For many of us, myself included, the passion for hot rodded Chevys started at an early age, was interrupted by the annoying but necessary parts of life, and then fired back up more intense than ever. That’s Mike Selvaggio’s story as well. As he told us, “Growing up, I always had a passion for cars. I played with Matchbox cars, covered my bedroom walls with pages from car magazines and dreamed of having my own someday. My family, aside from my younger brother Vito, didn’t share my love of cars, but I didn’t care. One of my best friends growing up bought a 1967 Camaro when he was 14 years old and I worked on it with him and his dad so that it would be ready when he got his license at 16. I learned a ton about wrenching on old Chevys, and by working two jobs I was finally able to get my first car: a 1969 Malibu, when I was 17 years old. The paint was great but the drivetrain was a worn-out mess.” After a few years, the Malibu was in great shape, but that’s when life started to get busy.
Mike tried going to college, but didn’t like being cooped up indoors staring at books so he tried a factory job with his dad. It was a great job, but not for him. That’s when he decided to give WyoTech a go. Since he already knew cars pretty well, he opted for the diesel program and loved the hands-on classes. After 6 months he graduated, but stayed another three months to get an AA in applied science, which taught service management. His payoff? A job sweeping floors at a heavy equipment dealership. But he worked his way up the ladder and was soon spinning wrenches and, later, working in sales. The Malibu was sold due the same reasons most of us sell our first cool car, “No time, no room, and needed the cash to try and buy a house.” Then he met a girl, lost more toys, and gained more responsibility.
Years later, he was rolling along great and was finally financially stable enough to start thinking about the Malibu he never should have sold in the first place. That’s when fate gave him a very unsubtle push. “I was in the garage of the house I just bought when I heard a rumble coming down the street. I go out to see what it was and it’s an orange ’68 Camaro I’ve seen in the magazines before, called Bad Penny! All my childhood dreams came rushing back and that Chevy V-8 sound made me feel 17 again, buying my Malibu. I walked down the cul-de-sac to meet my neighbor and check out his car. Turned out I had bought my house on the same street as the guy writing this story, Steven Rupp. This was both a good and a bad thing since my desire to have a Chevy again was shifted into hyperdrive.”
So this is where I get to do something very Deadpool and break the fourth wall of writing. Yep, Mike moved in just a few houses down from me and when he came over to check out my Camaro I could tell he was dying to get back into the hobby. So we talked and I offered to keep an eye open for a good project. Back then I was a tech editor for Camaro Performers and, as such, I had three Camaros I was working on. When that book ended I moved over to Super Chevy and had more Camaros than I needed so I sold my ’67 to Mike. It was an RS with 383 small-block and a lot of bolt-on parts from stories. Aside from some rust around the vinyl top, it was your typical, solid Southern California car. So, at this point Mike had a car; now he just needed a plan. “After riding in Bad Penny around the autocross I knew I wanted something Pro Touring, but I wanted it to also be reliable, practical, and have the look and feel of a newer car. Something I could take to both car shows and the track,” recalled Mike.
A spot opened up at Best of Show Coachworks (BOS) (the bodyshop that painted my orange ’68 Camaro) and Mike was off to the races. The body was stripped to bare metal and the rusty roof, along with a damaged quarter, was replaced with fresh metal. The old stroker small-block and auto trans were sold off, and to power the Camaro, Mike picked up a Chevrolet Performance LS3 with a Comp camshaft that made 560 hp and put 493 of it to the back tires! Backing up that engine is a TREMEC Magnum six-speed with hydraulics from Silver Sport Transmissions. An AutoRad radiator keeps the engine running cool and an Eddie Motorsports drive system spins all the accessories. For the rear suspension, Mike kept the Heidts four-link and 9-inch rearend, but had BOS add in a set of mini-tubs to accommodate wider rear rubber. The front factory subframe was sold and replaced with a modern rack-and-pinion subframe from Art Morrison Enterprises. Rounding out the new chassis are Viking shocks at all four corners and Wilwood binders. For rolling stock Mike picked up a set of Forgeline GT3C wheels in 18x9 front and 18x11 rear, wrapped in 275/35R18 and 315/30R18 Falken RT615k rubber, respectively. Many of the suspension parts, along with the engine and transmission mounts were from Energy Suspension. This let Mike enjoy better handling while still maintaining civilized road manners and avoiding an overly harsh ride.
