Some folks get into the car hobby late in life, choosing it as a great retirement project. Others come into the world with the automotive gene solidly in place, thanks to a family who fosters the excitement of all things gasoline-powered. Ed Zimmerman from Ocala, Florida is one of those early adopters. He grew up on a farm where he learned the essentials of keeping equipment working. Whatever breaks better be fixed quickly if you want to eat! It was not only a vital lesson in fabrication skills but also in self-reliance. Those early talents were responsible for his current welding career and now Ed builds fire trucks and crash crew vehicles used by fire departments and airports throughout the country.
He loves all facets of car design, anything with wheels and an engine. Although he has built a collection of track cars over the years, this fire-breathing Camaro was a distinct departure. A few of his automotive friends challenged him to build a blower car and although he had very little familiarity with Pro Street-style cars, he quickly learned how. “I do a lot of thinking when I go to bed at night” he told us with a smile. “I wake up in the morning with the answers! I don’t write it out. Everything is designed in my head.” The search began for a suitable donor car and he found his 1980 Camaro at a local swap meet. The stripped Unibody was perfect since he intended to fabricate everything else.
From the outset, the Camaro was scheduled for an ultra high performance engine so the first step was ensuring that the chassis could handle the load. Ed began the eight-year project by fabricating his own frame, using a combination of 2x3-inch rectangular steel tubing welded to the Camaro sheet metal and augmented with Chassis Engineering suspension components. The upgrades began with tubular A-Arms up front and a 4-link in the rear holding a Ford 9-inch with 3.73 gears and Strange 35-spline axles. Wilwood dual-caliper, power disc brakes team up with QA1 adjustable coil overs to snub all four wheels. The car became a roller thanks to Centerline Warrior 15x6-inch rims up front and 15x10-inch rims in the rear. Ed chose the tires carefully, wanting to fill the wheel wells without looking cartoonish. He opted for Mickey Thompson 15x6-inch Sportsman Pro rubber up front and fat 29x18.5-inch Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pros in the rear. A set of wheelie bars helped to plant the power. All the heavy-duty changes were necessary since the car was scheduled to receive a supercharged 572, an engine capable of twisting a standard Unibody into a corkscrew. Sheet-metal changes were few with Ed replacing the original firewall with an aluminum panel and moving it and the engine mounts back to make room for the radiator.
With the chassis and suspension complete, the motor was next. Ed gave Al Lombardo from Big Al’s Toy Shop in Gaylordsville, Connecticut a list of his requirements. Their 572ci Merlin block was fitted with a Callies Performance Products crank, H-beam rods, and Ross pistons, running 10.5:1 compression and using a COMP roller cam to activate the valves in the Brodix aluminum heads. The big gulp of pressurized air mixed with 112 octane Sunoco is supplied by a polished BDS 8-71 blower and a pair of 850 Holley carbs filtered by a Shogun air cleaner. MSD electronic ignition provides precisely timed sparks with 3-inch, ceramic coated Hooker Headers scavenging waste gasses and dumping them into a pair of Flowmaster Super 44s. The brute of an engine sends a staggering 1000 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque to the Turbo 400 reverse-valve-body transmission, equipped with a 3800 stall speed Hughes torque converter, trans brake, line lock, and Hurst Pro shifter. Big Al’s did the engine work and Transmax in Ocala, Florida upgraded the transmission. Ed eased everything into place himself.
Moving inside, the car uses a 2.5-inch, five-point roll bar and Simpson five-point harnesses that keep driver and passenger securely in the JAZ Products seats. An ididit column and Lecarra wheel ensures the driver stays in close touch. An Alpine stereo head unit with a 1000-watt Alpine amplifier and four Memphis speakers provide entertainment when the mighty Merlin is silent. In the trunk, the 21-gallon fuel cell shares space with a Red-Top Optima battery. The Upholstery Shop in Ocala Florida did the stitch work inside and Ed handled the finishing touches, smoothing the body work, adding a custom billet grille from Classic Industries along with a Harwood fiberglass cowl induction hood. Chris Shuhart from Ocala sprayed the Brandywine paint. Ed told us that throughout the build, his goal was “to create a factory look, rather than something that was just thrown together.”
How is the finished car to live with? Ed has run it on the strip just one time, turning in the low 9s. After that, it’s been strictly street-oriented. Ed and his wife Dawn (a car gal in her own right, driving a 350/350 powered 1947 Plymouth) enjoy supporting community events and charitable causes in their hometown, arriving with their head turning Camaro to create excitement and publicity. They team up with their car club friends from Classic Cruisers, Ocala Street Cruisers, Ocala’s Most Wanted Street Cars, Twilight Cruisers, and Cruising With A Kid. Special thanks to Chris Shuhart who regularly details the car, Anthony O’Brien from O’Brien’s Garage who tunes the motor, and of course, Dawn.