Step One: Stuff 6,400 pounds of stuff into a 3,200-pound package. Step Two: Exaggerate physical features into caricatures of what they used to be. Using this simple formula, anyone can create a clown car in two easy steps. However, as a wise man once said, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Instead, by starting out with an already stunning car and keeping visual tweaks to a minimum, you might just end up with a car that emulates the simple, no-nonsense formula of Greening Auto’s 800-horsepower, four-linked 1970 Camaro.
Considering that muscle cars performed much better in our emotion-clouded memory than they did in real life, no one has a problem with Step One. Whether the enhancement at hand takes the form of cubic inches, superchargers, aluminum suspension bits, additional gear ratios, big brakes, or sophisticated electronics, improving performance and functionality is what hot rodding is all about. On the flipside, Step Two is a much more precarious endeavor, as getting too carried away with wings and splitters and flared body panels runs the risk of transforming classic muscle car-era sheetmetal into a gaudy clown costume. The gracefully flowing lines of yesterday’s muscle cars look so good that GM, Ford, and Chrysler are all rushing to rip themselves off in their newest crop of retro-themed late-models, so why mess with a good thing?
When it comes down to it, some cars (cough, Fords) simply need more cosmetic augmentation than others, and few shops walk the fine line between badass and clownish better than Greening Auto Company. Within a year of opening its doors in 1999, GAC took home the Ridler Award for its Bonneville-inspired 1933 Ford Speedster coupe. Then in 2012, GAC scored another Ridler for their work on Dwayne Peace’s twin-turbo 1955 Thunderbird. While GAC has a knack for rounding the rough edges off of less-than-shapely pieces of Detroit iron, it simply doesn’t feel the need to go all Dr. 90210 on a car that already looks good from the factory. “We never want to stray too far from the original manufacturer’s design, especially on a second-gen Camaro because it’s such a pretty car to begin with,” Jesse Greening explains. “We tucked the bumpers in here and there, and refined the way the sheetmetal meets up to them. The body is smoother and flusher overall, but otherwise the body on this car is stock.”
Rather than relying on brash body mods to draw attention to itself like an insecure brat, the Camaro confidently asserts its presence with a nonstop onslaught of finely crafted details. Since car owner Scott Gouin didn’t care about hauling around golf clubs, GAC mounted the Rick’s stainless steel gas tank inside the trunk, which freed up space to tuck the muffler far up into the floorpan. Consequently, neither are visible from behind the car. “We wanted to get rid of the Joe Dirt look,” Jesse jokes. A custom machine gas cap finishes off a slick Le Mans-style filler integrated into the driver-side sail panel, and the exhaust outlets poke through the custom rear valance. Further setting the Camaro apart from the muscle car norm are Anvil carbon-fiber inner fenders, a custom center console, one-off turn indicators, and custom head- and taillights. GAC put its machining skills to good use, too, by fitting the Camaro with custom-machined valve covers, door handles, marker light bezels, wheels, badges, shift gate, and shift knob. Rather than relying on loud graphics, the Camaro mixes in sections of flat black throughout its body to contrast the glossy black paint.
Compared to the skill, labor, and foresight involved in creating the Camaro’s sweet-yet-subtle body and interior, packing it with a powertrain and chassis to match was relatively easy. Under the hood is a Mast Motorsports supercharged LS7 small-block kicking out 804 horsepower. It shoots 707 lb-ft of torque back to a paddle-shifted Bowler 4L80E automatic and a Moser 9-inch rearend. Planting all that go power to the pavement, both laterally and in a straight line, is a Detroit Speed Inc. QUADRALink rear suspension. Up front, there’s a matching DSE subframe assembly featuring tubular control arms, aluminum spindles, a splined sway bar, and JRi coilovers.
Not surprisingly, Gouin is thrilled with the finished product. “The power, handling, and braking of this car are totally awesome. The fit and finish is great, and it’s so refined that it’s just like driving a modern car but with much better looks,” he reports. The balance of understated aesthetics matched with phenomenal performance and driveability is no coincidence, either. “I have never built a car to this level before, and the deeper you get with a project like this, the more stuff you want to put on it. Jesse really helped to pull back the reins so we didn’t end up doing anything crazy. I originally planned on dropping in a 496ci big-block, but the supercharged LS7 fits the character of this car much better. It’s docile when you need it to be, but when you open it up, the power is crazy.”
As things like diffusers, splitters, wings, cooling ducts, flares, scoops, and vents — whether they’re functional or not — continue gaining popularity in high-end Pro Touring builds, the line between tasteful and garish is getting fuzzier and fuzzier. Nevertheless, it takes a simple-yet-elegant build like GAC’s Camaro to remind everyone that clowns aren’t born, they’re created. Thanks to the talent and humility of a shop like GAC, this is one Camaro that won’t be joining the Insane Clown Posse.
|Vehicle:||1970 Chevrolet Camaro|
|Cylinder Heads:||Mast Motorsports LS3 aluminum castings|
|Rotating Assembly:||Callies crank and steel rods, Mahle forged pistons|
|Valvetrain:||Factory lifters, T&D shaft-mount rockers, Cloyes timing set|
|Camshaft:||Mast 234/254-at-0.050 hydraulic roller; 0.648/0.676-inch lift; 117-degree LSA|
|Induction:||Whipple 2.9L supercharger and lower intake manifold, GM 90mm throttle body|
|Ignition:||GM coil packs and plug wires|
|Exhaust:||Detroit Speed Inc. 1.875-inch headers, Borla cross-flow muffler|
|Output:||804 hp at 6,700 rpm, 707 lb-ft at 4,700 rpm|
|Transmission:||Bowler Performance 4L80E automatic, Midwest 2,400-stall converter|
|Rear Axle:||Moser 9-inch rearend with 35-spline axles, limited-slip differential, and 3.50:1 gears|
|Front Suspension:||DSE subframe assembly, control arms, aluminum spindles, and splined sway bar; JRi coilovers|
|Rear Suspension:||DSE QUADRALink assembly, Panhard bar, and splined sway bar; JRi coilovers|
|Brakes:||Baer 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front and rear|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Custom Greening Auto 18x10 front, 19x12 rear|
|Tires:||Pirelli P Zero 275/35 front, 355/30 rear|
|Audio:||JVC head unit, Kicker speakers|
|Upholstery:||Custom black leather|
|Gauges:||Custom Classic Instruments|
|Steering Wheel:||Momo Nero|
|Built By:||Paul Atkins|
|Body Prep and Paint:||Glasurit Black, Greening Auto (Nashville, TN)|
|Hood:||Custom Greening Auto|