We realize that hot Camaros represent more than troops for the Pro Touring phenom and its recent offshoots. There are plenty of enthusiasts out there who don’t aspire to race course shenanigans or feel the need to participate against others in order to satisfy some form of bloodlust. They like to drive and they like to look, and most of all they like looking good. As you will see, Rich Taylor's perseverance has brought him the accolades and the awards that usually follow. People took notice. People voiced their opinions. People brought him back home.
“I think the paint is the unique feature,” opined Rich. “A custom mix of Black Cherry Pearl on top and a blend of Torch Red and Hugger Orange on bottom, accented with tangerine flames and pinstripes. In the shade, the top of the car looks deep black, but when the sun hits it, the black cherry pops out. I also have ghosted-in stripes and flames under the black cherry on the hood and trunk. All of it unnoticeable until the sun hits it just right.”
Rich had ideas. Some of them didn’t work but still he rode the process until there was no more to be had … and then resolutely marched ahead to a fresh calling. He played some weird combos along the way, all of them in this 1972 Chevy Camaro SS. Luck for Rich he’d found the right woman. Kim backed him up. Kim worked on the car with him. Kim clamped his fear of failure. She brought their newborn daughters home from the hospital in the cars that she and Rich had built together. Pal Joe Lucas appeared at a moment’s notice to do anything that needed to be done.
Rich: “I can remember my brother Steve reading Hot Rod magazine and we would dream of having nice cars someday. We learned how to work on cars, because we couldn’t afford to have someone else fix it for us … the thought process being, ’If it breaks, take it apart and put the new parts in the way the old ones came out.’ He saved up his burger-joint stash and bought a ’74 Javelin AMX. Two months later, it got away from him. It was a steaming pile. Kaput. Next, a ’76 Grand Prix that wouldn’t go any faster despite what Rich administered. An ’84 Cutlass with a 350 small-block came around. After Desert Storm, Rich got out of the service and doted on crazy-fast crotch rockets. Result: A nasty tumble broke his neck and his back in two places and shattered a femur. When he was in the hospital, he met Kim through a friend. Things between them clicked.
Bikes were verboten, but cars were really okay with Kim. Rich tooled a ’71 Buick GS and did so for the next two years. They brought daughter Number One home in it. Shortly afterward, Rich felt the boot heel of reality dig into his neck and he tidied up—sold the car, bought a house, and concentrated on family. Four years later, he saw the ride of his dreams at Classic Auto Showplace in Troy, Michigan. Mere minutes later, it seemed, the car was in his garage; the beginning of an epic build.
Nitrous oxide behind a supercharged punch sounded about right to Rich. Much experimentation with fuel delivery species, Weber side drafts and, at no small expense, a Momar Fuel Injection (Boulder, Colorado) multi-port system with billet throttle bodies were adapted to the Weiand 144 supercharger. The come-back on Kinsler’s dyno was 600 crankshaft horsepower.
Rich tried his hand at big car shows, like the Toledo Autorama in 2003. In a heavy snow storm, the Taylor's drove their prodigy to the show. Eyes popped. Jaws dropped. What’s with these kids? An hour later, they had it cleared and dry. Not long after, they were awarded class winner (conservative hardtop ’70-79) and were chosen as Super Chevy’s Pick of the Show. All right, now! They missed the Norwalk Super Chevy event. Daughter Number Two popped from her warm, dark cradle and into the daylight that same weekend. They trundled her home in the Camaro.
In ’06, Kim and Rich reared back big and exhibited at the Detroit Autorama. They took Second Place against a Hemi Cuda, a car that hadn’t been driven in four years and built on a $120,000 “investment.” Rich quipped, “Not bad for a home-built Camaro that gets driven every week.”
But all was not copasetic. The Weiand got weary on I-75 one day and imploded. The bearings skizzed, destroying the rotors and sending shards of excited aluminum through the heads and down to the bottom end. Serendipity maybe? Gee, since we have to pull the motor, might as well make it bigger and nastier. Rich sent the remains to Graham Racing Engines in Bowling Green, Ohio, for machine work, boring, blueprinting, and balancing on the “new” 383. He assembled the short-block with Scat forged crank and H-beam rods. The SRP blower pistons provide an 8.5:1 compression ratio when joined with the Dart Pro 1 aluminum heads. He used ARP bolts and studs throughout and bolted up the bottom end with a Moroso 6-quart sump and a Mellings high-volume oil pump.
