All too often we feature cars that seem to stand still, cars that don't have any real "street cred," or cars that have gone through major overhauls, only to sit in climate-controlled garages, getting pampered like a celebrity on a holiday at St. Barts. While these cars are stunning, and we will continue to feature them, we really like real-world drivability, cars that can be punished on the street without regard for anything in their way. Cars that routinely go out to the track (drag, autocross, or road course) and tear up the pavement.
Craig Silverman's '69 Camaro perfectly fits the bill-he takes it to all manner of cruise nights, drives it every day the weather is nice, and occasionally brings it to the local dragstrip. Recently, we had the opportunity to tag along at the track, watch him flog it down the quarter-mile, and then cruise it around windy roads. This is a car that truly handles like a charm, has plenty of power to play around with, and looks about as good as any car can.
Of course, it wasn't always pristine. He remembers blowing the heater core one fine day, and it all went downhill from there. As he started peeling back layers of the dash, he found things he knew should be replaced, and shortly thereafter, the body parts were sitting on one side of the garage and the rest of the car on the other.Craig, a service technician at JDP Engineering in Freehold, New Jersey, bought the car in 1986 on his 21st birthday. His grandfather, who was interested in seeing what Craig would come up with, helped finance the first upgrades to the then stock automobile.
Craig, as he recalls, got "a little out of hand" with the build. It started with the engine. He began the journey of restoring the car with a '71 small-block 350, bored .030-over by Weston Machine to bring displacement up to 355ci. The motor has Manley 8:1 compression pistons, ARP studs, a Madden camshaft, and a Chevy crank. Heads are aluminum Brodix Track 1s with hydraulic lifters.
The huge BDS 6-71 blower that towers out of the hood is mated to a Holley 650 double pumper, and puts out 8psi of boost. Power to the rear wheels as of October 2006 is 407 hp with 393 lb-ft of torque, quite impressive for something so docile. All this power is pushed out through Headman 1 3/4-inch headers and a 3-inch stainless MagnaFlow exhaust with an X-pipe system. A Be Cool aluminum radiator keeps things under the hood on the down low.
Power is put to the ground via a '69 Chevy TH400 3-speed. A 12-bolt rear with 4.10 gears and Posi, built by Heads-Up Performance, helps Craig get off the line, whether it is at a local stoplight, or the right lane at Raceway Park.
Suspension setups are all the rage, so while the blower/scoop through the hood screams Pro Street, Silverman made sure this Camaro could corner, too. The front A-arms are of the tubular Global West variety, and hook up to QA1 coilovers with double-adjustability. With this combination, the front is lowered a total of 2 1/2 inches. Detroit Eaton takes care of the spring work in the rear, which also houses QA1 adjustable shocks. The rear drop is about 2 inches.
The braking comes courtesy of Baer, with 13-inch front and 12-inch rear stoppers, which grab Intro Pentia wheels at all four corners (17x7 fore and 17x8 aft). The sticky stuff is BFGoodrich g-force T/A KDW that really keeps this Camaro stuck to the road or track.
The interior was completed entirely by Silverman himself. The stock vinyl appearance was retained, but he added absolutely killer Corbeau GTS seats. While they aren't exactly stock, they are extremely comfortable in all situations, whether it be carving through a high-g corner, or just cruising along with your arm hanging out the window. Important engine information is translated through Auto Meter gauges into the cabin. Craig also incorporated a great sound system for all those cruise nights, with a Kenwood head unit and amp, and Polk Audio speakers.
The exterior color is a Toyota/Lexus blue by DuPont, and was sprayed by Ultimate Auto Body. The BDS blower fits through a 1 3/4-inch cowl hood that comes from Harwood. The billet front parking and taillights are Marquez Design, and really give the Camaro a welcome modern lighting appearance with their LED-like look.
Presently, Craig enjoys taking his 8-year-old daughter out to cruise nights (Silverman also says his daughter will climb right under the Camaro and pick up a wrench), and working on making the car go a lot faster.
When we saw it at the track it went 11.8 at 117 mph, but the sticky street tires were rubbing like crazy and Silverman was fearful of damaging the quarters. We figured the car could go much quicker, and Craig didn't disappoint. A few weeks later, he took the car back to Raceway Park and ran 11.16 at 121 mph.
"I know this car can get into the 10s," Silverman said, "and I plan on working on it over the winter to make sure it does. It definitely has more in it."
Craig said his experience at the track with SC was "remarkable," and puts it down as one of the greatest times he has had with the car. Next on the slate is getting his son into the car.
"He's only 3, so my wife wants me to wait," Silverman said. "Hopefully within the next year or so, he will get to go out in the Camaro."