For a long while, Mallen Fajardo orbited the hot-car world in import iron, mainly Nissans and Toyotas. Regardless of how you view this sedition, the thing to remember is that he did well with these cars, winning awards and receiving admiration from the gathered. His final entry in that realm was a 1995 Toyota Supra turbo. A fine car no doubt, but, yeah, completely lacking street credentials in the muscle car discipline. The 35-year-old Mallen wanted into that club. His bud Mike Amigleo found some cat on Craigslist who had a 1969 Camaro and that he would trade same for a Supra just like Mallen’s. Whoops, before he knew it the deal was done.
He took this particular Camaro for several simple reasons: it was completely straight and had red paint like some kind of beacon. Mallen: “The interior, engine bay, motor, brakes, and suspension needed serious help.” And then, “Though I applaud the LS platform, it seemed to me that everybody already had one. I took a gamble and went a different route.”
Mallen found his egg. A few miles south in San Carlos, California, at Meanstreets Performance, a hopped-up small-block that had been abandoned by its owner for the LS siren call. After conversation with Mean’s owner Vince Ortiz, an accomplished classic Chevrolet guru and fabricator, Mallen left the Camaro in his hands. “Without Vince’s help, none of my designs would have come to life,” he opined. The challenge was to make the insanely overdone ’69 Camaro and an engine that’s been around for 60 years into a standout piece. Well, with a bunch of handbuilt pieces and some unconventional parts, I thought I could affect some sort of departure from the norm.” His targets were the second-glance reaction and the WTF! response.
As the body and its cloaking were pristine, Mallen saw no need to disrupt any of that or incur an unnecessary expenditure from a budget he didn’t have in the first place. So what to do? Next to the sheetmetal presentation, he knew that the engine compartment would become the undeniable lure, like honeycomb to a bear. In fact, the hook didn’t require a lot of money, just some creative thinking backed by a steady hand.
To set the backdrop, Ortiz put up a clean-sheet firewall. Mallen used simple dies and a bead roller to match the simple die plates that he added to his custom engine cover. The two AN lines coming from the air cleaner and connecting to the engine shroud actually act as supports, so they are functional, but not in a way you’d likely suspect. An Anvil Auto carbon closeout panel and fender supports add the finishing script. The crown, however, is the BH Custom Designs (Ironton, Ohio) air cleaner case, a sheetmetal construction that features Porsche air stacks, slinky slats, snaky hoses, and makes the mind whirl. Teasers like this tend to put a pitchfork tine through your brain—and you can’t ever pull it out.
Moving from the motor pit to the outside of the car, Mallen satisfied an ancient itch. He was always of the mind that the first-gen Camaro chin spoiler was undersized, so with a little serendipity and a vintage part, he modified a 1970 Vega GT lip and melded it with the original equipment fiberglass. “Luckily, it was pretty close to the factory shape and it bolted on,” he said. “I also added some carbon-fiber canards [on either side] to increase the width and give the Camaro a more aggressive look.”
Ortiz eventually took up the rear, fabricating a four-piece spoiler and angling it off the original ridge. The boys finished off the exterior changes with side-view mirrors common to the coveted Shelby Cobra roadster. Mallen continued the off-beat tweaks with American Racing rims that look a lot like knock-off vintage Cobra wheels.
From the outset, Mallen had a great support group in fellow enthusiasts, many of them from his import days: Edmund Carnecer, Joe Bacigalupi, and Glenn Peralta from Team Hokori, Ryan Der and the rest of the ATS Garage crew, and Vinny from VRM Detailing (San Bruno) for the paint correction and special event prep. Danny at DJ Designs in South San Francisco wired and installed the fifth-gen Camaro seats. “And,” said Mallen, “my wife and kids for putting up with my addiction to anything with wheels on it.
Despite Mallen’s control over most of the car’s modifications, he doesn’t know who applied that tempting Viper Red paint or who originally built the crate small-block. Aside from the wiggy induction stuff, it sports eight rare 6.00-inch COMP Cams steel connecting rods (PN 5760-8). A little probing revealed that they could have been re-boxed SCAT items that COMP quickly discontinued. Sketchy or not, they add a modicum of exclusivity to Mallen’s Camaro.
So in the end, Mallen did revert to his roots, but not in a way you’d expect. In 2014, for the acid test, he brought the ’69 to WEKFEST The Elites. This is primarily an import celebration and is one of the biggest events in California. His nasty ol’ piece of Detroit Iron pulled out Second Place in Best Engineering … and not a fart can on it. Vindication and then some.
|Owner:||Mallen Fajardo, San Bruno, California|
|Type:||2012 GMPP ZZ4 350|
|Cylimder Heads:||Edelbrock Performer RPM, 64cc combustion chambers|
|Rotating Assembly:||Forged steel crank, COMP Cams forged connecting rods, hypereutectic pistons|
|Valvetrain:||COMP Cams solid roller (230/236-deg. duration at 0.050, 0.552/0.564-inch lift), Isky pushrods and lifters, Proform rocker covers|
|Induction:||Edelbrock Performer RPM manifold and 650-cfm carburetor, Holley electric pump, BH Custom Designs fabbed air cleaner housing, K&N filter element, modified BMW 5-series engine cover|
|Ignition:||MSD 6A box, GM 100-amp/hr alternator, Optima RedTop battery|
|Exhaust:||Hooker Super Comp 1 3/4-inch primaries (ceramic coated), X-pipe, mild steel 3-inch system, Borla mufflers|
|Ancillaries:||Superior aluminum core with electric fans, March serpentine drive, Lokar adjustable throttle pedal, fabricated battery tray|
|Output (estimated at crankshaft):||400 hp at 6,200 rpm, 440 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm|
|Machine Work/Assembly:||Meanstreets Performance, San Carlos, California|
|Powdercoating:||Accessories Plus, Belmont, California|
|Transmission:||Turbo 350, rebuilt, stock torque converter|
|Rear Axle:||GM 10-bolt, Positraction differential, 3.42:1 gears|
|Front Suspension:||OE spindles, subframe (cleaned and painted), control arms, and antisway bar; Hotchkis 2-inch drop springs; KYB adjustable dampers|
|Rear Suspension:||OE spindles, subframe (cleaned and painted), control arms, and antisway bar; Hotchkis 2-inch drop springs; KYB adjustable dampers|
|Brakes:||Wilwood master cylinder and proportioning valve, dual-diaphragm booster, C5 ZO6 13-inch rotors, six-piston calipers, front; C6 Z51 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, rear; Stainless Steel lines|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||American Racing VN427 17x8 front, 18x9.5 rear|
|Tires:||Michelin Pilot Sport 245/40 front, 265/35 rear|
|Upholstery:||Universal Upholstery (Redwood City, California), rear seat and door panels|
|Seats:||2011 Camaro w/ power recline, Crow lap belts|
|Steering:||OE box, NRG Classic wheel with quick-release hub|
|Shifter:||OE “horse shoe” type|
|Instrumentation:||Auto Meter Phantom Black|
|Bodywork:||Stock sheetmetal, custom air dam by Mallen Fajardo, fabbed deck spoiler by Vince Ortiz (San Marcos, California)|