think twice about a foolish challenge. Although the door handles were retained, the key locks were eliminated. The rear bumper was painted to match, an aircraft gas filler cap installed, and '68 taillights with digital internals create a modern look. And, in case you didn't notice, everything on the car is brushed. There is no chrome anywhere. The final step was paint, done by Arrow Collision in Miami, using Hyundai Silver, Ford Sonic Blue, and a subtle shade of gray from Porsche that highlights the beltline, accented with a fine line of orange pinstriping. The build took four years and Ray feels he has achieved his goal of building an ultra cool street cruiser. Bristling with an estimated 650 hp, the car is great fun to drive and he gets behind the wheel at every opportunity. The car has only been to two events so far but in both cases, Ray came home with Best of Show trophies. Yeah, we could have predicted that.