Pro Touring cars are the perfect melding of going fast and being comfortable. Cars that can hit the twisties with little effort, yet retain the civility of a nice ride with all the creature comforts like air conditioning and a rockin’ stereo. But that isn’t the type of ride we’re here to discuss. This Camaro is a whole different animal. It’s anger and attitude wrapped in steel, riding on fat, sticky Goodyear race rubber. If it were a guy it would kick your ass, take your girl, and not work up a sweat doing it. It’s brutal, fast, and built for one specific task: hauling gluteus around an autocross track. It doesn’t pretend to be a street car. In fact, it wears its track-only status as a badge of honor. This Camaro can’t be bothered with trivialities like headlights, blinkers, or carpet. Those things just slow you down, and this ride is all about speed.
Milt Burleson has been into the racing scene for quite some time, most recently in a worked-over ’92 Vette, but he was jonesing for something different. As Milt told us, “Paul Caselas, General Manager of Goodies Speed Shop in San Jose, California, had done the modifications to my ‘92 Corvette and we often talked about what we should do next. Also, I race with national champion autocrosser, Frank Stagnero, who drives an original Ford GT350 he bought new in the ‘60s. He influenced me to go for ‘old, loud, and low.’ In July of 2002, Paul drew an outline of what he thought would be a killer first-gen race Camaro on a napkin while we were having lunch. The idea was born.”
The goal was to build a modern version of a traditional ‘60s muscle car, only as a pure racecar. The proportions of the first-gen Camaro fit the bill perfectly, but it was important not to overly change the classic Camaro lines. “We stuck with this objective throughout the project. The classic looks would stay, but everything else would be changed to meet the technical specifications needed for it to be a competitive race car. Most project cars give up half of this equation. They either look like a race car, or run like a street car. Having both of these aspects proved more difficult than we originally imagined,” remarked Milt.
Milt and Paul scoured local scrap yards until a body shell was found near Sacramento, California. After securing the partial Camaro for a measly 400 bucks, the body was acid-dipped and the project launched. Milt recalled, “Since we were building a race car to SCCA-prepared solo specification for C class, we had limitations on critical design features that wouldn’t apply to a street car. The most being that the car couldn’t weigh less than 2,750 pounds, nor the wheels be larger than 16x12. Also, the engine couldn’t be larger than 310 cubes, or be set back in the car at all. This limitation on engine size is challenging for a race application.”
The entire concept was rendered to a graphic and all the key specifications were laid out so nothing would be missed. Paul was in charge of the car’s design and build, which included the chassis, suspension, and engine work. “Paul worried over this project from start to finish and never let an important detail go unattended. The results speak for themselves,” mused Milt. In addition to Paul, Milt also got input from co-driver ‘Speedy’ Bill Knudsen and his wife Jan. Since it falls on Bill to win big with the car, he was an integral part of the build process.
The first engineering challenge was the chassis. The rules for their SCCA class ruled out a tube frame chassis, so the team fabricated a cage system to tie the whole car together. Up front Global West Cat-5 2.5-inch drop spindles and matching control arms work with Penske three-way adjustable shocks and 1,500-pound (no, that’s not a typo) Hypercoil springs to keep the front Goodyear’s mashed to the pavement.
The rear is a custom four-link arrangement with more Penske triple adjustables, 600-pound springs, and a fully tunable pan hard bar. Yeah, it rides like a floor jack, but when you’re carving through corners, that’s a good thing. To ratchet the Camaro down from speed, Milt went with Wilwood Superlite SL-6 front calipers and 12.5-inch rotors up front and Wilwood SL-4 binders with 12-inch rotors out back. The smaller rotors fit perfectly inside the 16x12 Bogart LS-6 wheels that reside at each corner. Super sticky Goodyear race tires are wrapped around the rims in 25x13-16 front and 27x14-16 rear. Don’t bother looking for the D.O.T. stamp.Like the rest of the car, the tires laugh at government regulations.
To motivate the lightweight Camaro, Paul was given the challenge of building a high-power mill at 310 cubes or less in displacement. The perfect combination turned out to be a GM iron race block with a bore of 3.95 inches and a stroke of 3.15 inches, yielding a class-legal 308. Paul then bolted a set of Pro-1 200cc aluminum heads worked over by Ron’s Porting Service in St. Charles, Missouri. With titanium intake and stainless exhaust valves, they have no problem feeding atmosphere to the hungry small-block. Inside the 13:1 compression mill there’s nothing but top-shelf stuff: a COLA lightweight crank, JE forged pistons, Oliver 6.2-inch billet rods, and a COMP Xtreme Energy roller cam (248/254 .600 lift).
