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1969 Chevy Camaro - Come And Get Me

Surrounded By High-Dollar Exotics, Stuart Mayim's '69 Could Very Well Be The Baddest Foreign Car Showroom Prop Ever.

Robert McGaffin Oct 8, 2009
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Every day Stuart Mayim wades neck-deep in a morass of high-end play cars, the kind whose names end in "i"-yeah, Ferrari and Maserati and like that, so you might surmise that he gets all the high-C revs and terminal velocity for several lifetimes. His exotic store is in easternmost New York and called Ferrari-Maserati of Long Island, not Exotics-You-Can't-Afford Motorcars, or something equally off-putting, and by this you might think that his disposition about ancient American clout is for sub-humans masquerading as people.

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It's also quite possible that you've suffered the Noo Yawk Attitude. They can't help it. It's a purely inherited thing in their genes as surely as X and Y chromosomes. If Stuart's got an attitude, it's that all the whispering civility of namby-pamby Benzes and BMW darlings is anathema. His own cars should be brutally fast, brake like a Formula 1 racer, and handle like his life depended on it. He's also of a mind that these cars should be heard a long time before you actually see them. Or so you would think.

Stuart Mayim's predilection for power began before he could legally operate a motor vehicle on public roads. Like most of us, he obviously wasn't deterred by some irrelevant rule written by wrinkled conservative white guys. Regardless that he wasn't of age when these heavy metal street warriors ruled absolutely. He dug Detroit Iron with no less passion than any of us, so when he committed to building a muscle car of understated but epic proportions, he could do no less than champion the best traits of the exotics in his dealership. He was also determined that each part and each system would be the finest available and ministered by craftsmen of equal quality and devotion to the finished piece. We should all be so fortunate. Or so you would think.

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As it happened, Stuart snooped Scott Gulbranson's and asked him about the possibilities. Concurrently, Gulbranson's own ride was going together at Autokraft Racecars & Restorations in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and he imparted this to Stuart. A phone call later, and AutoKraft's Kurt Anderson and Paul Nowak were on the case. They found an original-paint roller in New Hampshire. As for the righteous parts and pieces, Gulbranson spoke; Mayim listened. Then he turned the entire masquerade (as you will discover) over to Autokraft.

Autokraft prepped the suspension/chassis with the requisite hot-dog bits from Detroit Speed, partly for the knife-edged efficiency of the modernized chassis members and partially to accommodate the current-craze bulbous rubber and deep-set rims. Seems that the venerable 275/40ZR18/10-inch wheel combo that was once de rigueur at the rear of a car are now rolling up front, displaced by downright anemic 275/35s and mammoth, but seemingly all too common 335/30s on foot-wide hoops at the rear. A car equipped thusly is destined to stick to tarmac like grim death. In this case, the meats are Pilot Sports on lightweight 10- and 12-inch Fikse Profil 5S modulars (6.125- and 5.625-inch backspace, respectively). All of it fits neatly and comfortably inside the metal work just as it was designed to do. The time was opportune to lay up the DSE mini-tubs that easily encapsulate the grosser Michelin rollers.

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Corvette C6 spindles sprout and found the front suspension as held by a DSE sub-frame complete with tubular upper and lower control arms sandwiching Koni coilover shocks that provide a 3-inch drop in ride height. DSE frame connectors run rearward. Since leaf springs really belong back in the 20th century, Autokraft was predisposed to the freedom of DSE's Quadra-Link 4-bar suspension arrangement and companion Koni adjustable coilover dampers, in this case cranked down 3 inches to give the Camaro a level ride height.

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Before the car came off the jack stands, Autokraft applied the equal of the Ferrari's brakes in the form of Wilwood six-piston calipers on 14-inch discs at each corner, positively enhanced by a Hydroboost master and booster. Stuart directs the Camaro's trajectory via another DSE gem: the 12.7:1 rack steering system. All of these modifications actually reduce curb weight and make ride and handling quality the envy of any Italian Stallion owner.

