As automotive magazine editors, we meet a lot of people and get asked a quite a few questions. Well, actually two: “How do I get my car in your magazine?” And, “what do you consider to be the coolest Camaro that’s ever been in the magazine?”
To be honest, we wouldn’t know how to go about trying to figure out which Camaro would be considered the all-time best. But it did give us the idea of compiling a list of the top ten Camaros of the year featured in Camaro Performers magazine in 2008. Still, that was not an easy task—quite rough actually. After all, we already have very high standards requiring feature cars to possess something special or unique in order to make it in the pages of Camaro Performers. Add to that, the editorial staff’s diverse taste in Camaros, and what each of us would deem as cool, and instantly the chore becomes even further complicated. It wasn’t as though fists were flying, but let’s just say there was quite a bit of name calling and finger pointing before we got our lists to obtain a sense of similarity.
Well, after a few days of debating and hours of “adult-like” discussion, we finally put together an elite group of what we believe to be Camaro Performers magazine’s Top Ten Camaros of 2008.
Keep in mind there was no real sophisticated method to our madness, we just picked cars each of us thought to be cool for various reasons: be it horsepower, fit and finish, body style, drivability, or just plain coolness; these ten cars represent (in no particular order), what the Camaro Performers editorial staff (Nick Licata and Steven Rupp) consider to be the best of 2008.
If ever there’s been an appropriate time to use the term “no brainer,” this would be it. Choosing Jack Hodson’s ’67 as one of our top ten Camaros was a choice the editorial staff wholeheartedly agreed upon. No cussing each other on this one.
There’s plenty of cool and unique pieces on this car that set it apart from your average run-of-the-mill first-gen. Although we’d like to talk about them all, we wouldn’t be able to do it justice in this short amount of editorial space. We can mention the stroked and punched TPI-fed 383 that happily accepts 7-pounds of boost via a ProCharger 600B supercharger. We can also bring up the fact that Jack, with some guidance from Dean Livermore and the guys at Hot Rods by Dean in Phoenix, Arizona, did most of the work himself. The first-time hot rod builder replaced the floors and rear valance. He smoothed the firewall, patched the quarter panels, stitched in DSE subframe connectors, and beefed up the stock subframe.
“Alright Jack, now that you’ve got the hang of building a car, let’s see what you can do as a seasoned veteran.”
Some guys buy classic hot rods with the intent of beautifying them with expensive paint jobs that cost well over what they initially paid for the car itself. That’s all great, and we appreciate the workmanship, but many of those guys are afraid to drive the car further than 200 feet from their trailer, let alone release some tension via a tightly laid autocross or a challenging road course.
Vinnie Allegretta doesn’t hang with those guys. It’s not what he’s about. And it’s not as of his car isn’t nice. It is. It's so nice we decided to make it the poster in the August 2008 issue. You have to understand, Vinnie built this car to kick some serious ass—which it does. Case in point: It’s armed with a 454 stroked to 496 cubes, an Air Ride Technologies Street Challenge suspension system, and a plethora of chassis stiffening modifications to help Vinnie when he’s hard at play on an autocross, road course, or drag strip (it runs 10.60 in the quarter-mile).
It’s not always lit up on a 300 shot of nitrous though. Vinnie treats his prized ’68 to some rather docile street driving as weather permits, or when he feels the need for a little Camaro time.
It’s been said that Vinnie drives his car like he hates it. Well, it’s the kind of car we love—enough to make it firmly onto our list of Ten Best Camaros of 2008.
It takes a certain amount of vision and ingenuity to get a fourth-gen Camaro to stand out in a crowd. So beyond nice paint and a killer stance, which Tony Sheperd’s ’93 so possesses, this stellar Z28 nabbed our utmost respect on appearance and plain over-the-top brute force. With a bored and stroked LT1 hitting just shy of 400 cubic-inches; add into the equation a 400 shot of the juice, and we’re talking 760 rear wheel horsepower. It’s a feat that brings legitimacy to the LT1, and the hardcore, enthusiastic community who still believe in it. Even with a dropped second-gear the car still managed to negotiate the quarter-mile in the mid-nine second zone.
