Evidently, when you take stuff out of the ground for next to nothing then sell it for an obscene price, the profit margins are quite good. No wonder stealing thy neighbor’s goodies — whether the commodity in question is gold, oil, opium, or tea — is a habit that humanity has a tough time kicking. Although the factors contributing to the frosty relations between the Western world and the Middle East are many, oil is one of them. Interestingly, the same commodity responsible for driving a wedge between both cultures can also bring them together. With big oil comes big money, and rich dudes of all shapes and sizes love horsepower, burnouts, and powerslides. Granted, Italian and German exotics seem to be the tools of choice for performing acts of automotive hooliganism in the Middle East, but somewhere in Saudi Arabia you’ll find an LS7-powered 1969 Camaro mixing it up with the big boys. If Saudi Arabia-based Torque Speed Automotive gets its way, this is just the beginning.
A few years back, the halls of Schwartz Performance hosted a very interesting meeting that outlined some very ambitious goals. A Midwestern gentleman approached them with the idea of exporting 1969 Camaros done up Pro Touring style to the Middle East. His plan was to open up a shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and specialize in importing late-model American production cars as well as old-school Detroit iron. He needed a shop stateside capable of building a Pro Touring Camaro packed to the brim with an LS7, a six-speed trans, a cutting-edge chassis, and all the modern comfort and convenience features that super wealthy oil tycoons demand. After smacking down Lamborghinis and Ferraris on the dusty Arabian backroads, the plan was to build a production run of Camaros to export. Schwartz Performance would be tasked with performing the metal fabrication as well as the major mechanical work, while the paint and bodywork would be completed once the cars arrived at Torque Speed Automotive in Saudi Arabia. Oh yeah, plans called for selling the cars with a full warranty, too.
As a shop that’s earned a reputation for building functional Pro Touring machines that can actually hold their own around a racetrack, Schwartz Performance eagerly accepted the challenge. Upon taking delivery of a mostly straight ’69 Camaro shell, the crew got to work. Due to the brutally hot desert climate the car would operate in and the incredibly demanding needs of the car’s target clientele, building Torque Speed Automotive’s first production Camaro presented some unique design considerations. Blistering acceleration and supercar handling was a given, but the car had to also coddle its occupants in a sumptuous cabin replete with every modern convenience feature in the book. “We fitted the Camaro with a 1,000hp capacity radiator, dual electric fans, and a massive transmission cooler,” Jeff Schwartz explains. “Not only are the headers ceramic coated, but the rest of the exhaust system is as well. To keep heat from entering the cabin, we lined the car with much more heat and sound insulation than we normally use.”
Since isolating the interior from ambient heat is only half the battle, the next step was making it cool in more ways than one. A Vintage Air A/C system took care of the temperature portion of the equation, but hours upon hours of custom fabrication were required to create a one-off interior. “The interior looks nothing like a stock Camaro,” says Jeff. “We custom-built the dash, door panels, and center console and covered it all in leather. Red-faced Classic Instruments gauges sit inside a custom instrument panel. The seats are custom Recaros, and there’s a combination of leather and suede throughout the interior.”
Nevertheless, sleek lines and a stunning interior mean nothing in a car that still drives like a 1969 Camaro. Striking a balance between precise handling and a smooth ride is imperative in any performance car, and even more so in a machine targeted at such a privileged demographic. “The primary focus was building a car that’s not just fast, but is also streetable and practical. It’s easy to run stiff springs on a smooth track, but if you try to drive a car with that same stiff setup on the street, it’s going to rattle your teeth out,” Jeff explains. “We prefer to run softer springs and use stiffer sway bars. That way, the car doesn’t get upset if it hits a bump and it rides much nicer on the street.”
Many, many years of road racing in SCCA and IMSA have taught Jeff that when building a chassis, it’s often best to start with a clean slate. This explains why his company has developed a full line of aftermarket muscle car chassis. As such, correcting the flawed suspension geometry of the original stock Camaro chassis is as easy as plucking a new Schwartz G-Machine chassis out of the shop’s inventory. The new hardware essentially replaces the front subframe and converts the unibody Camaro into a full-frame car. The solidified foundation anchors twin Schwartz A-arms up front and a Schwartz four-link assembly out back. RideTech long-travel coilovers offer excellent ride quality, while Schwartz sway bars minimize body roll. Massive 14-inch Baer disc brakes provide copious stopping power, while 18-inch Forgeline wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber plant it all to the pavement.
Regardless of where you live in the world, man does not live by handling and braking alone. In a land where law enforcement patrols the streets in Lamborghinis, blistering acceleration is imperative. Consequently, the Camaro was fitted with one of Schwartz’s proven LS7 packages. The combination is based on a Chevrolet Performance LS7 small-block, but has been further enhanced with ported cylinder heads, chrome-moly pushrods, and a 242/248-at-0.050 hydraulic roller camshaft. The result is a stout 650 hp at 6,800 rpm and 568 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm. Torque-splitting duties are handled by a paddle-shifted TCI Automotive 6X six-speed automatic transmission matched with a 2,800-stall converter. “If you have 650 hp in a 3,600-pound Camaro, it’s going to keep up with just about any exotic car out there,” Jeff opines.
Today, the Torque Speed Automotive Camaro — serial number TRQ 001 — prowls the streets of Saudi Arabia, snacking on various European delicacies. With wide-open highways, dirt-cheap fuel, and tons of oil money to play with, the Middle East is a car guy’s dream. Something tells us that it won’t be long before TRQ 002 sets sail for Saudi Arabia. What better way to stand out in a sea of exotics than in one of the most strikingly gorgeous muscle cars of all time? Evidently, the universal lust of horsepower, burnouts, and powerslides knows no boundaries, differences in creed and color be damned.
|Owner:||Torque Speed Automotive, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia|
|Vehicle:||1969 Chevrolet Camaro|
|Cylinder Heads:||GM LS7 rectangle-port aluminum castings|
|Rotating Assembly:||GM forged steel crank, titanium rods, hypereutectic pistons|
|Valvetrain:||GM forged steel crank, titanium rods, hypereutectic pistons|
|Camshaft:||Custom Schwartz 242/248-at-0.050 hydraulic roller|
|Induction:||GM LS7 intake manifold|
|Ignition:||GM coil packs, MSD plug wires|
|Exhasut:||Schwartz stainless steel headers and dual Borla 3-inch mufflers|
|Output:||650 hp at 6,800 rpm and 568 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm|
|Transmission:||TCI Auto 6X six-speed automatic and 2,800-stall converter|
|Rear Axle:||DS 9-inch, 31-spline axles, limited-slip differential, 3.89:1 ratio|
|Front Suspension:||Schwartz full frame conversion, control arms, and sway bar; RideTech coilovers|
|Rear Suspension:||Schwartz four-link, RideTech coilovers|
|Brakes:||Baer 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front and rear|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Forgeline GA3; 18x8 front, 18x12 rear|
|Tires:||BFGoodrich KDW; 255/35 front; 335/30 rear|
|Upholstery:||Leather (Shane Cassin, Woodstock, Illinois)|
|Body Prep/ Paint:||GM Black, KDX Auto Painting (Lakemoor, Illinois)|