At first it looks like a simple do-over, but Pat Madore’s 1968 Camaro is not your brother’s Camaro. It’s not even your father’s ’68 Camaro. It is ripe with promise and it works indefatigable … like a robot … with a soul. Its brilliance lies in obscure parts, some thinking genius, and a wad of understatement.
When Pat got the car off eBay, he wasn’t expecting the changes it would bring and the twists it would put him through. “It was partially built,” he said with a wan smile and that can-you-guess-what-happened-next look in his eye. “My intention was to finish it up and flip it. The next thing I knew, I had it down to the bare metal and onto a jig and off to the strippers.”
While that transpired, he had a small revelation. It slapped him awake, blew his reverie to smithereens. “I realized that building a car in my driveway was out of the question. The next thing I did was meet with Joel Huffman and Fred Gaston at JH Restorations & Customs [Riverside, California]. I’d seen their work and it was first class. Then the real fun started.”
Prior to any other modifications, JH began scrubbing the firewall while Pat’s pal A.J. at Baja Shop Motorsports in Lake Mathews, California, strapped the subframe to a jig. He sandblasted the surface smooth, drew a bead on all the original seams and veiled it in black powdercoat.
On the side, Joel and Fred confabbed with another legend, Doug Starbuck at Star Side Design and a denizen of Riverside’s formidable hot rod/custom/motorsports industry. Doug would remediate the sheetmetal and lay down the custom-blend silver. He punctuated certain points on the body with Eddie Motorsports billet bits: door handles, side markers, fuel cap, LED taillights, hood latch and hinges, trunk hinges, fender braces, and doorjamb vents. Doug cut a large relief in the original hood to make room for the Pantera EFI injector stacks.
Ostensibly a Pro Touring car, the Camaro has adopted the chassis and suspension changes to enable that sort of responsibility. JH installed Global West stuff—including drop spindles and negative-camber control arms—and Detroit Speed coilover shocks and 1-inch antisway bar. The back half rolls on a narrowed, modified 12-bolt, Detroit Speed narrowing kit, 7/8-inch antisway bar and Detroit Speed nitrogen-filled shocks. The steering linkage is connected to a close-ratio GM steering box.
For the friction part of this equation, Pat brought 18-inch wheels to the project but didn’t go ape on the tires—Nitto 555 in 225/40 and 285/40 aspect. Big brakes complete the chassis outline and Pat went for 14-inch Wilwood plates all around. In 2017, you can buy just about any Chevrolet engine combo you want out of the box … but that posed a problem to Pat simply because if anyone could have one, it would not be a one-off. It is known that unorthodox thinking and ideas associated with it are the core of hot rodding, doing something that doesn’t necessarily reflect popular opinion.
The one-off 427 in Pat’s car is the product of the esoteric Lance Nist at Pantera EFI. If you don’t know him, he might sometimes appear to be circling in a universe of his own. He is, but the results are undeniably impressive. Since the ordinary aluminum-block LS3 would remain naturally aspirated, Lance acquired an LSX forged rotating assembly but neatly sidestepped the weight penalty of the cast-iron LSX cylinder case.
A Pantera engine controller and coils assure dead-nuts timing and adjustment to the atmosphere. And when was the last time you saw a fuel-injection system like this, angled through the hood and giving the silhouette—a definite push-me, pull-me visual? Lance’s practice, components, and eight 2.5-inch butterflies whack out 645 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel flange.
The fury beyond the doors is diminished, subdued by another exercise in “one-offness.” Joel Huffman worked his craft; after he installed the new wiring harness, the four-point rollcage, and Dynamat sound-killer he unrolled the Mercedes carpeting. He installed TMI low-back seats that he fitted with TMI covers and strung with four-point street harnesses. He built a new console and installed the TMI door panels and TMI/Lokar door pulls.
So how’d all that esoterica work out in the end? According to Pat, the “most challenging part of the whole thing was to get the painter, the car builder, and the engine man on the same page.”
Three and half years after inception, he made his maiden voyage. “As I pressed down on the throttle, engine rpm would rise abruptly,” he remembered. “It made me think the clutch was slipping. I shifted to Second and the same thing happened. At that point, I realized the car was slightly sideways and that I was spinning the tires … at half-throttle.” Aha! Yeah, we hate that, too, Pat.
Never stop doing it.
|Owner||Patrick Madore, Lake Mathews, California|
|Cylinder Heads||LSX, CNC-ported, 2.200/1.610 valves, 70cc combustion chambers|
|Rotating Assembly||LSX forged crankshaft, LSX H-beam rods, RaceTec forged pistons, Total Seal ring packs|
|Valvetrain||LSX 1.8:1 rocker arms, 3/8-inch LS7 pushrods, conical springs, titanium retainers, Billet Specialties rocker covers|
|Camshaft||Crower custom grind (specs proprietary)|
|Induction||Pantera EFI stack injection (8x2.5-inch butterflies), Pantera custom air cleaner|
|Ignition||Pantera controller and coil packs|
|Exhaust||Custom-built stepped primaries, ceramic coated, 3-inch exhaust system, Flowmaster 50-series mufflers|
|Ancillaries||Detroit Speed four-point rollbar, Wegner Motorsports accessory drive, Powermaster alternator, Mattson’s aluminum radiator, SPAL fans, ATI crank damper, Rick’s Stainless fuel tank|
|Output (at the wheels)||645 hp at 6,000 rpm, 630 lb-ft at 6,000 rpm|
|Machine Work/Assembly||Pantera EFI (Santa Ana, CA)|
|Tuner||Lance Nist, Pantera EFI|
|Transmission||TREMEC TKO 600, McLeod steel flywheel and dual-disc clutch assembly|
|Rear Axle||GM 12-bolt, narrowed 2 inches per side, C-clip eliminators, 3.55:1 gears, 31-spline axles (prepared by J+S Gear, Huntington Beach, CA), Inland Empire Driveline 3-inch steel propeller shaft|
|Front Suspension||OE subframe sandblasted, seams welded, powdercoated; Global West spindles and control arms; Detroit Speed coilover shocks and 1-inch antisway bar|
|Rear Suspension||Detroit Speed narrowing kit, leaf springs, nitrogen-filled shocks, 7/8-inch antisway bar, Detroit Speed mini-tubs|
|Brakes||Wilwood 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers, front; Wilwood 14-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, rear; Wilwood master cylinder, booster, and proportioning valve|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels||Schott Venom 18x8 front, 18x11 rear|
|Tires||Nitto 555 225/40 front, 285/40 rear|
|Upholstery||Joel Huffman at JH Restorations|
|Steering||ididit column, Eddie Motorsports Classic wheel|
|Shifter||Hurst Competition Plus|
|Dash||OE w/ custom insert|
|Instrumentation||Auto Meter Super Comp|
|Bodywork||Doug Starbuck, Star Side Design (Riverside, CA)|
|Paint By||Doug Starbuck|
|Paint||Custom-blend PPG Mercedes-Benz Palladium Silver|
|Hood||Stock, altered to accommodate Pantera injector stacks|
Photos: Tim Sutton