COMP Cams made him a custom-ground hydraulic roller and accompanying lifters. Rich craved an engine sound not of this earth, so he could not ignore the sweet whine of a Pete Jackson gear drive. He covered the weapon with a Summit stamping and moved on to the top end. He laid down an Edelbrock Victor Jr. Air Gap and crowned it with a 750cfm Quick Fuel Technology 4150, all the while envisioning a Vortech pressure box covering the contraption. Before installation, he wriggled an NOS plate (100hp shot) between manifold flange and carb bottom. The pressure-producer is a V2 SQ Si programmed with a mild 11psi positive manifold pressure. In lieu of a heat-exchanging intercooler, the nitrous is more likely a fuel coolant aid than a pure power popper. To gather the correct amount of fuel, he pursued an Aeromotive 1100 electric pump. The accessory drive incorporates a Summit water pump that converges with a Modine brass/copper four-row core radiator. The alternator is a Tuff Stuff 160 amp. A power steering reservoir is on the circuit, but an air conditioning compressor is non-existent.
Since positive manifold pressure was imminent, Rich chose an MSD 6AL box with Boost Timing Master. He got some 1 5/8-inch primary pipe Hedman angle-plug headers and had them Jet-Hot coated. Then he dragged the bundle ten miles up the road to RDP Motorsports in Painesville, Ohio, for the mandrel-bent stainless steel exhaust system. RDP put in 3-inch pipes, an X-pipe, and RDP race mufflers. On the pump, the 383 broke out 753 hp at 6,300 rpm and 713 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm.
All that grunt is consumed by a Turbo 400 assembled at Gearhead Transmissions in Toledo. It includes a TCI converter with a 3,500rpm stall speed and a manual valve body tweaked by a B&M Quick Silver shifter. Torque is channeled through a 4-inch diameter aluminum shaft from Rich’s friends at Dana Corporation. At the end of the line, Rich assembled a Moser 12-bolt holding a positive traction differential and 3.42:1 gears.
At first, Rich rode on “mechanical” suspension changes. Now his Camaro can belly flop (literally) with a custom-built air shock system. Rather buy something ready-made, RDP framed a 4-link set-up to showcase the Firestone bags and modified the front control arms to accept the same. They held the car together with Comp Engineering sub-frame connectors and then went to town. The shocks are Edelbrock all around. Total suspension drop is 6 inches. Total reaction is: Wow! The rollers are campy Foose Nitrous II, 18 and 20 inches, respectively. The round black things on them are Cooper Zeon, conservatively sized at 245/40 all around. We suspect that the stock disc/drum brakes may certainly be replaced by a more capable system in the near future.
Rich tidied up the envelope by shaving the SS emblems, fabricated and smoothed the firewall with Kim, and attached a Goodmark steel 2-inch cowl hood. At Rocky’s Body Shop in Toledo, Dean Mattoni finished the bodywork and applied the knock-your-eyes-out HOK paint. Then he and Dave Knepper laid down the subtle graphics. They sent the chrome and items to be powdercoated to Al’s Polishing, also in Toledo.
For this presentation, Rich re-skinned the seats in factory vinyl and rolled out some ACC carpet. The trunk got a piece of that, too. The post is topped by an SS steering wheel and ahead of that long, black hood Rich sees Sun Pro gauges staring back at him telling him to get with it.
This week, the bad boy is currently getting a full custom interior, and in his home garage Rich is “rebuilding” the 383 with a one-off Vortech twin supercharger system that he knows will produce well over 1,000 hp. Maybe we should have called this story “CRAAAAZY!”
“I can remember my brother Steve reading Hot Rod magazine and we would dream of having nice cars someday.”
“Since we have to pull the motor, might as well make it bigger and nastier.”