Tommy Franklin says, “I have been involved with cars since I was born. My dad has always had street rods and race cars, so I was hooked from the start. I helped him work on his cars and discovered a passion for them and for racing and have never wanted anything different. I built this car to simply be a cruiser, something that I could go out and have a nice ride and drive, and lots of power.”
This car just didn’t drop from the heavens one night and decide to stay. It had been making the rounds within the family circle, both close in and extended, for decades. It was no less a member of the clan than the two-legged creatures that live there. When Tommy was about 12, he began seeing the Camaro around a lot because it belonged to a coworker and friend. From then on, it was like a thread, and the more you pulled the more the thread unraveled. Was there a lump of coal at the end of it … or a bright, shiny piece of kryptonite?
According to Tommy, the car was sold to a family member and then passed along to several others when the time was right. But curiously, he got it from a friend, not a blood relative. And the other thing was that he wasn’t in a real hurry to get started. The Camaro sat for years. But the vision never evaporated. It nagged; he couldn’t help but buy things for it from his favorite outfitters at Detroit Speed, Inc.
He says he struggled to find the time to actually do the build … until he realized that it would never happen with him alone. He’s got a lot more on his mind, better things to do to provide support. He’s an entrepreneur and a businessman. He owns a huge commercial electrical service, active mainly in Maryland and Virginia. He races a top-notch PDRA Pro Mod ’69 Camaro prodded by a Pat Musi bullet.
Recently, he’s taken ownership of Virginia Motorsports Park. So he’s got lots to do without even thinking about Pro Touring. Considering all this, he would have Detroit Speed resurrect the Camaro. “Once the car got there to be finished,” Tommy said, “the scope of the project grew. They essentially did a makeover and took it to a level of perfection. I really like nice things and lots of power. With the help of Detroit Speed and good friend Pat Musi I am not lacking either.”
Tommy had a structurally sound envelope but one that needed a little help in the parts department. During the process, Detroit Speed built a custom firewall/transmission tunnel to fit the big T-56 trans. They positioned the engine mounts down a skosh from the original place and slid the block back a bit in order to accommodate the hood understructure and to maintain a stock appearance. Other areas needed a touch, too. The bumpers were changed out for tucked, tinted horns from the Detroit Speed womb.
To streamline the Camaro’s airflow management and its cut through the atmosphere, they created a custom spoiler and valance at the leading edge. The dedicated paint and body team for in-house cars at Detroit Speed changed the mood forever with PPG Black. They highlighted that sheen with Billet Specialties hood hinges, Truck-Lite LED headlamps, Marquez taillights, Pilkington glass, and the original door grips.
That place where Tommy lives has aural influence, refrigerated air, and yards of creamy leather and Alcantara under his butt to diminish tension. When it all fits the way it should, the driver and passengers are welcomed as unstressed members of the club. In addition to outfitting the seats, M&M Hot Rod Interiors in Holly Pond, Alabama, set the stage with custom door panels and center console. To frame the scene and help shield the mortals within, M&M Interiors installed a Detroit Speed four-point “rollcage” fitted with a removable harness bar. Schroth harnesses hug supple Recaro Specialist M seats.
Tommy favored a firm foundation for the Camaro and maintained his link with Detroit Speed—adjustability was the goal. Soon, mechanicals dangled from the water-formed subframe; the Ford axle got the QUADRALink treatment and four-eleven cogs. The Camaro would carry 30-series tires so Tommy and Detroit Speed figured that six-piston calipers on 14-inch plates at each corner would do the job.
That “lots of power” part is a serious step based on a Dart cylinder block that big-block master Pat Musi and Pro Motor Engines turned and twisted in Mooresville, North Carolina. In Musi’s universe, the 440 is a virtual peanut but quite capable of frightening power arm-in-arm with ultimate driveability. Even though the tires spun on the rollers, they saw 964 horsepower and 838 lb-ft. With drag radials attached, they think what they’re really seeing is about a thousand horseshoes at the wheels. To maintain that, the C&R radiator and charge cooler act with a custom Detroit Speed heat exchanger tank that holds four gallons along with a full bag of ice. A fabricated cold-air box works with a K&N custom round element that has a 6-inch girth and a 14-inch span.
No doubt that Tommy will keep on rollin’, but with all the stuff ever-circling his universe, will he ever find the time to poke his street car? On the dragstrip he’s bound by rules and protocol and everyone there can see what he’s doing. But out on the street, not so much (with a wink and a nod). CHP
Owner: Tommy Franklin, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Vehicle: 1969 Camaro
Type: Dart Machinery LS Next block
Displacement: 440 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Bore: 4.125 inches
Stroke: 4.000 inches
Cylinder Heads: Dart LS PRO 1, custom CNC-porting, 62cc combustion chambers, Manley stainless 2.05 intake/Inconel 1.60 exhaust valves
Rotating Assembly: Callies 4340 crankshaft, Manley H-beam connecting rods w/ ARP 2000 bolts, Diamond pistons, Total Seal Hellfire ring packs
Valvetrain: Jesel 1.8:1 shaft rocker system, Manley springs and pushrods
Camshaft: Bullet custom-grind hydraulic roller (specs proprietary)
Induction: Whipple intake manifold and 4.0L supercharger, Holley EFI, custom cold-air box, K&N filter, DS Super 1000 stainless fuel cell, Fore Innovations triple fuel pump module with staged controller and TI Automotive fuel pump
Ignition: Holley Dominator Injector Dynamics 1700 controller, Detroit Speed/Scott primary wires
Exhaust: Detroit Speed custom-built long-tube 1 7/8-inch primaries, 3-inch system, Holley mufflers
Ancillaries: Vintage Air alternator, Edelbrock water pump, custom C&R radiator/aftercooler
Machine Work: Pat Musi/Pro Motor Engines (PME) (Mooresville, NC)
Built By: PME
Output (at the wheels): 964 hp, 838 lb-ft
Transmission: Liberty Gear Magnum T-56 Stage 2, Centerforce DYAD dual-disc clutch assembly, billet flywheel
Rear Axle: DSE 9-inch, limited-slip differential, 4.11:1 gears, 31-spline axles, Dynotech 3.5-inch steel driveshaft
Front Suspension: Detroit Speed hydroformed subframe, spindles, rack steering, single-adjustable coilover shocks, antisway bar
Rear Suspension: Detroit Speed QUADRALink, single-adjustable coilover shocks
Brakes: Baer 6S 14-inch discs, six-piston calipers (front/rear), Detroit Speed proportioning valve
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline Dropkick 18x10 front, 18x12 rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 275/30 front, 335/30 rear
Upholstery: M&M Hot Rod Interiors (Holly Pond, AL)
Material: True Grain leather/Alcantara
Seats: Recaro Specialist M, Schroth safety harnesses
Steering: OE column, Detroit Speed-modified Billet Specialties wheel
Dash: OE, Detroit Speed custom metal insert
Instrumentation: Custom Detroit Speed/Classic Instruments AutoCross gauges
Audio: Alpine head unit, amps and front speakers; Rockford 10-inch subwoofer, installed by Detroit Speed
HVAC: Vintage Air Gen IV
Bodywork: Detroit Speed, custom front valance, Marquez taillights
Paint By: Detroit Speed
Paint: PPG Black
Bumpers: DSE tucked, front and rear
Photography by Alex Stivaletti