If you're reading this magazine, it's almost certain you're a car enthusiast and that you've undertaken a major project or two. There's also a chance that you've hit a major snag or "bog" at least once in your project pursuits. It's times like these that motivation goes out the window and you think about quitting.
Meet Jason Heffernan of Abilene, Texas. Well nobody in this West Texas town of the Lone Star State would call Jason a quitter. Back in November 2004, Jason was involved in a head-on smash-up, and the driver of the car that struck Jason's was charged with intoxicated assault. The crash left Jason paralyzed with a ruptured aorta and a crushed pelvis. He also developed a staph infection in both lungs. Three times, the doctors told Jason's parents that he was a goner. At a time like this, most people would throw up their hands and say "I'm done!" But not Jason. After months of recuperation, this incredible young man headed back to work at Dan's Paint and Body, his dad's body shop in Abilene, Texas. But, it wasn't the customers' cars that he had on his mind.
Jason's focus was on a certain '67 Camaro that had been around Abilene since the 1970s. This Camaro, driven by local Joe Humprey, ripped down the track in the psychedelic 70s at an old dragstrip in the Steam Boat Mountain area of Abilene. In February 2005, Jason found it slumbering in yet another Abilene resident's garage. Jason jumped on the car and decided it was time to get that Camaro back to its racing roots. By July 2005, he was well enough to get started on the project.
A Chevy 454, which is a bored, honed, decked, balanced, and blueprinted 770hp monster of an engine, makes sure that this Camaro will again set records. Mark Samford at Samford Racing Heads also in Abilene, Texas, built the engine with Brodix aluminum, ported and polished heads, 2.250 intake, 1.880 exhaust valves, and a Brodix intake manifold. The heads also sport roller rockers, double valvesprings, and titanium retainers. Topping things off are Moroso valve covers, breathers, and a Holley 1050 Dominator carburetor. An MSD pro billet distributor, with an MSD 2 step coil, an MSD multiple spark discharge box, and MSD Helicore plug wires get this bad boy lit up. Exhaust flows through super competition Hooker Headers. This hot ride has a Be Cool aluminum radiator to ensure that this monster motor can stand up to repeated quarter-mile trips and street driving while staying cool as a cucumber. A CSI electric water pump along with a separate transcooler and electric fan were added to complete the package. Add a custom carburetor cover by Dennis Heffernan at Metro Tool in Arlington, Texas, and Jason is ready for the dragstrip.
A beefed Powerglide with a 4500 stall converter gets the power to a Dana 5:13-geared rearend. Rack-and-pinion steering and Competition Engineering's ladder bars and wheelie bars give this Camaro stability. Adjustable Competition Engineering coilovers were added to the front and rear. Stopping power comes from Wilwood disks with a Hurst line locker. Wheels are 15-inch Mickey Thompson Draglites, which are 4.5 inches wide on the front and 14.5 wide on the rear. Tires are 27.5 by 15 ET Fronts and 32 by 15 ET Drag Slicks on the rear.
Inside the cockpit, Jason settles into Jeg's High Pro Racing seats along with an RJ's Safety Harness. An IHRA certified 10-point rollcage and window netting complete the package. The car still sports the original gauges in the dash, but now has Auto Meter's fuel, tach, water, oil, and voltmeter gauges to monitor all the necessary elements as it motors down the highway or down the racetrack. Jason's custom hand controls and the Hurst Quarter Stick work in tandem to allow him to operate the car without traditional foot pedals.
All the sheetmetal on this striking Camaro along with the glass, door handles, grill and grill shell is original except for the Harwood Industries' fiberglass cowl-induction hood, decklid, and fender extensions.
Major confusion hit Jason when he picked a color for the car. Working from his wheelchair and a creeper, he spent countless hours of sanding and smoothing the totally rust-free body. His first choice was a two-tone silver and red candy combination laid down by his dad. The combo looked good, but just didn't work for him. So he sanded parts of the car down to primer, and good ol' dad shot a torn checkered flag graphic design throughout the hood. "Uh, Oh," Jason thought, "It's still not what I want." So out came the sandpaper and the whole car was stripped again. This move created a major uproar in the Heffernan household but luckily the third time was the charm. We must say the Spectra Fx Blue Emerald to Green Pearl flip paint is truly stunning and worth all that sanding. We are positive that Jason chose this paint because he still couldn't make up his mind. Depending upon the light and the angle, the Camaro appears to be a striking Viper blue, a shimmering emerald green, or a combination of both.
Jason is already thinking about his next project. He wants to customize a truck to include a trick ramp system to ride his wheelchair up into the bed and into the cockpit. We have no doubt that someday we will find Jason happily motoring down the highway in a very cool pick-'em-up truck. But until then, Jason says he has to concentrate on tweaking the Paralyzer just a little bit more to get it ready for his first run down the Abilene Dragstrip.
One would think that Jason's disability would considerably limit his involvement in the rebirth of this race car. He may be paralyzed from the waist down, but his mind, his spirit, and his can-do attitude are not. Yes, there are things that he can't do. But his disability doesn't stop him from being motivated to do the things he can. Jason had a vision for this Camaro, so along with the help of his dad, mom, brothers Chris and Brian, and friends Jimmy Combs, Mike Harris, Cody Slatton, and Justin Santos, he got it done. The Paralyzer may be Jason's name for his spectacular Camaro, but we still think that The Motivator is just as fitting.