Cool enough to make the Camaro Performers Ten Best List? Hell yes!
1969 COPO Camaro
When discussions arise on rare or highly sought after Camaros, the term COPO (Central Office Production Order) will undoubtedly highlight the topic. Due to an enormous premium, only 69 ZL1 Camaors were built, but more affordable L72 cars (COPO 9561 AA for four-speed cars and BA for M40s), with a premium of just $489.75, were more attractive to the somewhat high-end Camaro enthusiast. The comparatively smaller price tag to the ZL1 translated to larger production numbers: With 1,015 of the L72 COPO’s built, 201 went to Yenko, 50 to Berger, and smaller amounts went to various other Chevrolet dealers.
With the lack of exterior badges, the COPO 9561 Camaros were noted as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The ZL2 hood was the only indication of the fury that lay between the frame rails.
Rick Treworgy is a noted collector who favors the heavily optioned Camaros, but made exception as this, according to GM records, is one of 75 COPOs shipped for sale in Canada. The documentation ensures this is a no-nonsense, legitimate COPO shipped from the Norwood assembly plant in Ohio. It was ordered with the front and rear spoiler package, but no radio. Apparently the wholesome sound of V-8 goodness emitting from the chambered exhaust was just enough for the original owner of this remarkable muscle car.
Any car that is the main influence for the formation of a highly successful web site (www.lateral-g.net), there’s a good chance it’ll grab the interest of even the most cynical car enthusiasts—us too. We’ve known about this Camaro for a number of years. So recently, we talked with Scott Gulbranson, the car’s owner, and he informed us the car was just about completed. So we got Scott’s signature in blood that Camaro Performers magazine would get the exclusive. Once coagulated, and the car was finished, we sent Robert McGaffin to shoot it as the November 2008 cover car.
Not only does the car look totally sanitary, it’s fitted with a LS7 that produces over 500 hp to the wheels. DSE, ATS, Koni and AGR all work in conjunction for improved suspension geometry and chassis stiffness; all good stuff that keeps Scott’s car rigid in the corners and through acceleration.
Scott’s home-built ’69, constructed with idea that he’d spend a good amount of time behind the wheel has been equipped with Recaro Sport seats and a Vintage Air air conditioning system. Creature comfort becomes a priority when a car gets driven as much as this one has, especially in such a short amount of time. Scott managed to add a stimulating 4,000 miles to the odometer in a 90-day period with 2,500 of those miles coming in as a long hauler on the 2008 Hot Rod Power Tour.
There’s a good chance we’ll see this brilliant pro-touring machine on the 2009 Tour as well.
BECAUSE 11 IS ONE BETTER THAN 10
While covering a Super Chevy show in Indy, we were scouting cars to shoot as magazine features. As we were strolling down one of the many Camaro isles, a second-gen with some unique features not commonly seen on a Camaro grabbed our attention: the blacked-out grill was a custom piece and the hood featured a shaker scoop from a second-gen Trans Am. Plus that don’t-mess-with-me stance and aggressive gray five-spoke Americans reeked of that old school mischief that we love so much.
Mark Collins’ original intention was to build the car and flip it like he’d done many times in the past with other projects. But for some reason this one held a special place in his heart. It could have been the alluring power of the big-block, or possibly the extra effort he put forth fabricating up various bits of custom pieces. Whatever the reason, he’s held on to this one longer than most of his other projects.
We thought so much of this car and it’s tasty styling cues that it be part of our Ten Best List. Only one problem: this is the eleventh car. Oh well, better to have too many than not enough.
1968 SS Convertible
There are guys that go that extra mile in order to give their car that special touch. You know, a way to put their ride over the top compared to the pedestrian masses. Morgan Duffy went and gave his ’68 what looks to us as another ten miles. Not only does his car look the part of a corner carver with its Gran Sport stripes, but 50/50 weight distribution was important to Morgan so he went and moved the engine back 4-inches and pushed the front wheels out 2-inches. Sounds like a lot effort, but it worked. To compliment the move he enlisted a Chassisworks front clip replete with tubular control arms, rack steering, and QA1 coilovers.
