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1969 Camaro SS Convertible - Dropping The Top

What An Airline Pilot Dreams About ...

Ro McGonegal Dec 1, 2010
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While some of us muddle through a project, even with the best-laid plans, it can stop immediately or vector into another realm before you can pull the reins. As a commercial pilot for United Airlines, Matt Gober shepherds several hundred people who depend strictly upon his brains, skill, and awareness to get safely from one place to another 35,000 feet above terra firma. Such responsibility tends to polarize thought, at least for the duration of the trip. Then (sounds of a door being kicked open) his mind goes on vacation.

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Matt and his wife Aimee Jo are hard-core ragtop fans, but he knew damn well that he didn't have the time, knowledge, or the equipment to do the job correctly. Originally, the plan was a simple one (aren't they always?): get a good car, give it a double-overdrive transmission, a decent suspension, and drive the hell out of it. Then Matt happened upon the antics and materiel displayed on and He flipped. He'd already discovered the blissful arrogance that an old car infused with new components can muster. It was a '67 Corvette that touted a Newman Car Creations C4 suspension and a supercharged LS1. "I thought I wasn't going to miss the great handling, braking, and modern drivetrain, but I was sorely mistaken."

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He'd found a good ol' 1969 Camaro SS Convertible on then made acquaintance with Jason Huber, proprietor of G-Force Design Concepts in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Huber's talent thoroughly transcends the three-dimensional drawing stage. G-Force can design your road hog and then make the lines come alive in metal and in woofing good power and handling.

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"Detroit Speed had just come out with their four-link rear suspension and Jason took me for a ride in his 'Fuel' Camaro ... it rode so well that I had to have it ... then Jason said it would be cool to mini-tub the car while we were at it, and the simple project soon turned into a full-tilt Pro Touring machine with the best equipment that DSE had to offer," Matt confessed. "Then I went to Mooresville, North Carolina. Kyle Tucker threw me the keys to the DSE '69 test car and told me to have fun. I was sold on it and during the drive I flipped my wig and decided that the engine would be an LS7!"

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There was one problem. Matt would not do without cruise control but found out at the time the wiring harness could only be done with a 24X reluctor wheel (58X is now the standard). This meant that the LS7 would have to be custom built. Late Model Engines in Houston, Texas, included all the forged aftermarket goodies, ported cylinder heads, and a Katech torque cam. Then Jeremy Formato ported the intake manifold and the stock drive-by-wire throttle body. LME bored the block to 4.130 inches but left the stroke at 4.00 inches, affording a displacement of 430 ci.

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LME put ARP studs where bolts once were, installed 11.5:1 Wiseco pistons on Callies CompStar connecting rods thence to a Callies forged crankshaft. Lubrication comes from a dry sump conversion six-quart oil pan working with a Melling pump. LME increased cam timing with a Katech stick: 220/224 degrees of duration at 0.050-inch, 0.615/0.648-inch lift, and connected to the crank via a Comp Cams double-roller timing gears and chain. Lifters are stock LS7 roller tappets. Fuel delivery is forthright from the Rick's Stainless Steel fuel tank and a Bosch pump. Heat is siphoned from the system by a big aluminum core, puller fans, and a factory water pump. For the accessory drive system, LME chose a Camaro LS1 unit populated by a Vintage Air compressor, alternator, and power steering pump. A custom bracket lowers the compressor to the stock Corvette location (to the right, beneath the headers and the water pump bungs).

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The 430 sucks life through a K&N element and expels it through ceramic-coated Lemons headers built to clear the DSE sub-frame. Primary pipes are 17/8-inch, ending at 3-inch collectors and the system continues with a stainless exhaust, X-pipe, and Magnaflow stainless steel mufflers. Output estimates are 600 hp at 6,500 rpm and 595 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm.

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For the hijinx that Matt had in mind, he could do with nothing less than a double-overdrive clutch box. The Tremec T56 takes torque through a Textralia OZ700 pressure plate and disc and sweeps it down a Dynotech aluminum drive shaft to the fabricated 9-inch that DSE prepped with a Detroit Truetrack differential, 3.70:1 gears, and 31-spline axles.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Chambersburg posse was leaning hard on the F-body's DSE-sourced chassis and suspension. All of the obsolete went right into the round file, while Jason, Dan, Joe, and Ron Huber (dad) descended like vultures on the bones. They hooked the front of the car to the rear with sub-frame connectors. They applied a complete DSE hydro-formed clip (stub, tubular control arms, DSE custom Koni coilovers, and rack steering) and put up the 13-inch Baer GT brakes. The aft dimensions of the chassis were usurped by mini-tubs and a Quadra-Link assembly, you know, four-link, coilover Konis, etc. G-Force finished up with 12-inch Baer GT discs. The DSE front member is configured to accept at least a 275/35ZR18 tire (Michelin Pilot Sport 2) on a 10-inch wide rim (Budnik Lateral). The mini-tubs easily swallow bulbous 335/30 PS2s on12-inch-wide hoops and make the whole thing look like a natural occurrence.

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Just as his cockpit in the Aerobus 320, the one in his Camaro is understated and quietly to the point. Nothing there that isn't needed. But when Matt and Aimee Jo hit the road, it's just for fun, so they expect a little bit of warmth and a lot of accommodation. Bodies are cupped by Recaro Specialist M buckets. Helman's Interior in Chambersburg did up the rear seat to match the black vinyl on the Recaros and then stitched up a new cloth convertible roof. Door panels, rear panels, package tray, headliner, and carpeting are from the repro bin. Mat whacks a Pro 5.0 shifter, hawks the Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges in the custom dash insert, and palms that slick Budnik Sport steering wheel. Creature comforts installed by the G-Force team include the Vintage Air HVAC system and a Pioneer head unit with CD, MP3 and iPod capability, Blaupunkt speakers front and rear, and a nasty ol' Omega sub-woofer.

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As for the body work and finishing, we have only this: BMW Estoril Blue. Don't know who did this work but it looks outstanding and Matt laments: "They [G-Force] built the whole car minus the paint. I was trying to save money. It was a big mistake not painting the car while it was apart."

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The car wasn't finished or de-bugged in time for the '07 Run Through the Hills event but Matt took it to Tennessee anyway. At the very least he had the time of his life. "Over the next year, we worked out some bugs and I got a good tune on it by East Coast Supercharging in Cream Ridge, New Jersey. My wife and I went back to RTTH and had an awesome time." With his coveted cruise control, Matt says that the 600hp 430 managed a solid 25 mpg at 70 mph on the trip back to Virginia. "The car is beyond my abilities as a driver, but I'm getting smoother and quicker and maybe one day I'll be able to do the car justice."

The popular notion is that project cars never do get finished. Matt's of a like mind. The future calls for a functional roll bar and harness "in the style of the Year One Camaro." Matt hankers for seat warmers and electric window lifts ... and a better display in the quarter-mile. "With the worst driving ever, I still ran a 12.1 at 112. I spun badly in Second gear, let off, got back on it and then completely skipped Fourth, so I know it's a solid eleven-second car.

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Although infected by the obsession when just a youth, Matt didn't get his first serious hot rod until he turned 30, in the spring of '00, so remembering his best experience in his car wasn't that difficult. "It's a tie between my first auto-cross event at Pigeon Forge and my first time drag racing the car at Mason-Dixon Dragway. Both were so much fun that I can't put it in words."

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Yes you did, Matt. Fun is the only thing that matters.



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