Despite all appearances this is not a white Pro Touring 1969 Camaro. At least not for Phil Mitchell; for him it’s merely a place to park an engine.
If Mitchell’s name sounds familiar, then it may be because his 1967 Nova was featured on the cover of the September 2015 issue of CHP. It’s black with a red gut and an LS9. But like the Camaro, those things are sort of secondary; the Nova achieved a kind of digital immortality when PlayStation inducted it in Gran Turismo.
As enviable as it seems, that 600-odd-horsepower fist in the black-velvet glove left Mitchell wanting for more. Specifically, “I wanted a brute,” he admits. He called Wegner Motorsports. His parameters: an engine that makes gobs of power that he could drive daily. “I got one that makes about 850,” he reveals. “Wegner has engines that make 1,100, 1,200, 1,300 horsepower, so that’s sort of his grocery getter,” he continues, laughing.
The project got off to a rocky start with an eBay find that immediately went back on the block. “Then I found this Camaro Bob Fatore was building,” Mitchell recalls (the 54th off the line, for what it’s worth). “It was going together as a COPO clone.” Adds builder Chris Holstrom, “The car was beautiful. Phil says let’s get it and sold all the COPO-specific stuff back to Bob.”
The new direction changed the car from the ground up. An Art Morrison subframe brought better geometry, C6 arms and knuckles, a power steering rack, and Strange coilovers to the party. A weld-in GT Sport rear subframe delivered a triangulated four-link setup and another pair of Strange coilovers.
Wegner delivered an LS3 stroked to 416 ci and topped with a Magnuson supercharger. That couples to a Rockland Standard Gear Tranzilla by way of a Quick Time bellhousing and a McLeod dual-disc clutch. That all drives a 3.89 gear on a Truetrac limited-slip carrier in a Strange housing. A pair of 335/30 hides mounted to 19x12 Forgeline wheels deliver power to the ground.
The car went to Josh Ewing for a proper fitting. More than tub the car to fit the barrel-like wheels, Ewing basically reshaped the whole back of the car, even altering the floors to tuck a full 3-inch exhaust system and DynoMax Ultra Flo mufflers. And if you haven’t noticed, the car sits low. Really low.
“To get the exhaust to come out where it did, he cut the framerail at the coilover crossmember and handbuilt this piece that comes around the back of the wheel and follows the quarter-panel,” Holstrom explains. “You could put the thing on a pedestal and display it as art in your house. The guy is amazing.” Ewing then fabricated the new tailpanel with the exhaust outlets. To make 285/35s on 18x10s fit up front, Ewing fabricated wheeltubs entirely from scratch. He also shaped closeout panels, including a radiator cover. But it’s the seemingly invisible things that really make the difference, like how he reshaped the hood structure to fit around the Magnuson supercharger.
“The body was in really good shape and was already white, but we did so many changes that we had to paint it again,” Mitchell recalls. He found a fleet color, basically fridge white, and delivered the car to Sumner Collision. Kevin Viles shot it.
“So we wanted a ‘king of high-end sports car’ feel on the inside,” Mitchell reveals. “Bentley has a performance version where there’s no back seat—there’s a wraparound, sort of like a waterfall in the back.” Trimmer Jamie McFarland at McFarland Custom Upholstery in Puyallup, Washington, replicated it in fiberglass. He also replicated the Bentley’s topstitch diamond pattern in all the inserts, including the heavily modified Corbeau A4 seats.
McFarland also wrapped the modified Marquez dash. It houses a Dakota Digital VHX-1200 insert. Josh Ewing showed the breadth of his metalworking skills by whittling a housing to hold a set of Ford GT switches in the likeness of the Restomod Air Pro Touring vents. (For the record, Ewing also machined the smooth fuel filler in the tailpanel.) You’d hardly tell after the powdercoating, but the rollbar started as one of RideTech’s stainless kits.
According to the dyno sheet that came in the crate, the engine made 849 of the 850 hp that Wegner promised. But a session on Eric’s Automotive’s rollers indicated something was amiss: the supercharger’s drivebelt was slipping. An adjustment and some tuning coaxed nearly 50 more horsepower.
The result? “It’s a f***ing rocket, dude!” Mitchell exclaims. “It handles well but it accelerates violently. I’ve had a few cars that run 9.90s, and with the right tire I bet this would break into the 9s.
“The nice thing is that it all works. It idles like a modern car and you can drive it anywhere. It’s smooth until you put your foot in it. Then you better hold on! A lot of guys can’t use half the power they say they have, but because of that Morrison chassis we can put the power to the ground. I don’t want it to just look good; I want it to work. And this works!”
|Owner:||Phil and Sita Mitchell, Sumner, Washington|
|Cylinder Heads:||CNC-ported GM LSA|
|Rotating Assembly:||Callies DragonSlayer keyed crank and Ultra connecting rods|
|Valvetrain:||Comp Cams roller tappets, pushrods, trunnion-style rocker arms; Manley valves, springs, and retainers|
|Camshaft:||Comp (specs undisclosed)|
|Induction:||106mm cable-driven throttle body, Magnuson supercharger, 85-lb/hr injectors, GM Performance ECU|
|Exhaust:||Stainless Works headers with 3-inch pipes and DynoMax Ultra Flo mufflers|
|Ancillaries:||AutoRad aluminum radiator, SPAL electric cooling fans, Wegner accessory and supercharger drive system, Clayton Machine Works rocker covers|
|Output:||849 hp at 6,800 rpm, 802 lb-ft torque at 5,100 rpm|
|Built by:||Wegner Motorsports|
|Transmission:||Rockland Standard Gear Tranzilla five-speed|
|Rear Axle:||9-inch style, Art Morrison Enterprises, Strange Engineering case with Truetrac carrier and 3.89:1 gears; 31-spline axles|
|Front Suspension:||Art Morrison Enterprises clip with C6 Corvette control arms and knuckles, power-assist steering rack, splined antiroll bar, Strange coilover dampers|
|Rear Suspension:||Art Morrison Enterprises weld-in clip with triangulated four-link, antiroll bar, Strange coilover dampers|
|Brakes:||Baer 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Forgeline RB3C 18x10 front, 19x12 rear (with exposed hardware)|
|Tires:||Nitto NT05 285/35 front, 335/30 rear|
|Upholstery:||Jamie McFarland, McFarland Custom Upholstery (Puyallup, WA)|
|Seats:||Modified Corbeau A4|
|Steering:||ididit tilt column, MOMO Trek wheel|
|Shifter:||Bowler Performance Transmissions|
|Dash:||Marquez hand-laid fiberglass|
|Instrumentation:||Dakota Digital VHX-1200|
|Accessories:||Ford GT switches with custom bezel by Josh Ewing, Vintage Air climate-control, Restomod Air vents|
|Bodywork:||Fabricated trunk floors, wheeltubs, front inner fender panels, and engine compartment panels by Josh Ewing|
|Prep and Paint:||Sumner Collision (Sumner, WA)|
|Hood:||GM cowl-induction-style, internal structure modified to fit supercharger by Josh Ewing|
|Accessories:||Ringbrothers door handles, hood latch, hood and trunk hinges; Marquez taillights and doorjamb vents; Spoilers by Randy carbon-fiber splitter; Josh Ewing fuel filler|