Every shop owner prays for a customer who wants the best of everything and can pay for it. Only the veterans make stipulations.
The reason everyone wants a dream customer is obvious: they’re the ones who can put capital behind a shop’s creativity, and creativity can really put a shop on the map. But the reasons for the qualified prayers are a little less obvious. It’s because the person who comes in and catalyzes dreams with cash is the same one who has it all. And these aren’t the ones Hammacher Schlemmer is referring to when it’s trying to sell lunging tweezers or air-conditioned shirts. No, the ones who bring god spires across a shop’s threshold already have everything, including hot cars.
Mike Williams knows hot cars. Above and beyond owning an X5 Bimmer and a RUF-prepped Boxster, he has a road-racing background. Just count your blessings you don’t have that guy on your list.
But this project really didn’t start out as a G-machine. No, the car Mike bought in the Carolinas was a preserved barn find. In fact, he decided to restore the car himself, and probably would’ve done so had he not crossed paths with Killer Customs’ Blake Foster. Upon meeting, they came to some conclusions. Among them, Mike admitted he wanted more than a restored Camaro yet didn’t have the time to pull it off. It probably wasn’t long after that Blake realized his shop had its work cut out for it.
Based on his conversations with Mike, Blake and his partner at Killer Customs, Paul Dyck, drafted something radical enough to turn heads, powerful enough to satisfy Mike, and refined enough to take to a nice restaurant if need be. And the result is far from an accident; based on Mike’s input, Blake and the shop’s knowledge of the industry, and Paul’s illustration background, they plotted every element of the car’s construction on paper before a single tool touched the car.
Though highly modified, Mike’s Camaro is largely faithful to its roots. A few panels withstanding, it retains the skin it wore when it left the plant 40 years ago. In a day and age when an LS-series engine is the default setting, it’s almost refreshing to see a Generation 1 small-block between the fender wells. In fact, the car retains its stock subframe.
In a way you could use the subframe as a metaphor to describe the car: stock but extremely modified. That clip, for example sports control arms and an anti-roll bar from Killer’s sister company, Speed Tech, a Unisteer power-assisted steering rack from Maval Manufacturing, and a QA1 coilover conversion. Killer also replaced the GM corporate axle with a Ford 9-inch-style axle. It boasts a Strange Engineering gear case, 3.73:1 gears, and an Auburn cone-type limited-slip differential. Killer hung it from the car with a modified Art Morrison triangulated four-link and QA1s.
The Asanti AF130 wheels aren’t just pretty faces either; they’re true three-piece wheels. Their construction not only opens the door to near infinite offsets and widths, but it lets the company forge the individual parts, which results in an assembly both lighter than castings and stronger than parts machined from billets. They wear Michelin Pilot Sport 2s, and with Speed Tech tubular control arms the front tucks 19x8½s with 245/35ZR-19s. By virtue of wheel tubs and the right offset, Killer stuffed 20x12s with 335/30ZR-20s in the rear wheel houses.
Adapted to the Corvette C4-style two-piece rotor behind each wheel is a four-pot Wilwood caliper. Knowing Mike’s road-racing background, Blake and the boys understood that a conventional master cylinder and auxiliary pressure metering valves wouldn’t have the brake-bias control to satisfy Mike. So they employed a Wilwood forward-swing pedal assembly with parallel master cylinders. Each master commands its own circuit, and by altering a bar between them the driver can manipulate front-to-rear brake bias to a very fine degree.
Most G-machines of this car’s caliber run LS-series engines, but as stated before Mike stayed true to the Generation 1 mill. Kershaw Performance in Port Kells built it as a 383 with Air Flow Research heads, an Edelbrock Victor Junior open-plenum manifold, an 850cfm Barry Grant Speed Demon, and, to give it an edge on the all-alloy injected variety, a shot of nitrous. To trim more weight, Killer dispensed with the copper-core radiator and iron pump for alloy Be Cool and Edelbrock pieces, respectively.
But really what makes the engine stand out visually is the contrast among the various parts. The engine, including all the alloy pieces bolted to it, is the same burnt orange as the hood inset. But instead of polishing or plating certain pieces like the Billet Specialties True Track accessory drive system, the Ring Brothers billet hinges, and other engine components, Killer bead blasted them and had them anodized. It distinguishes the engine compartment while giving everything within it an understated, purposeful look.
To us a sports car has no fewer than three pedals, and to Mike, no fewer than six forward gears. So Killer backed the engine with a Tremec T56 gearbox. Between the two is a hydroformed bell housing and Centerforce dual-friction clutch. Stainless Works’ 1 3/4-inch-diameter primary headers running alongside the tranny dump into 3-inch-diameter pipes with an X-pipe and Magnaflow mufflers.
If there’s one thing that defines most G-machines, it’s their relative lack of body modifications. Not this one. But what set it apart aren’t the shaved handles and quarter gills, or even the third-gen mirrors. No, it’s the subtle-yet-labor intensive modifications like the cowl-induction hood that might surprise you. When Killer shaved the cowl vents, it brought the recessed area up to the rest of the cowl’s height, which required filling the pockets in the hood. The way the cowl induction hangs over the cowl itself isn’t tremendously elegant from the factory, so Killer rounded its edges.
The shop also shaved the drip rails entirely, thereby eliminating a visual speed bump and a source for wind noise. The handmade license plate surround/exhaust outlet and the split rear bumper are fairly obvious, but most people don’t notice that the bumper is now part of the body. In fact, most people assume that the front spoiler and rear wing are factory items. They’re not. Not by a long shot, even; however, the PPG-formulated metallic-black makes them look a bit more stealthy.
In fact, the car’s full of little gotchas. Recognize that dash? Unless you’re into ’59 Chevrolets, then probably not. But even if you knew those cars, this one still might fool you on account of the gauge cluster. Kevin Gray at 343 Custom machined it from aluminum stock, and Auto Meter screened the gauge faces specifically for the application. The Marquez taillights withstanding, every piece of machined aluminum on the car—the fender grills, the fuel filler, the nacelle around the B&M shifter, and speaker grille rings, just to name a few—is one of Kevin’s one-offs.
Mark Reid at Mark’s Upholstery in Langley dressed the cockpit. It consists of Recaro buckets clad in black leather. Following the European supercar theme, Mark’s perforated the seat inserts to reveal orange backing leather. Between those seats is a hand-crafted but OEM-inspired center console. Flipping its lid reveals a control center for every function of the car, including the start button. The remainder of the interior includes a Budnik Four-Thirty tiller on an ididit Inc. column, Billet Specialties vents for the Hot Rod Air climate control, and Painless Wiring.
The audio system hasn’t many peers. First off, an advanced Alpine F#1 Status DVD-based head unit and an Alpine PXI-H990 signal processor commands it. But what that duo feeds is truly exceptional. It’s a Brax Platinum-Series six-channel amplifier, one of a very limited number that the German company Audiotec Fischer produces, and you could buy a fairly recent modest compact car for what it costs. That, in turn, powers Focal speakers placed strategically throughout the car.
Of all the gotchas throughout Mike Williams’ car, the one that got us was timeline: Killer Customs took the car from a basket case to a badass in 10 months. “Bear in mind this transpired in 2005, and the outrageous Camaro pro touring scene was still in its infancy, when few cars other than the Baldwin Camaro stood out,” Blake Foster observed.
Imagine that—a car built to go fast built fast. Surely a jaded guy like Mike Williams can appreciate that.