Ever since enthusiasts discovered that their cars could handle on par with the power they’d put under the hood, the chauvinistic notion of a one-trick pony evaporated quicker than a snowball in hell. It was a parity that leveled the field with a machine that could torque-rip straight-line asphalt and then complete the message with handling and braking that were as strong and capable as the almighty grunt.
Everyone wants to have the best car and everyone wants to make their mark, but you can’t just pull this quality out of your back pocket and unscrew the cap. There are protocols. There are methods, certainly, but Jake Rozelle (20) and dad Roy (49) did it their way: two complete and definite stages wrought from the same ’69 Camaro platform.
Jake: “This car was built to its current form to take our racing more seriously. Both Dad and I grew up racing motorcycles off-road and we found success there. I started engineering courses in college a couple of years back and around the same time, we started autocrossing the [Camaro] more competitively. My lifelong motorcycle racing background gave me a head start in driving skills. In 2013, we won the SoCal Challenge series championship in the Muscle class, placing in the top three in every round. However, we never won a single round of the series against much more serious cars than our leaf-spring Camaro. After the Ultimate Street Car Association announcement, we had our direction and built the car to be competitive at these events, not just competing but winning.”
Though he’d never driven the new suspension and engine until the day before the event at Laguna Seca, the Rozelles handily finished third behind tough guys Danny Popp and Mike Maier. It seemed they had momentum. After only a couple of months of relentless testing, they won the Fontana USCA meet, far exceeding their expectations of the car and themselves.
They weren’t novices. They knew the score. Their portfolio had included a ’68 Z/28, a ’72 El Camino (featured in CHP a couple of years back), and a ’65 Corvette. Then, there is the intangible. “The car has been a great father-son bonding experience. We are working on it even though I am away at school during the week, we talk daily to discuss preparation and strategy for the next race. Something that we are very proud of is that this car, that required significant work to achieve, is in our opinion the ultimate street car. It still seats four without much difficulty and the LS7 engine makes it a realistic driver.
“The week we won at Fontana, Roy drove it 30 miles to work multiple times. Then I drove it to the overall win as well as the road-course win by a half-second a lap with no modifications to the car. We also put 600 miles of freeway driving on it that weekend it won the Street Machine class at Goodguys Del Mar, commuting to the event each day with not so much as a hiccup.”
Our boys didn’t come upon the key to their success in the rat’s nest in the junk drawer. They made a plan and followed it like religion, completing multiple stages on their first go-around (brakes, bolt-on suspension parts, and then the 535hp, 400ci small-block). They deviated only when they’d worn the combo flat, extracting all there was and realizing that a different power source might be the only way out. They were sold on the reliability and certainly appreciated the warranty that the crate LS7 provided. No need for anything more.
The second stage, completed by Chris Gonzalez and JCG Restorations and Customs (La Palma, California) included the dry-sump engine and all the ancillary support at once. This sort-of-white Camaro is the essence of the sport. You find it; you map it out; you build it. You thrash the bejesus out of it and be all right with the world.
Engine & Drivetrain
The thinking here was to give it plenty of whip but not overpower the tires and suspension, to achieve a balance between grunt, traction, and lateral-g. Rather than incur the expense of a custom-built engine, it might make more sense to get a Chevrolet Performance LS7, virtually a handbuilt bullet that comes with a warranty attached. It displaces 427 cubic inches, weighs 440 pounds, features dry-sump oiling, a forged crankshaft, CNC-prepped cylinder heads, 2.20-inch sodium-filled exhaust valves, and extrudes 505 hp at 6,300 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. More than enough grits to launch a 3,300-pound churl. JCG built a larger (1-gallon capacity) fluid reservoir fitted with Aviaid baffles. The bone-stock engine exhales through Kooks 1 7/8-inch primaries into a 3-inch stainless steel system interrupted slightly by an X-pipe crossover and MagnaFlow mufflers. Power is applied by a 10.5-inch diameter twin-disc pressure plate and a Tremec T-56 Magnum six-gear. A custom 3-inch diameter aluminum prop shaft delivers the grunt to the 3.73:1 gears in the Speedway 9-inch type axle.
JCG ripped off the box top and set up the Detroit Speed subframe, installed the subframe connectors, and erected the ever-popular four-point rollcage. The Detroit Speed C6 ZO6 spindles accept ZO6 front brakes outright. JCG adapted the ZO6 rear discs after they configured them to accept the in-hat parking brake feature. The suspension changes include JRi (Mooresville, North Carolina) aluminum-body coilover shock absorbers all around. The familiar Detroit Speed QUADRALink rear suspension locates a Speedway Engineering 9-inch style full-floating axle assembly.
As per Jake and Roy’s succinct tech sheet entry, “Run it how we bought it. No info on paint or bodywork or who did it.” Suffice that aside from the Detroit Speed mini-tubs, the body is completely original and uncompromised and that it would eventually be plastered with sponsor hoopla, so there was no reason at all to disturb the Off-White tone.
Again, in the interest of function and considering that the Rozelles were loathe to make changes permanent, JCG added some small bits appropriate to the situation. There is no air-conditioning system but the Kenwood head and speakers are conjoined with an iPod hookup. A Grant GT steering wheel frames the big-face Auto Meter gauges and Jake puts a swift arm on the Tremec dog leg poking through the floor. Gotta love those Recaro seats wrapped with houndstooth rags, right bud? In the interest of self-preservation, the Z/28 has been equipped with a pull-handle activated fire suppression system.
Wheels & Brakes
Pretty big stuff here: the ZO6 brakes are maxed out at 14.0- (six-piston calipers) and 13.4-inch rotors (four-piston calipers). The rolling stock is equally impressive, posting Falken Azenis DOT-spec RT615K tires on brilliant 18x10 and 18x11.5 Forgeline GA3R three-piece modulars.