The Setup: You're in your mid-thirties. You're unencumbered by a family and all the attendant expense. Despite your relatively young age, you are the sales manager for one of the world's premiere aftermarket wheel companies. That's circumstance. What isn't readily apparent is that you're infected and your bloodstream has carried that nasty hot-car spirochete for many years now-lifelong, you could say.
The Drill: Who knows how this stuff really happens? Perhaps it's just a fortuitous combination of ingenuity, desire, and ultimately, your wallet. Your budget won't allow anything extraordinary, but you are patient and your thinking skews somewhat conservative. So you look for a "finished" piece, something that can be driven "as is" until the madness begins, the demarcation point for a vehicle that becomes inoperable because then it's just chaff, pieces lying at your feet on the cold garage floor.
During that hiatus, you summon the will to continue and you can see the proverbial shining at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, your friends buoy you and help you with your project at every opportunity. Will Anthis is lucky like that. He got his psychic props and encouragement that drove him to the end.
Therefore, it was very important to choose the guinea pig wisely. Will had help. He ran the scenes over and over in his head until they compelled him, drove him. "Ever since I saw the movie Better Off Dead, I have been fascinated with the black first-gen Camaro. My pal Dean bought a '67 that the owner sold because he needed the money. As soon as that happened I knew I had to have one."
Will was rippling, ready to tangle with his first muscle car. He looked in all the usual places. In a local trader rag, he found a postage stamp-sized image of a black Camaro with white stripes: "The cam-phone pic didn't give much to go on," he said. "And the ad was poorly written, but I was intrigued nonetheless. I remember thinking that all I needed was a car with good paint and I could do the rest. Being black, the body would have to be absolutely straight." Will felt somewhat blessed when he discovered that Rob (the owner) turned out to be a body and paint man. "I'd rate it 9.5 out of 10 points," the body man said. Will decided he'd have to see this car and make his own confirmation.
Six hours later, he and Dean arrived on the scene. "Be ready to hop back in if this car is a heap," quipped Will. At the same time that Rob fired the car in his garage, the door magically opened revealing a flawless black bullet. The story is age-old. Rob didn't want to sell but he had no choice. Domesticity called. He had to shift gears. Once in the house, Will met a soon-to-be-mommy and checked out the half-assembled crib next to the bonus pile of parts Rob had talked about. Will was in the right place at the right time. "I could see that it was hard decision for him," he said.
The Parts: The car he brought back home had that glistening cover but the underside was a little skuzzy, the interior was missing some important appointments (headliner and panels) and the engine wasn't the prettiest girl at the dance either. But Will had his foundation before him and got down to cases - literally. Since racing wasn't in the plan and over-the-road driving was, the 427 has plenty of beans to keep him interested. This wasn't no suicide squeeze here. Though Will didn't elaborate, this character sounds like an iron-head L72 minimally rated at 425/425. Along the way, someone had affixed a Torker intake manifold and 750cfm Holley combined with a strong flame MSD 6AL box. Headers with 2-inch primaries send the extraction through a 3-inch system plumbed with very rude Flowmasters.
Will's transmission choice is odd but not totally original. Though it has a straight 1:1 high-gear ratio, the M22 is the icon of street four-speeds. He separated it from the original with Auto Gear Equipment (Syracuse, New York) that includes a Super Case, ductile iron mid-plate, and a rollerized low gear assembly. The transmission is preceded by an 11-inch Centerforce clutch and surrounded by a Lakewood blast shield. At the other end of the action, Will built himself a 12-bolt equipped with zingy 3.73:1 gears and a limited-slip carrier. The whine of straight-cut gears gives the Camaro a presence not possible with any other type of street transmission. The other guys out there are hearing an M22, so the car must be a bad actor, right?
The Pleasure: As part of the Fikse team, Will's street-machine outlook was significantly tinged by the world in which they operate, one rife with heavy-loaded cornering, brakes like a mountain, and lots of low-profile rubber. Quarter-mile times? Refreshingly, nobody in this house gives a damn about that. What we're looking at is the means to more than one end. While the overstocked suspension becomes an active safety device, it also allowed for the perfect stance. Rather than relying on expensive coilover shocks or air springs to tilt the car one way or another, he simply dropped the car and set its stance accordingly. He trimmed half a coil from the Hotchkis springs and set them between factory control arms. Competition Engineering adjustable shock absorbers temper wheel control, and in all, the front of the Camaro is nearly 4 inches closer to the center of the earth.
At the hind end, the solution is just as rudimentary but with spectacular results. The Camaro plays on de-arched leaf springs that sink the body 3 1/2 inches. Competition adjustable shocks do their business. Will stiffened the chassis with Comp subframe connectors; wheel hop, should there be any, is quelled by Comp slapper bars. Scrubbing off energy is left to dinner-plate large Wilwoods, 14-inch, six-piston jobs in the front and 14-inch four-piston renditions at the rear. All is encased in one of our favorite parts, those vital things that visually make or break a car: Fikse forged modular rims, hewn from aircraft quality aluminum. They are undeniably beautiful and just as succinct, no frippery, no exposed bolts, just pure, streamlined sex. At the leading edge of the car, 18x8 FM 5 wheels (5 1/8-inch backspace) are strapped with hungry S-03 Bridgestones. The 18x10 drive wheels (5 5/8- inch b/s) are fitted with even hungrier 27 5/4s. See how the wheels accentuate the car's deep, obsidian glow? Yes. So good you could eat them.
Though Will's is an absolute street car, it curiously does without most amenities, thus amplifying its mystique. There is no air conditioning. There isn't any sound system, either. The seats and the rest of the interior are as stock and as black as the outside of the Camaro. There are a few bright bits: Auto Meter instruments, an original chrome shifter on the Hurst linkage, and scattering of buttons and pull knobs blinking in the dimness. The classic steering wheel is a Grant GT.
The Proof: It doesn't come from any type of empirical data. We know the Camaro is fast and agile, but what of its appeal to the world at large, the place it is destined to be? Will: "I'd had the car about two weeks when my mom came up from Las Vegas for a visit. She wanted a ride. I had shorts on but no shirt and was wearing tennies. I took her to my favorite stretch and showed what the four-speed 427 could do in a straight line. As I was slamming Third, I saw the whirling lights coming up behind me. As I pulled onto a side street, I realized that I'd never transferred the title and had no license or registration on me.
As the officer walked up he announced, 'Nice car! '68?' I said 'Yes, thank you. 'He began asking me about the engine and the running gear and all the while I was waiting for him to ask for my credentials. He never did. Then he said the kindest words imaginable. 'If you really want to open it up, you should go several blocks over. There are less pedestrians and traffic. 'As he turned and walked away, he complimented the car again. "Was that being in the wrong place at the right time?