Growing up in a household where performance-oriented Camaros were a major part of the landscape, Brian Hobaugh's parents performed a tricky balancing act between attending his dad, Steve's, bi-monthly autocross events and keeping a young Brian involved in youth sports programs such as soccer, baseball, and football throughout his formative years. The Hobaugh clan was a busy bunch. Although Brian excelled at ball sports up to his high school days, the overwhelming influence of his dad's racing became more attractive as he got closer to getting his driver's license. There was no doubt that racing was in his blood.
Brian tells it best. “My dad had a ’74 Camaro until I was about 9 years old then purchased a ’72 Z28, which he raced throughout the rest of my youth. His fellow competitors also had first- and early second-gen Camaros – cars that should today be considered the first Pro Touring cars. They were all street driven, had the largest wheels and tires they could stuff under the fenders, used the best suspension components available at the time, and they raced them hard. I loved every minute of it.”
With racing in his lineage, the San Francisco Bay Area youngster was autocrossing his dad’s newly acquired ’65 Corvette at age 16, a mere four days after getting his driver’s license. This activity went on for the next 25 years and netted Brian some serious driving skills.
With the Vette getting a little tired it was time for a new project. So Brian and his dad set their sights on another second-gen – a car they could enjoy building and racing together. But this would be no average run-of-the mill autocross/street car. “If we were going to build a car from scratch,” informs Brian, “it needs to be the best handling Camaro that conforms to the SCCA C Prepared class and be street legal. With the time and money spent on this car, it also has to be competitive on a national level, and I want to be able to drive it on the street, too.”
Yet to have an actual car in their possession, the father and son duo did have a clear plan for the build. Casual conversation with fellow racer, national autocross champion, and Camaro Performers magazine columnist Mary Pozzi led to some discussion about a '73 she had behind the shop collecting dust and playing home to a number of freeloading wildlife critters. Although she had informal plans of using the not-so-nice, blue-vinyl-topped F-body as a future project, she could tell Brian was hot for it. The fact that he'd be building a full-on performance car sealed the deal as Mary is all about doing her part in keeping the hobby at the forefront - a decision that may have bitten her in the hindquarters, as she just enabled another fierce competitor into the fray.
With most of the parts torn from their newly acquired Camaro hitting the scrap pile, Brian and his dad were on their way. They sent the shell to second-generation racer Mike Maier at Maier Racing in nearby Hayward, California, with specific instructions: To design and build the most kick-ass suspension ever made for a ’73 Camaro. Nothing off-the-shelf here. Maier’s vast knowledge of suspension runs deep, as he’s a long-time autocross champion, and his father, Bill Maier, was a Trans-Am racer from back in the day. These guys know their stuff. The upper and lower control arms, spindles, sway bars, three-link rear suspension are all custom Maier one-offs. Even veteran national autocross champion Frank Stagnaro jumped in on the design and fabrication portion of the build. The team settled the system on Hyperco springs and JRI adjustable ST/08 shocks with remote canisters front and rear for easy accessibility and quick adjustment.
With welder and years of experience in hand, Steve Hobaugh got busy torching in the custom Maier Racing rollcage. Brian made it a point to ensure the car be absolutely safe, as it will see quite a bit of high-speed action during open track days throughout its lifetime.
Being the manager of Fremont, California-based body repair shop, Car West Elite, Brian and lead technicians Matt Mettler and Bo Navarrete got involved with the body design and fabrication. “Being that we are, for the most part, a collision repair facility, this was the biggest project we’ve taken on,” said Brian. “All of the bolt-on panels are fiberglass, and the flared metal quarter-panels were hand-massaged to accept the wide rubber and low stance. The fiberglass fenders are bonded to the stock, metal fenders for additional strength. The bodywork escapade lasted about a year and a half before Brian and the Car West Elite crew had the flared second-gen prepped and ready for Jorge Flores’ precise spraying of the PPG Enviorbase Orange. The Elite Auto Films-applied center graphic tastefully breaks up the ocean of gorgeous orange pigment.
Even the most sophisticated suspension won’t get you around the track quickly without a serious mill, so Brian reached out to Mast Motorsports for one of their 416ci LS3 powerhouses. The block features a 4.070-inch bore and 4.0-inch stroke and is stuffed with Mahle 11.2:1 pistons, Callies H-beam rods, and a Callies forged crankshaft capped off with Mast CNC aluminum heads topped with Mast cast-aluminum valve covers. With cam specs under wraps (Brian’s sneaky like that) all we know is that its Mast custom grind is suited to Brian’s unrestrained driving habits. All said and done, the LS belts out a respectable 611 hp at 6,400 rpm and 538 lb-ft at 5,300 rpm.
With the car spending a good amount of time in the high rpm range, excessive heat can be an issue, so Brian bolted in a Derale oil cooler and AFCO aluminum radiator to keep temps in check.
A GM LS3 intake and fuel injectors feed the chambers, while a Walbro electric fuel pump supplies the demand. Spent fuel exits through a set of Edelbrock headers and down the Hobaugh’s custom-designed and fabricated exhaust system, slightly hushed by Borla 3½-inch XR-1 race series mufflers.
A McLeod Racing RXT twin-disc clutch manages shifting of the G-Force 4A transmission, assembled by Competition Transmissions & Gears (Mooresville, North Carolina). Twist winds to the 9-inch rearend stuffed with a Detroit Locker and 3.70:1 cogs.
In racing situations, braking hard and late is mandatory if you want to win, so Wilwood 12-inch rotors and six-piston calipers reside up front with four-piston stoppers out back setting the scene behind the graphite and black DPE SP16 wheels (19x11.5 front, 20x13 rear). Michelin Pilot Sport SS size 325/30-19 reside up front with 345/30-20 taking up the rear.
The interior carries a business-only demeanor and features a pair of black cloth-covered Kirkey Road Race seats with G-Force harnesses anchored by the aforementioned custom Maier Racing rollcage. The door panels and dash are custom textured fiberglass pieces from Car West. Speed Hut gauges keep Brian in the know while he grips the Momo 78 steering wheel and hammers the gears via the Hurst shifter.
Brian looks back at the 3½-yearlong project as a great learning experience as well as some fantastic bonding time with his dad. Until recently, Brian claimed that having the car at the 2011 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, then competing in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational the following Saturday as the high point of owning the car, but Brian just upped that experience by taking Second place at the 2012 OUSCI, finishing just one point out of First place.
Racing the Camaro is high on Brian's list of priorities, but family still comes first. With that said, Brian sees Jennifer, his 14-year-old daughter, behind the wheel of his Camaro at 15½ years of age. And if she's as competitive as her dad, which we bet she is, we may see her out on the track just three days after getting her driver's license.
Like father like son like daughter, right? Well, you get the idea.