Recently, there’s been a noticeable surge in cars being built with the intentions of including lateral motion as a major factor considered into the project. There was a time when the majority of street cars were built with the notion that bigger was better: you know, huge blowers protruding through hoods (that is, if they had one) while bulbous rear rubber wrapped around the widest of wheels shoehorned their way between massive wheel tubs. Those days are far from gone, but the idea of thrusting muscle cars through an autocross or road courseplaces where local Miata and Porsche clubs exclusively hold court on any given weekendare now being disrupted by a plethora of muscle car guys wanting to get in on their timed track action.
Back in 1986, after securing a gig with Laughlin Racing in Easly, South Carolina, as a fabricator and chassis builder, the owner of this once-pedestrian second-gen, Mark Giles, was getting ready to head down the Pro Street road with this 1978 Chevy Camaro when he got the crazy idea to build a handling street car and not just a garden-variety g-Machine, either. While I was measuring and figuring out how to build the chassis, said Mark. The idea came to me to go in a different direction and instead of building a straight-line drag beast, I’d build a Winston Cup-style car.
Being employed at a racing shop that specializes in chassis building has its perks. Perks in which Mark took full advantage of and built this chassis from scratch. He narrowed the front end so the stock fenders would accept the larger rubber he’d be running. That tire and wheel combo: 315/35-17-inch Michelin PS2s wrapped around a set of polished 10-inch Bogart LS wheels sporting a 5-inch backspace. Out back, a pair of 12-inch Bogarts backspaced 6 inches easily accommodate the 335/35-17-inch PS2s.
With the suspension points all squared up for turning in both directions, he followed through with a set of SCP spindles and A-arms of his own design to join the performance handling ensemble of Hyperco springs and Penske dampers. All that racing stuff is a hardcore recipe fitting of the car’s track-bound demeanor. He followed up the rear with a three-link system just like they used to run in NASCAR, Mark points out. It’s actually a full floating 9-inch Ford Stock Car Products loaded with a Detroit Locker nodular with 3.91 gears.
Aggressive and repeated stopping is the norm for this road rat, so Wilwood binders got the nod on all four corners13-inchers up front, and 11s out back.
Mark bucked the trend, well actually there was no trend when this build started (remember, this was 1986, and the g-Machine build style was 15 or so years away) but big-block power is his form of drug, so he nestled a Steve Allen Racing 440ci mill (a 427 bored 0.60 over and stroked 3.76 inches) between the rails. JE 11.5:1 pistons, Dart 320 aluminum heads, Crower crankshaft and a Crower solid roller cam (.707 intake lift @ .306 duration, and .689 exhaust lift @ .309 duration), Crower lifters, T&D shaft rockers, and Smith Bros. 3/8-inch pushrods make up the internal high points.
Blake Carburetion in Mooresville, North Carolina, hopped up the Holley HP 830 carb. It’s perched on top of a Dart 41-50 intake manifold ported by JE Beard. An electric SX fuel pump provides a sufficient quenching of the thirsty, all-star cast. So what’s it all come down to? How about 718 hp at 7,300 rpm and 598 lb-ft at 4100 rpm Good enough to handle the logistics of any road course or measly autocross in quick fashion, we reckon.
More in the one-off department? You bet. Mark fabbed up his own oil pana dry sump system in which a Barnes oil pump keeps the internals sufficiently lubed.
An aluminum two-row radiator manufactured by C&R Racing in Indianapolis shares cooling duties with a Fluidyne oil cooler mounted within the radiator duct work.
An MSD Pro Billet ignition provides the flame while Mark once again relied on experience from his day gig and the help of Mark Linebarrier to dial in a set of custom- fabricated headers capped with 2 1/8-inch merge collectors, which play host to Mark’s own crossover exhaust tubes. To keep on the good side of the local Virginia law enforcement crew, a set of 3 1/2-inch Dr. Gas-style mufflers marginally interrupt the rat motor’s audible fury. A killer road machine needs the proper tools for prompt lap times, so Mark assembled a four-speed Jerico top loader and mated it to a 10 1/2-inch twin-disc McLeod clutch and pressure plate surrounded by a Lakewood bellhousing.
The Cup Car motif carries throughout the pilot’s quarters starting with Stewart Warner Track Force gauges taking residence in Mark’s one-off aluminum dash. Steve Blevins sketched up the door panels on paper, and Da Tin Man, Jay, brought them to fruitiontwo more items to add to the one-off list.
Being so consumed by the race car theme, when I put the door bars in I had overlooked the window regulator location, recalls Mark. Instead of moving the bars, I found a pair of electric window regulators that weren’t much heavier than a manual set. Problem solved. Those are the only luxury items in the whole car. This car is all about racing. No carpet, no sound deadening material, and no stereo. And even if it did, I wouldn’t be able to hear it.
Still on the track theme, Mark fabricated the racing seats and Doug Ashley stitched up the snap-on fireproof covers. Simpson Racing harnesses hold Mark in place, but a white-knuckle grip wraps heavy on the Schroeder steering wheel, and the Hurst shifter maintains Mark’s ever-present right hand for constant gear changes.
Daniel Stidham was called up to smooth the body and meticulously lay the PPG Bahama Blue pigment. Needless to say, he pulled it off nicely. No graphics, no unnecessary frilly stuff here, just a unique, bold color that lets the body mods do the talking.
One of the most notable details on the car is the air dam. It’s basically a stock GM nose piece with an A&A Specialties ground effects piece molded in, explained Mark. The bottoms of the fenders were handcrafted to match the nose. The rear of the fenders also go along with the handmade rockers to give the car a cleaner look. I had planned to use a stock flat hood, but after dyno testing the first motor with a 2-inch carb spacer, it made so much more power that I just couldn’t give it up. So I gutted the stock scoop to clear the air cleaner lid and made a cowl induction just like the Cup cars.
Mark spent many years working in the racing chassis industry and now runs The Fab Shop Inc. in Pound, Virginia.
We asked Mark if he would do anything different with the build should he do it again. Yes, I wouldn’t sit with a finished chassis for eleven years next time. If I were to build another car, I’m pretty sure I could do it in at least half the time.
This Car Is All About Racing. No Carpet, No Sound Deadening Material, And No Stereo. And Even If It Did, I Wouldn’t Be Able To Hear It.