This is all pretty standard stuff for the serious road car these days. Stuart's Camaro distances itself from the hordes with a decidedly different engine rendition. It's a basically stock Scoggin-Dickey LS7 crate, looking all-business with its understated carbon fiber rocker covers and virtually no bright work to distract, but that Kinsler magnesium individual runner cross-ram system just oozes sex. You can have your 1,000hp twin-turbo or a centrifugal blower as big as a dinner plate, but for pure sado-eroticism, the Kinslers and their carbon fiber ram stacks impart a brutal aura not unlike that of a meat grinder. On the pump, the lightly-modified LS7 produced a suggestive 666hp and a very flexible torque curve topping out at 638 lb-ft. Kurt: "It was worth a solid 60 hp. In the car, throttle response cracks like a whip despite the complicated-looking linkage arrangement. The only drawback is price, about $7,500 for the basic unit."

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In essence, it's an engine perfectly matched to the chassis in which it roars. Benzina is sourced from a stainless steel tank by Rick's Hot Rods and drawn through the Walbro fuel pump anchored within. As the LS7 is decidedly factory under-rated at 505hp/470 lb-ft (think 540), the addition of the heat-resistant isolated runner intake system, a heftier Katech camshaft (0.581/0.612-inch lift, 220/244 degrees duration), Lemons 2-inch primary pipe headers (through Flowmaster Super 44's in a 3-inch diameter system), all of it compounded by the exquisite calibration of John Meaney's Big Stuff 3 controller easily account for the modest lumps in power and grunt. It would be difficult not to get an adrenaline rush thinking about this set-up. Or so you think.

Heat is extracted via thermostatically-controlled SPAL fans on a four-row aluminum core and Peterson Fluid Systems in Henderson, Colorado, constructed a custom oil tank and breather for the LS7's dry sump oiling system. A Wegner Motorsports accessory drive connects a Powermaster alternator, GM power steering pump, and Vintage Air compressor, thus completing the front dress whose subdued appearance and compact dimensions further the nasty-stealth vision.

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On the receiving end of the grunt, Autokraft incorporated stock GM parts in the flywheel, pressure plate and disc. The standard T56 bellhousing locates a high-torque Rockland Standard Gear six-gear transmission that whips torque to the Dynotech aluminum prop shaft and thence to the Moser 9-inch, its movement tempered by the four-link suspension and coil-sprung shocks.

Despite the cubic gallons of blood red indigenous to many a Ferrari, Stuart went low key. Sure, the Camaro is settled right, has formidable rollers, razor-straight sheetmetal, and cuts the atmosphere in flawless coats of black, it is at once subtle and striking in its simplicity. Anderson and Nowak did replace the quarter panels and blocked out the body for a few centuries until it was time for Anderson to bestow the PPG base and clear coats. As accompaniment, Powder Plus prepped the centers of the Profil wheels with a dusky shade that compliments the onyx body and helps to minimize the inevitable accumulation of brake dust.

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Other outward changes are minimal and subtle, stuff that would stand out only to the trained eye. The ZL2 cowl hood stands alone, but the rear bumper was narrowed, relieved of bumper bolts and replated by Advanced Plating. In proximity, the taillight nacelles were hewn from billet stock and flash LED brake and turn signals. Finally, Marquez Design in West Sacramento, California, supplied the driving lights and attendant panel as well as the billet side-marker bezels.

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While the builder and the owner could have lost propriety in minimal design speckled with bits of billet and custom panels detracting from the simplicity of the whole, they stuck with stock. Autokraft laid in ACC carpeting as a field for the Arizen RS-like seats that were customized for the application and upholstered by Kurt Anderson in familiar houndstooth bordered by genuine cow hide. DSE provided the dashboard assembly to showcase the Auto Meter Ultra-Lite II gauges and to mount the Vintage Air controls, a Hurst flat-stick shifter juts cleanly from the transmission tunnel, and a Budnik Sport steering wheel is the cherry on top.

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Now the killer: According to Kurt, "I don't think this car will ever turn a wheel." Mayim had this beauty built as a prop for his showroom floor, a lounge lizard, a pathetic beauty that no one but Ferrari customers are likely to see much less hear on the open road. To motorheads, that's something slightly less than criminal. Or so it would seem.



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