Black and inscribed with "Intimidator Series 3"on the valve covers and air cleaner lid, this '69 Camaro leaves little doubt to its heritage. The driver's side of the grille carries the badge, "RCR Series 3" to further inform the curious, along with the sound of the 560hp carbureted 427 cubic inch all-aluminum small-block under the hood.
Basically, this '69 Camaro is a tribute to the legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress Racing. RCR built Dale's No. 3 NASCAR Chevrolets. Earnhardt made the three famous on his way to six NASCAR championships while driving for Richard Childress Racing. Richard incorporated RCR in '69 and made his first NASCAR start with, of all cars, a '69 Camaro.
These facts combined with the 40th anniversary the most popular Camaro of all time created a very special opportunity. RCR has partnered with Brook Phillips of Total Performance Inc. in Wichita, Kansas, to build a numbered series of 50 ultra high performance '69 Camaros
I got to see this car and take pictures at a very appropriate place, Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Jennings, Oklahoma. When I arrived, Brook was pumped with the performance of the RCR Series 3. Gary Bennett of Barrett-Jackson had just driven the black Camaro round and round the track to shoot video for their TV show on the Speed channel.
Brook said, "Gary Bennett was in Tulsa two months earlier at the Shelby event driving a new Ford GT. He was turning consistent one minute 38 second laps times. In the RCR Camaro, he was running five seconds faster."
Building heritage cars in the RCR line just naturally would seem to be more than making trophy winning, eye-catchers. A Childress Camaro would also need to run and run hard like a racing thoroughbred.
Bennett also drove a Nissan GTR, the $83,000 so-called "Z06 Corvette-killer" at Hallett that day. The RCR Camaro ran three seconds faster than this twin-turbo, paddle-shifted, 480hp supercar.
Total Performance Inc., which Brook founded in 1993, specializes in limited edition builds like the RCR Camaro, as well as restoring, customizing, and repairing classic cars, muscle cars and street rods. He and his brother also own and manage the Mid America Auto Auction in Wichita, Kansas. Prior to these ventures, Brook owned a body shop and raced cars. A bad car wreck sidelined him about four years ago. For rehab, he sanded car bodies.
"I couldn't race anymore and wanted to get into older cars, but never really thought about doing it full time. It was going to be more of a hobby, part-time deal, and it just kind of exploded."
This side business attracted the attention Bobby Moody, Brook's paint rep and also a motor sports marketing rep for Sherwin-Williams. Moody worked for Richard Childress for 15 years and was one of the early employees of RCR. He brought up the subject of Childress wanting to "do something in a muscle car deal."
Phillips jumped at the opportunity to "come up with some ideas." This was in the March to April time frame of 2007.
About the first week of August, Brook got a meeting with Richard Childress. "I pitched the deal and he loved it. We made a couple of small changes and ran with it."
Phillips' enthusiasm ran wild if build time is any indication. He had the first RCR Camaro Series 3 completed in eight weeks for the annual SEMA convention in November. However, that car was mainly built for show. It was a pusher. After SEMA, Brook's shop tore the car back apart and re-scanned the modified parts. In fact, most of the parts on the car today he says are "second-, third-, and fourth-generation."
This first production RCR Series 3 Camaro was ready for Barrett-Jackson in January, when it sold for a heady $575,000. A big deal was the SB-2 NASCAR racing engine under the hood.
RCR builds motors for other teams. To rent an SB-2 engine last year cost $55,000 for one race. Using a real NASCAR motor in a street legal car might be a first. RCR makes a lot of the parts, which is another reason the engines are so expensive and basically not available for public sale. NASCAR's top series has moved to a new engine program (R07), but the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series both still use the SB-2 configuration.
With each RCR Camaro comes an extra motor, an all-aluminum 427-crate engine and the SB-2 that raced in NASCAR in 2007 and in the Busch series for 2008. In addition to the SB-2 race engine, each RCR Camaro comes with three different engine packages, including a 383 cubic inch crate engine, a fuel injected LS3, and the previously mentioned all-aluminum 427 cubic inch SBC.
Obviously, RCR has gone the extra step to honor Dale Earnhardt. Brooks' first suggestion for a crate motor was the LS3 in the 2008 Corvette. Richard favored an engine a little more period correct V-8 with a carburetor. After months of test marketing, they decided to offer both engines
Brook recalled, "Richard said why don't we put race engines in them. We're switching to a new engine program. We're going to have some of these engines [SB-2] around, and it would be cool to not only offer the fans an opportunity to buy a limited edition vehicle, but to choose a race engine driven by their favorite RCR driver or at their favorite track."
Brook thought the idea was awesome. They both had second thoughts about service. If a race engine needed parts, the owner couldn't go to his local parts store for a fix. After all, the SB-2 is a naturally aspirated, non-roller cam V-8 turning 10,000 rpm and based on a '55 Chevy V-8.
In an e-mail, Brook added, "The perception out there is these engines are boat anchors. I agree that taking an engine that was built to run 600 miles in the harshest conditions and already has 500 plus miles on it is a recipe for disaster. The difference with the Series 3 program is these motors have been rebuilt by the legendary engine shop at RCR (which has now merged with DEI's engine shop to form ECR-Earnhardt Childress Racing. These are fresh SB-2s that have been reconfigured for the street, but still pump out over 600 hp at 7,200 rpm. This is about 70 percent of its capability and obviously leads to a much longer lifespan. In reality, I thought the SB-2 would be more of a trophy and not be the primary engine. That is where the other engines comes into the program, something that we could warranty and repair quickly and easily."
Brook proved the drivability of the first car he built with the SB-2 motor. It works. It is functional. But, he figured most people would rather take the car with the crate engine installed, and put the SB-2 on a motor stand for display in their garage, office or shop as a "cool trophy of the whole package."