Steve McDonough of Pembroke, Massachusetts, is no stranger to hopped-up muscle cars. He's owned a number of first-generation Camaros (as well as other Chevys), each with its own unique style and he's always maintained that if a car isn't a driver, it's pretty much worthless. It's his dedication to maintaining that a car should be able to hold its own on the street as well as the dragstrip that makes the evolution of his current '67, known as Sweet & Low, unique.
Having studied the lines of first-generation Camaros for what seemed like an eternity, he envisioned a number of subtle yet dramatic changes, which would set his car apart from the rest. Herein lies the puzzle of how to create a visually killer show car that looks like it maintains its life in a bubble yet has an outgoing personality of wanting to live life on the wild side. A side where it gets driven hard through all sorts of elements while leaving smoky burnouts from the dragstrip to the donut shop. After acting on a tip from longtime friend Bob Lundell, McDonough checked out a somewhat clean ’67 that seemed to fit the bill for his project. Money exchanged hands and the car went straight to his home shop where he immediately tore it down to bare bones. With the body shell picked clean, he loaded it up and made the trip to the media blaster full of confidence. What returned left him riddled with disgust, for the car looked like it had been dropped off the side of a cliff and then glued back together. Not one to let the situation get the best of him, he mapped out a plan to locate a builder who would be able to undertake the project and his idea concepts. After studying cars on the show floor and at countless outdoor events, one particular builder’s style caught his eye due to his fresh approach and dramatic paintjobs that possessed incredible depth, that of Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts.
McDonough delivered the body shell and parts to Newell and his team, consisting of Brian Jordan and Paul Thetonia. These guys had seen far worse and advised they would be able to salvage the body shell without a problem. Wanting to get the car’s profile lower, Rick’s Custom Fabrication in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was enlisted to first channel the floorpans by 1 inch and fabricate a custom transmission crossmember. With that done, the formula was to then get the car to look as good underneath as it would on top. The shell was mounted to a rotisserie where its entire underside was fully welded, smoothed, molded, and prepped for paint. Rick’s was called back to install a set of C5 Corvette door handles, smooth out the rear body panel, and incorporate C5 Corvette taillights. From there, Newell turned up the heat working with Dennis MacPherson of DMC Racing in nearby Halifax, Massachusetts. MacPherson worked tirelessly on the restyling of the front half of the car starting with TIG welding the front fenders, header panel, and lower valance together into a one-piece unit. The signature billet-bar grille and headlight hideaway mounting system was then designed and mounted in place by MacPherson, giving the car a newfound allure. The pair then proceeded onward by fabricating the lower front valance air intake pockets followed by Newell filling the cowl and body seams, shaving the driprails, and preparing the body for paint.
Focusing on the car’s suspension, it was obvious from the start that a slammed-to-the-pavement attitude was going to be needed; however, the car would also need to handle in the corners and hold its own at the dragstrip. A Chevy 12-bolt rear was packed with 3.55:1 gears and set in place by a pair of custom fabricated ladder bars by DMC Racing, while RideTech Shockwaves handle the bumps and ride height. Up front, a Fat Man Fabrications IFS subframe was modified by Newell to accept RideTech Shockwaves combined with Fat Man’s 2-inch dropped spindles and control arms. To tame the beast, fluid pushes through a Kugel Komponents master and on to 13-inch Wilwood discs and six-piston calipers up front and 12-inch Wilwood discs and four-piston calipers out back. Billet Specialties Rat Tail wheels in 18x8 front and 20x10 rear wrapped in Toyo Proxes 4 rubber keeps everything grounded and ready for action.
McDonough made a call to Street & Performance to have them assemble a nasty big-block packed with enough guts to incinerate the tires on command. Starting with a GM crate 502, they detailed it to the hilt, added a custom front runner system, and capped it off with a 1,000-cfm EFI-fed tunnel ram. DMC Racing created the stunning air intake system while a Ron Davis aluminum radiator keeps everything cool. Street & Performance headers exhale through a Rick’s stainless 2½-inch exhaust with shifts moving through a massaged TCI TH400 trans linked to a custom driveshaft balanced by South Shore Bearing in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Newell loaded his spray gun and laid down a silver base followed by a vibrant House of Kolor Candy Tangerine vibe on everything that wasn’t polished or plated, including the entire undercarriage, engine bay, and fenderwells. He followed up with his signature flames in blue and purple chameleon paint to the body, undercarriage, fenderwells, engine air intake, and interior console delivering a knockout punch.
McDonough always admired the dashboards in ’59 Impalas so he decided to fit one into the ’67 for a one-off look. Rick’s followed by then designing out of steel a flowing console from front to rear to accent the four custom-fabbed bucket seats. Like the exterior, the interior was treated to the same House of Kolor Candy Tangerine gloss while K&K Customs in Reading, Massachusetts, handled the stitching. K&K designed an orange leather seat base with Stingray inserts combined with fawn Mercedes square weave carpet accented by molded door panels and a complementing headliner. Dakota Digital got the nod to keep the driver informed of the vitals while a Billet Specialties steering wheel plots the course and a Hurst stick pulls the gears.
An Alpine head unit gets juiced from a Critical Mass amp with enough thunder to shatter the glass moving waves through Critical Mass speakers installed by sound guru Jeremy Katz of Advanced Audio Designs in nearby Sharon.
Once completed, Sweet & Low debuted at the Boston World of Wheels in 2005, capturing the CASI Cup its first time out. Not long after its debut, and tired of hearing the cliché, “Where’s your trailer?” McDonough and Newell set out to stand the car show groupies on their ears by driving the skins off the car, accumulating just over 20,000 miles to date. Along the way it’s participated at SEMA twice by invitation, was a Long Haul member on Hot Rod’s Power Tour in 2006, graced the floor at the Fresno Autorama, won countless burnout competitions, and slammed gears at the dragstrip. The car personifies an early Pro Touring style with an edge and is a testament to being able to have the look yet run hard as well. For Steve McDonough it’s all about the experiences he had while building the car and the lifetime friendships forged during the journey, and that’s plain bitchin’ to us!