In most cases, the people who run performance companies are more comfortable navigating the mainstream than plowing up the fringes. Mike Norcia likes to plow. The co-owner of Ram Clutches firmly believes in getting down on the ground with his stuff. He’s proud of it and has been a motorhead for many long years, starting down his path as a high-school junior in Canton, Ohio.
Mike tells it: “The car was purchased in 1978. Investigation of the numbers showed it a true Rally Sport. For $1,200 I got a clean body with 34,000 miles, a Muncie M22 transmission, a Dana rearend, and a nice 327 … that was split down both sides of the block! I believe the only tools the previous owner used to work on this car were a sledgehammer and a torch.”
Norcia’s Camaro has been a testbed for Ram products (founded by his father, John, in 1971) and its current form represents the third stage of its development. The Camaro hosted a series of small-block engines, and along the way it was featured in a 1980 edition of Chevy Power magazine. Mike’s kink has always been lit by a wonderful bunch of politically incorrect Pro Street heathens and he’s been staunch about it ever since a street-driven passenger car grew wheeltubs and packed a narrowed axle. That Pro Street stuff continues to foment and keeps calling for big engines and even bigger back tires. And that Ram products persuasion? It’s a quality that this writer admires. It means that Mike likes to shift for himself. And, he likes to do as much of his own work as possible. Then the landscape changed.
In late 1983, the Norcias bolted from the Buckeye State and moved Ram to Columbia, South Carolina. The Camaro’s process slowed to a snail’s hump. Mike: “The car was driven very little as most of my time was spent assisting with our clutches and nitrous systems, working with several [IHRA] Top Sportsman teams in the infancy of Pro Modified racing.” But the hiatus gave him time to think; gave him ideas. In 1993 (the height of the Pro Street era), with an itch he could no longer abide, he dragged the Camaro up to Wally Stroupe at SRC Motorsports in North Carolina. Stroupe is nothing if not a staunch (6.30 at 220) Pro Mod racer who builds some slippery drag race darts. He did the back-half conversion and installed the formidable 12-point rollcage. “The intent at the time was to turn [it] into a Pro Street car,” said Mike.
Then, he and wife, Robin, decided to begin their family circle, and for the next 17 years the Camaro lounged in his garage just as it had returned from Stroupe. Words of encouragement from his son Michael became the impetus to finish the project with the idea of producing copious clouds of tire smoke from those Mickey 15-wides. “Truly,” Mike said, “all that time off enabled me to build the car exactly how I wanted to all along. The theme evolved from Pro Street, an offshoot of Pro Mod and Outlaw as delineated by a big-cube engine and deck wing.” How does it differ from old-school thought? Notably absent is the trademark supercharger pile jutting from the hood.
Other qualities of mention are reliable power from a big-cubic-inch engine complete with warranty, the spit-in-your-eye stick-shift transmission where most moan for a big-mother automatic, and the return to the world before Pro Touring (monster brakes, fat front tires, maniacal attention to handling … and rules!). None of that is apt to incite a motorhead, but a near-600-inch engine certainly would give wood.
Now remember. Going like hell in a straight line was what you did when you didn’t know how to do anything else. It was the first thing you did and you never shook that hypnotic attraction. Was it easier than screwing the gas pedal to the floor? Yes, it was a genuine rush. And back then, virtually all the other realms of what we now acknowledge as essential to a complete road car were barely an afterthought.
Mike is hands-on, having managed all the work, save for the chassis changes and the paint routine. He gives a big round of applause to the cats at Summit Racing (Chuck, Carl, Alan, and JT) as well as Danny’s Automotive; Dave Schwartz; Russ Richardson; and Pat, John, and Michael Norcia.
“As I have always been a Pro Street big-cubic-inch fan, we went after a theme, call it modern Pro Street, or what the car would look like if it was built to match the standards of high-horsepower race cars today. The result is this—what I term ProMod Street. Could we be starting a new trend?”
|Owner||Mike Norcia, Blythewood, South Carolina|
|Type||GMPP Gen VI tall-deck crate engine|
|Cylinder Heads||Aluminum rectangular port, stainless steel 2.25/1.88 valves, 118cc combustion chambers|
|Rotating Assembly||Forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, forged aluminum pistons|
|Valvetrain||Aluminum roller rockers, 1.7:1 ratio|
|Camshaft||Hydraulic roller, 0.632/0.632-inch lift; 254/264-deg. duration at 0.050; 3/8-inch pushrods|
|Induction||Single-plane intake manifold, Holley 4150 850-cfm carburetor, Aeromotive A1000 race pump and regulator, Harwood 12-gallon fuel tank|
|Ignition||MSD 6AL, Blaster coil and primary wires; billet aluminum housing; 36-degrees total timing; Powermaster alternator; XS Power S925 battery|
|Exhaust||Dynatech headers, 2 1/4-inch primaries, 3 1/2-inch collector; Spintech mufflers; 3-inch system|
|Ancillaries||Aluminum short-style water pump, Milodon 6-quart oil pan, Summit aluminum radiator, Flex-A-Lite electric fans/shroud, American Autowire Highway Series loom|
|Output (at the crankshaft)||620 hp at 5,500 rpm, 650 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm|
|Machine Work/Assembly||Chevrolet Performance|
|Transmission||Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, Ram flywheel and Force 10.5 dual-disc organic clutch assembly, Ram hydraulic throwout bearing, QuickTime bellhousing|
|Rear Axle||Strange Engineering 9-inch, 35-spline axles, spool, 4.10:1 gears; Hurst Driveline driveshaft|
|Front Suspension||Speedway Motors 2-inch drop spindles, Summit Racing tubular control arms, QA1 coilover shocks|
|Rear Suspension||Four-link type with antiroll bar, Panhard rod and 12-point rollcage by SRC Motorsports, QA1 shock absorbers|
|Brakes||Speedway 11-inch rotors, two-piston calipers front, Strange Engineering 11.25-inch discs rear, American Powertrain master cylinder|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels||Billet Specialties Comp 5 15x3.5 front, 15x14 rear|
|Tires||M/T Sportsman 26x6.00 front, LT31x18.5 rear|
|Steering||OE box, Grant GT wheel|
|Dash||OE with custom instrument pod|
|Instrumentation||Auto Meter Elite Series|
|Bodywork||Color by Weasel (aka Mike Johnson) (Lugoff, SC)|
|Paint||House of Kolor Red w/ HOK Pearl Gold stripes|