Camaro Z/28. This was the car that essentially turned on an entire generation of drag racers to the thrill of road racing. Conceived in Detroit and dedicated to the proposition that all Mustangs must be defeated, the Z/28 gave Chevrolet the Sports Car Club of America's Trans-Am Manufacturers Championship in 1968 and 1969, and made a hero out of a young racer named Mark Donohue in the process.
While only 602 folks in 1967 had the insight to order one of these then-unknown homologation specials, the Z/28, with its high-revving 302 and excellent-for-the-day handling, made believers out of many. Sales exploded to 7,199 for '68 and 20,302 for '69.
The car you see here, an original '69 RS Z/28, was turned into a Trans-Am racer in 1972 by William Weick, and it's been a track terror ever since. According to its current owner, Dr. Richard Lind, the logbooks tell how Weick (an independent) raced it in A/Sedan from 1972-'74 at legendary tracks like Bryar, Watkins Glen, and Lime Rock Park. From 1978-'84, it was owned by Scott Quaile and saw action in SCCA GT-1 competition, then again in GT-1 from 1986-'88 with owner Michael Farrell.
It made the transition to Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) Trans-Am in 1992 at the hands of George Von Gal. Lind, who retired from Delphi Automotive four years ago, and is currently an automotive safety engineering consultant, bought the car in 2001 and has been campaigning it in that class ever since.
To Richard, an old drag racer, all it took was a ride in his friend's Shelby GT350H on a road course to alter the path of his automotive passion. Richard had a '67 Camaro and a 502 crate engine that he was going to mate for quarter-mile blasts, but after experiencing high lateral g-forces at Willow Springs Raceway, he immediately decided to turn the '67 into a road racer. He attended a number of high-performance driving schools, including Skip Barber and the Bondurant School (three times) and has never looked back.
While the aftermarket builds thousands of parts to help your Camaro handle like a modern sports car, none of them can be found on this F-body. They're simply not legal for SVRA competition. The control arms are from 40 years ago, the brakes off a '72 Corvette Stingray. Only power steering is there to help the driver with the "muscling."
"When they called these things muscle cars, they meant it," Richard says. "They were meant to go straight. When you go into a corner, you really have to muscle it to get it to turn."
It's one thing to horse one of these old beasts around a turn when you're by yourself or on an autocross course; now imagine what it's like at speed with two other cars in the same corner. Definitely gets the heart pumping.
The Z/28 was found in 2001 with the help of some friends in the SVRA. Richard looked at one vintage Camaro racecar in Knoxville, Tennessee, which turned out to be more of a show car, thus eliminating it from consideration. Then Richard went to Montgomery, Alabama, where Von Gal had this one for sale—he bought it immediately. Richard's new Z needed a full refurbishing to make it ready for the rigors of the track again. He sent it to Collector Motorsports in Waukee, Iowa, where Stu Black transformed it with a new engine, four-speed trans, rearend, driveshaft, front and rear suspensions, fuel cell—you name it. The payoff is it's been a competitive SVRA Group 6 and HSR Group 5 car ever since.
In the old days of the Trans-Am, these cars could displace no more that 305 ci (or 5-liters). Today, SVRA rules dictate no more that 310 cubes, which is what this car sports. It was built by Wegner Automotive and uses RHS CC320 iron heads (aluminum is illegal). Compression is a tasty 13:1 and a custom-ground mechanical roller cam from Comp opens and closes the valves. A Wegner-ported Edelbrock intake holds a Holley carb. On the pump, the engine cranked out 546.5 hp at 7,800 rpm and 407.8 lb-ft at 6,000. In a nutshell, this sucker screams and at nearly 8,000 rpm the thrill goes right to the owner's soul.
"It's not the fastest car out there, but we have a blast," says Richard. "We're out there jockeying with Mustangs and others, with the '72 [model year] being the newest cars in the class."
Only four forward gears are allowed, and the Jerico takes all the abuse thrown at it. A Quarter Master clutch and Coleman driveshaft send the power to a 9-inch rear with 4.44 gears and a Detroit Locker.
A combination of reinforced C3 Corvette and first-gen Camaro A-arms is used up front. The adjustable springs are from Lensing and QA1 single adjustable Stocker Star shocks are used. A 1.25-inch Speedway Engineering and Fabrication sway bar is used. The brakes are 11.75-inch rotors and four-piston calipers off a '72 Corvette (front and rear).
Out back, custom reversed eye multi-leaf springs are employed. Fabricated eyes allow the leaf springs to lower the car 1.5 inches. Stocker Stars are used here, too, and there's a 1-inch custom sway bar from Speedway. Other than this, the suspension is how it left GM—no fancy tubular anything, no high-dollar front clips or mini-tubs. It's a throwback machine.
Rolling stock is American Racing Torq Thrusts measuring 15x8.5 (with 3.75-inches of backspacing) at all four corners. The Hoosier Street TD tires are 25.5x8.5x15-inches (front) and 26.5x9.5x15 (rear).
Inside, it's pretty bare. Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges keep a check on the vitals, while a custom seat by Joie of Seating was installed by Larry Bueller of Type One High Performance (Sebring, Florida), who recently updated other mechanical parts on the car.
The Hugger Orange paint is offset by Cobalt Blue racing stripes. The front and rear bumpers are reproduction fiberglass, and the rear window is Lexan. The fender flares were custom built. Though flogged hard, it was still pretty enough to win a Best of Show award a couple of years ago at the Road & Track Concours d'Elegrance in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Once on track, there can be anything from Camaros, Corvettes, Shelbys and Mustangs, and beyond, all racing in their respective classes. Richard attends around seven events a year from his Midwest base. He won twice last year at Sebring International, including the season finale. He's captured the SVRA Group 6 Sprint and Enduro championships in 2009 and 2010, and the SVRA Group 6 Sprint crown again in 2012, which is high on his list of memorable experiences with the F-body. So, too, is the simple, unadulterated thrill he gets from flinging it around on some of America's most fabled circuits, including Watkins Glen, VIR, and Road America.