Jeff Van Buren had bad hots for Mark Stielow's Red Witch. Stielow, you might remember, was arguably the first proponent of the so-called g-machine, an offshoot of the then-fledgling Pro Touring scene. His first two cars, the Mule and the Thrasher, were the setup; the Red Witch laid it all out and got people thinking about new ways to show off, and have big fun with cars that could master all the driving disciplines in one package. Outstanding braking, acceleration, chassis response, and creature comforts (especially air conditioning) made a powerful statement to a community that was heretofore bent on straight-line annihilation. Add an ex-Detroit engineer or three to the proposition and the thing took off like a bottle rocket.
Meanwhile, the Red Witch came up for sale. Jeff didn't have the funds to capture it, but well-heeled California car collector Charley Lillard did. Jeff kept a lid on and bided his time. He found his 1967 Chevy Camaro on eBay and gave $18,500 for it. "Originally, it was a six-cylinder 'Glide car, so no desirable muscle cars were harmed or killed in the process, but when I bought it, it had a vintage LS7 big-block, a Super T-10 four-speed, and a 12-bolt turning 3.90 gears. The brakes were stock, 11-inch discs and rear drums. The 15-inch Torq-Thrust Americans had dark gray spokes that finished off the '60s-era Trans Am look."
So Jeff had himself a player that was the exact opposite of what he sought and what he saw in his mind's eye. "It didn't take long to get sick of feeding race fuel to the 12.5:1 compression ratio. By that fall [four years ago], the transformation had begun. I'd decided to completely rebuild the car with the existing, aging paintjob. It got the full Detroit Speed treatment along with a carbureted LS2 from Wegner Motorsports. The car was back on the road by fall of 2006 and was mainly like it is today."
Two years later, in the winter of 2008, Jeff decided to blow the car apart and have it media-blasted in preparation for paint. While the car was down, he came across a shrieking deal on a new 6.2L L92. He sold the LS2 and began collecting parts to upgrade to a special EFI system on the new engine. After Wegner had finished toiling, Jeff slid the new motor in place and the car was painted in the spring of 2009. Though Jeff built most of the car in his home garage, a lot of other souls put their all in this project, too.
Telly Violetto at Violetto Auto Works in Montello, Wisconsin, did the body modifications, welded-up the trim and antenna holes, did the front bumper bracket gaps, smoothed the firewall, and shot the paint. Next up was Schwartz Performance in Crystal Lake, Illinois, where the DSE mini-tubs, the rollcage modifications (originally set up by Pro Start Race Cars in Asbury Park, New Jersey), seat mounting, and the modified trunk floor (to fit a '69 fuel tank) came about. Dennis Equitz of Blitzkrieg Motorsports in Caledonia, Wisconsin, worked the DSE coilover conversion, bent the custom brake lines, and fabricated the air intake tube. The requisite 3-inch mandrel-bent stainless steel exhaust is the produce of Dave Neu at Neutek Autowerks.
Readying the chassis for the mayhem that would certainly befall it, Jeff kept the stock spindles and made the following modifications: the DSE front clip carries rack steering, tubular control arms and antisway bar, and AFCO springs sheath Koni adjustable shock absorbers. Last but not least are the Baer 6S six-piston calipers on 14-inch rotors. Though he's now having second thoughts about the DSE 3-inch drop leaf springs and offset hangers, he paired them with Koni shocks. Baer 13-inch plates ride the rear with PBR four-piston calipers. Big brakes require big wheels, but Jeff wisely held down unsprung weight by refusing to go any larger than 18 inches, hence forged Kinesis K18R hoops and sticky Toyo RA1 rubber (18x8 with 245/40ZR and 18x11 with 305/35ZR).