The paint and bodywork on Mike’s car is nearly flawless and was laid down by DJ Derrick (DJ) Parobek and the color really sets the car apart from the crowd. “The 7B2 paint color (Glasurit) is from a Porsche GT3 RS and it just caught my eye because it was different, but still classy. People thought it was an odd choice, but I liked it and since getting the car done I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the color,” remarked Mike. The paint color also led to the Porsche theme of the car and the use of the GT3 RS script for the RS emblems on the Camaro. The modernized-classic theme was carried into the interior by way of the full TMI interior, which is kept heated and cooled by way of a Vintage Air system.
While DJ and BOS knocked out the paint and bodywork, Mike is proud of how much he did to the car himself. Mike installed the suspension, brakes, engine, transmission, wiring (including the Classic Instruments AutoCross gauges), and much of the plumbing on weekends and when he found some time during the week. It was a grind putting in 60 hours a week at work and then wrenching the rest of the time, but Mike wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and he knows it was done right! He managed to get the Camaro done just days before our Falken Tire Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge and arrived at our track with less than 80 miles on the odometer, a good portion of those miles being the drive to the event! Energy Suspension decided to have Mike’s Camaro represent them in the event since the car was exactly what they feel many enthusiasts want: a classic Chevy that handles great, but still has great street manners. It was also the car displayed in their booth at the 2016 SEMA Show.
Even with an unsorted car, and a driver with almost no track experience, the ’67 beat the new Camaro in two out of the three driving events. It only lost on the road course and Mike blames himself and not the car “I’ve never driven on a road course and I had no idea how far to push the car, plus I had just gotten it on the road so I was way more conservative than I should have been, Everything worked great though, so it’s just a matter of me getting more track time under my belt,” remarked Mike. Since the event, Mike has worked out a few gremlins and has put nearly 2,000 road miles on the Camaro. “It’s just a blast to drive around, and has everything I wanted: great looks, comfortable to drive, and great handling. It’s also fast, but Rupp is trying to talk me into stroking the LS3 and has been putting other ideas in my head, which is both a good and a bad thing.” Hey, what are friends and neighbors for?
|What Makes It Handle|
|Suspension Package||Art Morrison GT Sport front subframe with C6/C7 components and rear Heidts four link.|
|Front Suspension||GT Sport front subframe with C6 Corvette spindle and lowered steering arm mounting. The power race and pinion is also lowered for improved CG and handling. The light 105-lb weight of the clip combined with the reduced unsprung weight of the forged aluminum C7 Corvette control arms makes for a strong and lightweight combination with improved geometry. Energy Suspension bushings used where required, Shocks are double-adjustable Viking Autocross units. No cutting or welding is needed for installation of assembly.|
|Steering||Power rack and pinion unit with lowered steering arms. Power steering pump as part of the Eddie Motorsports pulley system.|
|Brakes||Wilwood 6-piston Superlite calipers with 14-inch two-piece rotors front. Four-piston Superlite calipers with 13-inch rotors rear. BP-20 brake pads with a non-assisted Wilwood master cylinder.|
|Rear Suspension||Heidts 4-link utilizes a Panhard rod along with an adjustable rate sway bar. System is bolt in and includes pre-made frame braces while the lower arms mount to the factory spring pockets. Energy Suspension bushings used throughout. Shocks are double-adjustable Viking Autocross units. Heidts subframe connectors. No cutting or welding required.|
|Tires||Falken Azenis RT615K tires; 275/35/18 front and 315/30/18 rear|
|Wheels||Forgeline GT3C; 18x9.5 Front & 18x11 Rear|
|Cost||Front: $7,335 without brakes; Rear: $4,966 with rear housing and 3rd member, but without brakes. $2,208 if using your existing rear and housing|
|How’d It Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Time/Speed||100-Yard Dash||Road Course Lap Time|
|1967 Camaro RS||6.55 seconds, 43.8 mph||5.52 seconds||01:31.8|
|2010 Camaro SS||6.80 seconds, 42.1 mph||5.76 seconds||01:25.9|