Most 17-year-olds are considered immature, impressionable, and looking for whatever it takes to get that elusive rush of adrenaline. For the average high school kid, it may be hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth, or catching the long ball for the winning touchdown under the Friday night lights in the championship game-all valid means to achieving the goal-but for a young Bill Panouses, having the feeling of being pinned back into the bucket seat of a '68 Z/28 was all it took for him.
It all started when Bill was perusing the local paper back in his hometown of East Moline, Illinois. He was in the hunt for a muscle car when he came across a '68 Firebird. "I went to have a look at the Pontiac, and the seller's garage door was open. I couldn't take my eyes off of this mean-looking '68 Z/28," recalls Bill. "The car had a 302 with less than 1,000 miles on it, a four-speed, and was white with black stripes. I asked the owner if he would take me for a ride. He did, and it changed my life forever. I remember feeling my heart pump wildly as he hammered through the gears. It was the ride of my life! From that day on, I knew there would be a time when I would own a '68 Camaro."
Not much of a stick-and-ball type during his high school days, Bill would race home after class to wrench on his cars. While other kids were working on their swing, Bill could be found in the garage, sometimes on into the early morning, working on his first hot rod: a '68 Chevelle.
Being heavily into muscle cars throughout his life, Bill has owned everything from Chevelles, second- and third-gen Camaros (even a Corvette), but claims his first love (in terms of cars, anyway) is a '68 Camaro. In 2005 Bill found a good candidate on eBay. After numerous back-and-forth emails, he had the car inspected, and got the green light on the car being as sound as it looked in the emailed photos. "I kept having flashbacks of being 17 and how riding in that '68 impacted my life," says Bill. "On top of that, my wife's first car was a '68 Camaro, so purchasing this car was really special to me."
After a little tightening up, Bill drove the car and enjoyed it for a while. He came across some Camaro enthusiast websites, and gathered information on restoring and updating first-gens with modern components. With help from a friend, Bill freshened up the paint and began taking the car to some local car shows. He won a handful of awards, so he figured he was done with the car and all was good.
"I started to notice a lot of first-generation Camaros going with the LS engine conversion, so I began to investigate a little deeper and came across a thread on pro-touring.com and lateral-g.net on a '68 Camaro named Bad Penny. That was it! The conversion was on! And not just the engine, but the whole car," Bill says. "Bad Penny was the whole inspiration behind me converting to LS power and going with the full Pro Touring treatment."
Hanging out on the Pro Touring forums, Bill also came across a car builder by the name of Tom Argue. As luck would have it, Argue's shop was just 13 miles from Bill's house in Tierra Verde, Florida. "Tom's shop was very clean and organized. I really felt comfortable putting my car in his hands. We hit it off right away and had many discussions on where I wanted to go with this build," Bill says. "Soon after, I got in touch with Ben Hermance and told him the direction I wanted to go, and he came up with not only the perfect rendering, but also with 'Evade' as the project's name."
Putting together a trailer queen was out of the question, so Bill contacted Speedtech Performance for their complete front subframe kit loaded with rack-and-pinion steering, QA1 shocks, and 2-inch lowering springs. It's a performance suspension that plays perfectly into the g-Machine strategy. Add into the equation a Chris Alston Chassisworks Camaro g-Bar suspension kit armed with single adjustable VariShocks and a 2-inch lower ride height out back, and the recipe for insane handling is complete. The by-product of the improved handling suspension is a stance that lets it be known that this Camaro means business-on the track and elsewhere.
With the car being built completely around the LS2 platform, Argue's work was cut out. The engine had to be stout, perform on long hauls, and look the part. Needless to say, the goal was set. Without a flinch, Argue assembled the mill with Stage 2 Livernois heads, 10.9:1 GM pistons, and a Livernios LS-Series Stage 2 cam consisting of an intake and exhaust lift of 0.595 with a duration of 232 degrees. A FAST 92mm intake increases airflow, while the FAST 44-pound injectors evenly distribute fuel fed by the Walbro GSS-340 fuel pump. The raucous ensemble exits through a set of 13/4-inch stainless steel coated headers, 3-inch crossover stainless steel tubes, and dual Turbo mufflers, all compliments of Stainlessworks. The end result is a fat 439 hp at 6,350 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 5,200.
A hot piece like this has to maintain its cool while looking cool, so a Performance Rod & Custom aluminum radiator sits up front sharing space with a custom Spectra air cleaner. A set of Katech valve covers and Detroit Speed closeout panel embellish the carbon-fiber theme that's tastefully broken up by a Synister Billet LS Series serpentine belt system, FAST red anodized fuel rails, and RingBrothers Raptor hood hinges-a successful collaboration between owner and builder.
A Keisler-built Tremec TKO-600 five-speed transmission handles the twist, while a Strange Dana 60 stuffed with 3.73 cogs and a posi unit ensures equal distribution of power to the pavement.
As important as stance is to any hot rod, tires and wheels set the tone of a car's distinct personality. The folks at Boze Forged in Huntington Beach, California, know the drill and whittled up a set of their polished aluminum Pro Touring Mesh wheels. Up front, the 18-inch Boze hoops play home to the grippy BFGoodrich KDW, 245/40-18 rubber, while 19-inch Bozes happily accommodate the 275/35-19-inch BFGs out back. Wilwood Dynapro six-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors rest on all four corners. It's a frenzy of stopping power readily awaiting duty.
C4 Corvette seats wrapped in Torch Red leather set the interior scene and work in conjunction with the contrasting GM Deluxe manufactured black leather and stainless steel mesh door panels and Flaming River steering wheel. Auto Meter Ultra-Lite Series gauges provide the engine's vital stats, and a Vintage Air A/C system keeps interior temps optimum. But it all heats up when Bill cranks his John Sanborn-installed sound system equipped with 1,200 watts of power and 10-inch enclosed sub ported through the rear deck. It's part of Argue's overall plan-one that's come together nicely.
Either he's a perfectionist, or a man possessed with the inability delegate. Regardless, Argue used his endless talent and experience to take on the bodywork and responsibility of spraying the exterior in PPG black pigment, all the while minding the Hermance rendering and keeping in line with the Bob Thrash graphics.
Bill took a liking to the carbon-fiber look, so he waded through Anvil Auto's line of carbon-fiber goodies, including the cowl-induction hood, header panel, vent-delete cowl panel, trunk lid, and rear spoiler.
Although it was a short ride in a Z/28 almost 30 years ago, the long-term effects were enough to influence the appearance and performance of a car built many years after-only Bill Panouse's '68 goes faster, drives better, has well over 1,000 miles on it, and combines the creature comforts of a modern-built sports car. And although this Camaro owner may have never hit the game-winning homer or helped drive his teammates 100 yards to the end zone, Bill Panouses still gets the same adrenaline rush he did 30 years ago-only it's not a Z/28, it's Evade.