Bobby Culhane comes right out with it, no excuses: “I’ve changed the build so many times over the past 11 years that my Camaro has evolved while still staying modern. I wouldn’t change what I’ve done to it to change the memories I’ve had building my car.” In essence, the car has become him and vice-versa. In this day of “everything has a price,” Bobby Culhane reverts to a shady glen of his past. He wouldn’t loosen his grip on the Camaro if someone held a shotgun to his brow and began making angry noises. Brand loyalty fanatic? Passion run amok? You could say that.
Fact being that he’s just 29, Culhane’s good old days are not necessarily the same as other people’s. “I’ve been a die-hard Camaro enthusiast since I was six years old. So when the LT1 Camaro came out [’93 model year], I was head over heels and it quickly became my dream car,” Bobby confessed. “When I was 15, I was carrying around a Chilton’s LT1 F-body repair manual, and I didn’t even own a Camaro. I wanted to know everything about the car of my dream before I went and bought it.” At the time, Culhane was living in Greeley, Colorado, about 60 miles northeast of Denver. He has since moved to Surprise, Arizona.
Every time he went out, it seemed, he was catching glimpses of a specific 1994 Camaro Z28. Shortly afterward, Bobby traced it to the Chevy store in Greeley. It was indeed for sale. Then his golden egg fractured, spilling a horrendous yoke. “The car was in pretty rough shape, from door locks not working to exhaust dragging on the ground. The paint was dull. The window tint was purple and hanging off the glass. The driver side window track was broken and there was a scratch down the passenger side … from fender to the rear quarter panel. The Opti-Spark was dying. Stained carpets and seats and hacked up wires in the electrical system. Door panel clips were missing, or they were broken off. It had a bra and a high-rise spoiler,” Bobby decried.
Things didn’t always go so well. During the Camaro’s 11-year gestation, it sawed through 11 transmissions, 7 torque converters, and 5 sets of gears. In the end, the crashed equipment was more or less the product of nitrous oxide. Bobby: “Most people would have sold the car after all the issues I’ve gone through, but I never gave up on her.” That he is a custom fabricator/installer in real life mitigated some of the expense. His wife Deanna has always been deep in his corner. Even doing everything himself, save for the paint, transmission, and rear-axle work, Culhane’s got more time and loot in this fish than he wants to think about, but “all the struggles, cuts, and bruises along the way were well worth the outcome.”
Without regards to a particular discipline, Culhane simply built the car to satisfy what was in his mind’s eye. It’s clear that a small thermo-nuclear device in the engine bay was not his aim nor was it warranted. He wanted reliable oats. Turn the key and go down the road. Still, he maintains a fail-safe. He couched a 200hp Nitrous Express kit in the event of an emergency. He made a nice bed for the whirring parts to lie in, beginning with numerous bolt-on suspension pieces that include UMI sub-frame connectors, UMI tubular lower control arms and relocation brackets, Spohn tubular torque arm, Spohn 25mm rear antisway bar and a UMI 35mm front bar. Bobby wanted big rubber. He narrowed it all down to 18x10.5 C5 deep dish OE wheels carrying 295/35 BFG g-Force KDW Gen 1 in front and BFG 315/30 Drag Radials on the scratching out end. Mini-tubs were unnecessary. A judicious wheel offset and tires with the right diameter/section width were a dope fit, facilitated by Bobby with some creative massaging on the rear inner fender wells and rolled quarter-panel lips.
The suspension is based on stock spindles. Bobby bolstered the remainder with Eibach 2.25-inch lowering springs and Monroe SensaTrac shock absorbers. At the traction end, the Camaro accommodates matching Eibach 2.25-inch drop coils and more SensaTrac shocks. In total, the car is lowered 2.75 inches in front and 3.0 inches in back. The brakes are stock-diameter discs tended by Power Stop rotors and VGX pads in the original calipers.
In his search for worthy, reliable torque transfer (remember, there were many delicate precursors), Bobby landed on a 4L60E manufactured by Performabuilt in Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania. Torque is multiplied by a Yank 3,600-rpm stall converter. The driveshaft is from an LS1 F-body and the rear axle remains the original 10-bolt, albeit one stuffed with a limited-slip, 3.73:1 gears, and a T/A girdle.
Bobby estimates 460 hp at 6,200 rpm and a warm and cuddly 520 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm — without juice. He left the 350ci short-block "as is" and concentrated heavily in all other areas. Machine work was accomplished at Smiley’s Automotive in Greeley. The original 10.5:1 compression ratio was perfect for pump gas. The advantage came with Advanced Induction aluminum cylinder heads engineered with reverse-flow cooling properties, 2.00/1.56 valves, 200cc intake runners, scant 55.0cc combustion chambers, and exhaust ports that have been raised 0.100-inch. At the heart of it is a Comp Cams hydraulic roller that produces 0.601/0.610 lift and a duration of 233/239 at 0.050-inch on 111 LSA. The oiling system is centered on a stock 5-quart pan, pump, and pick-up. COMP Cams one-piece pushrods nudge 1.6:1 roller rocker arms. To import sufficient fuel, Bobby stayed with the EFI but inserted Bosch Green Giant 42-lb/hr injectors and feeds the intake with a positive-displacement (gerotor) Racetronix in-tank fuel pump and system. The exhaust tract is filled with MAC mid-length 1 5/8-inch primaries, custom 3-inch aluminized stainless system, cross-over pipe, and Dynomax Race Bullet muffs. Ancillaries include a Moroso air hat and K&N element, Tuff Stuff 14-amp alternator, and the stock radiator core. In all, a tough, reliable power plant ready for whatever other changes that Bobby might foresee.
In the business room, you’d be hard-pressed to notice much more than a stock layout. While the hue of the interior tableau has changed from light grey to ebony/charcoal, all the attendant items were refurbished, re-upholstered, or customized. Auto Meter Ultra-Lite and Cobalt C2 gauges are rampant. In the middle of it all, there is a one-off gauge overlay, accompanied by an array of LEDs to illustrate the intricate design. In one of the air vents, our man posted a Scanmaster diagnostic scale. In fact, Bobby put most of the time in the construction of the various enclosures and boxes necessary for the Pioneer Premium DEH-P77DH head that works with a JL Audio MonoBlock sub amp. Front and rear speakers are 6.5-inch Infinity partnering with a pair of JL 10-inch WO subwoofers. Keep rockin’, Bobby!
Kent Erben at Dellenbach Chevrolet in Fort Collins, Colorado, applied the Medium Patriot Red metallic. The combination of the C5 wheels, lowered body, and in-your-face fiberglass hood grabs your eyes and refuses to relent. Bobby did the bodywork. He designed the graphics. Kent laid down the same. Undoubtedly, the Camaro stands out, predicated on that lumpy hood, and is bound to remain in the mind’s eye for a precious long time. Why should we care? “There are many unique pieces on my Camaro. A lot of them are one-of-a-kind and can no longer be bought. They all come together as a whole and make the Camaro unique.”
Yeah, Bobby, that’s the stuff.
“Most people would have sold the car after all the issues I’ve gone through, but I never gave up on her.”