Hitting the local scene in a '69 Chevy Biscayne is a dream come true for most car guys. Think about it: You and your sweetheart are cruising the local Dairy Queen on a Friday night. You got the windows down and the tunes are rockin'. Your big-ass cam is thumping and the Flowmasters are sounding tight. The big ride means business and the wicked stance confirms the fact. On the streets, no one challenges, as its reputation precedes it. Everyone knows you have the baddest street machine in town ... everyone but that pesky kid in a Hugger Orange '70 Camaro. You knew his car was fast but, in a blink of an eye, he passes you as if you were sitting still. You weren't.
That's all it took for Greg Halliwill to trade off the big Chevy. "I'm a sore loser," confesses Greg. "So about a year later, I went out and bought this 1972 Chevy Camaro. There was no way that punk-ass kid was going to beat me like that again."
When Greg purchased the car it was totally done. But the engine, although it looked great, could only squeeze out about 300 ponies. Not exactly what he had in mind and not nearly enough juice to handle that kid in the '70. Needless to say, Greg had his own ideas of how to build a hot rod-for speed with Pro Touring style. Piece of cake ... but not so fast. Greg spent the next four years tweaking, punching, fabricating, adding, subtracting, and cutting this second-gen to his specs.
Although speed and agility were high priority, the car had to look every bit as fast as it would run. Stem to stern, Greg managed to bolt up every billet piece offered by Marquez Design. Fog lamps, door jamb vents, striker, hood stops, taillights, they're all here. So with the car sporting some fine jewelry, Greg was thinking a 406 small-block capable of 650 hp was the next piece to the puzzle. He hooked up with a local engine builder to handle the muscle, a friend of a friend deal, but the dude's lack of effort and slow work ethics led Greg to pull back on the engine build. "After giving the guy half the money to get started, a lot of time went by with not much going on with the engine," recalls Greg. "Then he got pissed when I asked for my money back. So with a set of JE Pistons and Dart Heads under my arms, I headed over to Kirt Cheney at Cheney Engines in Hastings, Michigan." With Cheney at the helm, it wasn't long before Greg finally had his hands on a 12.5:1 compression bullet capable of sucking down race fuel quicker than a Skid Row bum swills an eight-dollar bottle of Ezra Brooks.
With a 4.155-inch bore and 3.75-inch stroke, Cheney loaded the gun with a custom Eagle crankshaft and Comp Cams solid roller with an intake and exhaust lift of 6.30, but kept the duration under wraps. An Aeromotive (in-tank) electric fuel pump provides a FAST single plane intake and FAST XFI fuel injectors with the perfect draw. A Melling high-volume oil pump mixes crude, nestled in a Moroso 6-quart pan. After all was said and done, a newly-born small-block rated at 642 hp at 6000 rpm and 605 lb-ft of torque at 5,100 rpm was resting comfortably between the 'rails. Those are the kind of numbers that helped Greg forget about the first engine builder go-round.
Greg loaded the engine bay with plenty of bling, starting with a complete March pulley system including a 160-amp alternator. Granatelli brushed-aluminum valve covers join the mix, combined with an All Star Performance air cleaner housing that houses the K&N filter element. Ringbrothers hood hinges ice the cake and a CVR billet vacuum pump compliment the ensemble. A Be Cool four-row aluminum radiator sits up front while an Edelbrock water pump keeps the engine quenched. Hooker 17/8-inch Super Comp headers were bathed in Jet Hot's sterling silver coating. A Flowmaster 3-inch X-pipe winds underneath and exits into a set of Flowmaster 40 series deadeners.
Greg built the car with the intention of owning a multi-tasking ride, meaning it would have to make a statement on the drag strip as well as a road course. Oh, and just for kicks, he entertains the thought of driving it fairly regularly on the street. He enlisted the talents of Dan Thompson to beef up a TH350 trans. Although Thompson backed it up with a Coan 10-inch 3800 stall converter for aggressive launches, shifts remain manageable in street situations and lengthy drives. A Strange driveshaft modified with heavy-duty Strange yokes suck up the twist, and Chuck Lett at Attac Race Cars in Charlotte, Michigan narrowed the Moser 12-bolt and stuffed in 3.73 cogs.
In order to meet the demands of a road course, quality-engineered suspension components are a must. Greg did his homework and made a call to Global West Performance for a set of their upper and lower tubular A-arms up front to accompany the GM drop spindles and QA1 adjustable shocks. Out back, he went with a Ridetech four-link Airbar setup complete with the Select Series Shock Waves for added adjustability. Scrubbing off speed in quick form is a must during track day exercises, so with the help of Dan over at Hotrods and Handlebars in Battlecreek, Michigan, Wilwood binders reside on all four corners (six-piston calipers, 13-inch rotors up front / four-piston calipers, 12-inch rotors rear). With suspension components only as good at the tires allow, Nitto 555 rubber was up to the task (225/35 18 front and 275/30 19 rear). Intro five-spoke Vista wheels (18x10 front / 19x12 rear) hold down the vintage look combined with modern performance.
The cockpit echoes the engine bay with plenty of shiny bits combined with modern comfort and performance functionality. The crew at Street Rod Alley in Muskegon, Michigan handled the interior installation, including the custom GM low-back seats shod in black ultra leather and carbon-fiber inserts, custom-built leather-trim door panels, relocated billet door handles, and ACC black loop carpet. Autometer carbon-fiber gauges keep Greg informed and a Flaming River column topped with a D Wheel wrapped in black leather direct the show.
Dave Nelken over at Lea's Auto Body in Charlotte, Michigan smoothed the sheetmetal, slathered the second-gen in Dupont Mediterranean Blue pigment, and carefully applied the black Super Sport stripes over a Goodmark cowl hood. Master Blaster, also in Charlotte, handled the powdercoating duties on various pieces including bumpers, headlight buckets, and window trim.
Had Greg been awarded a Mulligan on the build, he told us he'd have started with a car that wasn't finished. "I could have saved tons of money if I had just started on a Camaro that needed restoration," informs Greg. "I basically tore the car apart and started over anyway, so next time I'll know better."
So far, Greg has enjoyed the car far beyond his expectations. He's had it on the high banks of Michigan International Speedway, raced it at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, done a bunch of autocrossing, and had it out on the 2009 Woodward Dream Cruise. And he's just getting started.
"I really want to thank my friend Jason Cook for helping with the fuel injection, my buddies Toby Vansycle and John Moreno who helped out when I was in a tight spot, and of course my wife," says Greg. "But the person I owe the most to is that kid who blew by me in the Hugger Orange '70 back at the Dairy Queen a few years back. Without him, I might still be sitting in that slug of a Chevy thinking I was 'all that.'"