Check out the Yokohama AVS rubber. They don’t come in redlines, so Morgan had Diamondback Tire smooth the sidewalls, and had the redlines vulcanized for posterity.
We’re only able to scratch the surface on the unique features on this car, but you get the idea. This ride is one special hot rod—an obvious choice as part of our Ten Best.
Paint, power, fit and finish, stance, and eye appeal—what more can you ask for in a car? Not much apparently. It’s all here and it belongs to Ben Dolton of Addison, Texas.
Freelance photographer Stephen Kim got on the blower to inform us of this amazing second-gen he came across in his neighborhood. He thought we may want to feature it in Camaro Performers magazine. Well, he was right. We did. It’s stellar. We loved it, and gave it a six-page layout in the March 2008 issue. With a blown Camaro that looks this nice and puts down 430 at the rear wheels, how could we resist? We couldn’t. We also felt it deserved to be part of our top ten of 2008.
Hey Ben! If you ever decide to build another Camaro that looks half as good as this one, we have six more pages reserved for you.
School of Automotive Machinists
1998 Camaro Z28
Power? We got your power. How about a 500 ci LS2 Rat busting out 923 hp and 906 lb-ft of torque that runs on pump gas? Loaded with a Power Glide transmission for drag purposes, this ’98 Z28 could actually make street sense with an overdrive. But this calling card for the School of Automotive Machinists (SAM) in Houston, Texas is an actual learning tool to showcase the talents of the school’s students—something they all take huge pride in.
With car owner Linda Massingill behind the wheel, a field trip to the drag strip is the main testing grounds for the students to watch their extensive schoolwork reach a top speed of 139 mph in the quarter-mile¬—fast enough to keep the class’ undivided attention, even if it’s only for 9.50 seconds.
Well, this stellar fourth-gen got our attention; enough to make it as a Ten Best of 2008.
Bob Borg is one of those guys who can’t seem to leave things alone. But that’s a good thing; especially when it comes to his ’69 SS. He bought the car fitted with a 396 for a mere $8,000. “That was fun, but only for a while,” states Bob. So it soon became home to a 468 producing quite a bit more sizzle, but even that got old as Bob’s new horsepower addiction began to rear its ugly head. It wasn’t long before Bob and his son Chris went for it all and slammed in an imposing 540 with a turbo 400 and a trans brake, transforming it into a real street beast.
Bob’s owned the car for over 16 years and it’s a good bet this is not the cars’ final incarnation. With its sinister personality and enough bark to scare the biggest dogs back on the porch, it only made sense we make it one of our Ten Best Camaros of 2008.
1969 Camaro SS
Stacy Tucker’s ’69 is far from just another Camaro rolling on a set of high-end 18-inch wheels. The paint is less-than-perfect, and the body needs some love. But we could go on for days about how influential this car has become in the world of pro-touring Camaros. This high-profile muscle car is Detroit Speed and Engineering’s (DSE) test bed for developing suspension, and many other components for first-generation Camaros. If you’ve been to any Goodguys shows in 2008, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this car ripping up the autocross with Stacy behind the wheel doing a fantastic job of giving the guys fits as they try beat her fastest times on the course. Suffice it to say, many have challenged, but few have succeeded.
Among the plethora of company-made products, the car features DSE’s Hydroformed front subframe, subframe connectors and their rear Quadra Link kit. It’s all business at the track, but the car retains a very street-friendly personality as well.
If you just so happen to live near Moorsville, North Carolina, and you see this blue ’69 in the parking lot of the local grocery store, don’t worry Stacy isn’t staking out the joint as a possible autocross course, she’s just picking up a few things for dinner. Yep, it’s her daily driver and one of our favorite Camaors of 2008.