Oil is life, so the engine relies on a cam-driven Aviaid dry sump pump and Canton pan to move the dinosaur juice, and twin Mocal in-line coolers suck out excess heat. A Meziere electric water pump and BeCool radiator also keep the temps in check. Topping it all off is an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake paired up with a Holley 830 CFM race carb. Swilling buckets of race gas, the thirsty small-block relies on a MSD crank trigger ignition system for fire, while a combination of Stahl 1 7/8-inch headers, custom-bent 3-inch tubes, and Flowmaster twin-chamber mufflers make up the thunderous exhaust.
This union of parts is good enough to lay down 580 hp at 6,700 rpm, and 450 pounds of twist at 4,800; certainly respectable from an engine of such modest displacement. Milt explained, “Even though we thought we would have plenty of room to get all the goodies in the car, space (or the lack of) turned out to be a major issue throughout the build. Several pieces had to be mocked up, built, fitted, and messed with.”
To handle the heaps of abuse sure to come, the crew went with a Tex Racing T101A four-speed gearbox mated to a Tilton triple-disc clutch and bulletproof bellhousing. Working rearward, there’s a Dynotech composite aluminum driveshaft spinning back to a Stock Car Products differential with a Strange nodular center section, 4.30 gears, 31-spline axles, and Gold Trac posi unit. The rear was assembled by Dan Ferrea in San Jose, California, and has both cambered, and toe-in machined hubs.
As for the interior—if it doesn’t keep the driver safe or make the car faster, it was tossed. Gray-painted steel panels and cage tubing conspire to make you feel like you’re sitting in Folsom prison, except jail was never this much fun, and only slightly more dangerous. A lone Kirkey road-race seat is present, further punctuating this Camaro’s role in the racing universe. Instead of a radio, there’s a balance bar for the brakes and a fire system, just in case things go from bad to worse. Autometer gauges track the vitals and the driver peers out through lightweight Lexan windows.
Now don’t get us wrong. Just because this car is based on function over all else doesn’t mean it’s ratty looking. Milt and the build crew agonized over the paint and graphics for the racy Camaro. “We laid out every traditional and unique combination of graphics imaginable. Eventually we settled on one inspired by the Gulf Racing Teams of the ‘60s. Mark DeShetler did the sheetmetal work while Michael and Company in San Jose laid down the PPG paint. Items like headlights just add weight, and extra pounds can loose races, so they were ditched in favor of air brushed versions by Daneen Bronson, who also artfully applied the graphics. Some parts are metal, some are fiberglass, but they all gel together to keep with the lightweight-and-lean theme.
Building a nice-looking racecar is doubly tough. It takes its toll in terms of both, cash and time. Milt recalled, “We kept track of the build time, and only those who have experienced the pain of a major car build will understand. There’s approximately 3,100 hands-on fabrication and assembly hours, including the motor, with an additional 350 hours for the sheetmetal fabrication work (excluding paint prep). Hundreds of more hours were spent on design, change, worry, change, etc. But all the sacrifice was worth it once the Camaro was fired up for the first time.”
We asked Milt what he would do differently. Without pause he stated, “I would discuss the project more thoroughly with my wife. Women don’t understand why men do these things, and my wife of 45 years is no different. In the end, she was supportive and forgiving, and I love her for it.” Other than that, the project turned out just as he had envisioned. We should all be so lucky.
So what do you do with a raced-out ’67 Camaro that can’t legally be wielded on the streets? Simple, you take it to the track and beat the snot out of it. The ride is still being sorted out and by the time this goes to print, it will have engaged in its first official track battle. Since we’re an impatient lot here at Camaro Performers, we had Milt bring his ’67 to our test track in Fontana, California. Now keep in mind that we generally test street cars, so this was our first hard core race deal. Our previous fastest time through the slalom (420 feet with cones spaced 70 feet apart) was 5.71 seconds. Those numbers were annihilated when the Milt’s Camaro ran it in 5.28 seconds! That translates to 54.23 mph. Freeway speeds while slamming back and forth through orange pylons. Nuts! The Camaro was equally impressive on the 200-foot skidpad, as it managed an average of 1.184g’s. Again, a number so far off our scale, it was entering orbit somewhere around Jupiter. Then again, we should expect numbers like this from such a purpose-built ride.
As for Milt, he’s busy working over the car with his co-driver Bill and racer/mechanic Bob Giovannoni in an effort to put the hurt on the competition.
Remember, just because the car reeks of anger, doesn’t mean it isn’t supposed to be fun.