Some 15 years ago Larry Brown had a hankering to purchase a classic musclecar. He came upon a beautiful 1969 Camaro, it was black and exactly what he was looking for. Early on he was content driving the car around on weekends, but didn't drive it to work for the first year or so because he was somewhat embarrassed. Not because of how it looked, but because of the way it ran. Larry is well aware of the Camaro's legacy and how its prepotency in musclecar history instills fear in the competition. But Larry's so-called "musclecar" was barely able to break loose a tire on command-hardly something to be proud of.
A good work buddy of his had seen pictures of the car, but asked Larry why he never drove the car to work. Larry explained the car's lack of horsepower and how it just wasn't very fun to drive. Fortunately for Larry, his "co-worker" just happened to be Robert "Bones" Balogh, one of the most famous drag racers to come out of the 1960's Gasser era. Curious, Bones asked Larry to take him for a ride in the car and to see if there wasn't something he could do to spark some life into the tired mouse motor.
Larry brought Bones on over to take the tired '69 for a drive. Unfortunately the battery was dead, so they ended up having to borrow a trailer in order to haul it over to Bones' house for further investigation. Bones turned a couple of screws and spun a few knobs-basically gave it a little tune-up. Surprisingly, even to Bones, the car was up and smoking a tire in no time (at this time it didn't have a posi rearend). "This thing had some serious power," Bones exclaimed. "The next day at work I told Larry the news, and he stopped by the house that night to witness the car's sudden change in personality."
They took the car for a spin around the block and Larry couldn't believe the power it made. This got Bones to thinking. With all this newfound power, he mentioned to Larry that Big Willie had been running a dragstrip down at Terminal Island, and thought Larry might want to see what the car was really made of. Larry loved the idea and couldn't wait to get the car down the quarter-mile. To the surprise of both, the car ran an impressive (one) tire smoking 14.90 e.t. at 101 mph. The duo was hooked.
Larry was even more curious to see what the car would do with a posi-traction rearend. So in went the posi and the car dipped into the low 14-second zone, only this time smoking both tires down the track. Bones used some traction tactics from the "old days" and packed 100 pounds of sand in the truck in order to get more weight over the rear tires. And with that, the car ran 14 seconds flat. Larry, now fully enveloped by the drag racing bug, decided to fit the car with slicks. The car's quarter-mile time and speed improved again, and they've never looked back.
Fast forward 15 years and hundreds more "little changes." The car that was once limping down the block now sports about 1,000 hp and eats up the quarter-mile in a little over 8.5-seconds at 157 mph.
No longer is the factory small-block sitting in stock 327ci format, but has since been poked and stroked to 374 cubes. Sitting on top of the steroid-laden mill are a Weiand 7136 intake with a Hilborn injection system force-fed by a GMC 6-71 Blower. One need not look much further to know this car hauls ass. And with all that vintage go-fast hardware in place, even a drag racing dabbler could recognize there's a crafty Old Schooler at the helm.
An Old Schooler indeed. In fact, Bones is one of the famous administrators of said vintage institution. After all, he's worked directly beside Ed Iskenderian and also is credited with making the first 9-second run in the A/Gas Supercharged class in NHRA competition behind the wheel of Big John Mazmanian's 1941 Willys.
"Working along side Isky from 1960-1966 were the learning years," Bones says. "That was the best and most fun job I've ever had in my life. I was able to work on motors, grind cams, and dream up ways of making more horsepower."
Besides piloting the famous Mazmanian gasser, more of his driving highlights include the Bones, Dubach and Pisano '33 Willys, as well as the Stone, Woods and Bones "Swindler A" 1968 GT Mustang gasser.
As a member of the NHRA Hall of Fame, the 72-year-old Bones has no thoughts of quitting racing anytime soon. Although he took a hiatus from racing for over 20 years, this Camaro has him firmly strapped in the driver seat: "I've been to the drags on the spectator side of the fence and I gotta tell ya, it ain't as fun as driving."
As far as the Camaro goes, the two plan to keep on working at finding ways to get down the track faster than ever. And with the installation of a brand new shifter from Precision Performance Products, shaving off a little more elapsed time should be a piece of cake.