It was...breathtaking. To my right, the sun was descending over the foothills of the Appalachian Trail, filling the sky with beautiful tones and gradients, as if I had stepped out of reality and into the middle of a gorgeous Bob Ross watercolor. Below, you could see all of Georgia for its natural beauty; the trees rolling over the hills, the slowly flowing water and the quaint towns that dot the landscape. It was a moment in time that made me forget all about the stress of the world, all of the worry and the work—everything. To my left, there were a dozen other cars full of couples on first dates, families on vacation, and lifelong partners returning home from dinner, all stopped on the lookout to admire the scenery. I was, like everyone else, in a zone, another world that was filled with the calming silence of the wind through the trees and the sound one's mind makes when it is just soaking in the beauty of the world.
Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of an old man standing about 30 feet to my left. "It's gorgeous," he said and the others next to him began to agree. "I love the way it looks," a young girl said. "It's so classic," another replied. Without looking over, I began to hear the distinct sound of a camera shutter opening and closing, allowing the sensor to capture the magic of that sunset. When I finally turned, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not a single person was looking over Burnt Mountain, not a single camera aimed on the horizon. Everyone, young and old, was actually staring at my ride for the evening, Gary Ledford's black on black '10 Camaro. "I used to love the first-generation Camaro," a middle aged man began to tell me, "but these new ones are my favorite. They look amazing."
Yes my friend, they do indeed look amazing. Intrigued, another man who had never seen a '10 before walked over and joined the conversation, asking if they all looked this good, or if Gary had done something different. Well, I replied, they all look good, but this one has a little more to it than a stock Camaro. You see, for Gary this build represents 18 months of work, with most of the difficult stuff hidden well under the stock body, in places most people would never even think about looking. To a stranger atop Burnt Mountain, it looked like a model car, something you would find in a toy store, and to Gary that is exactly how it all got started. "I built this Camaro after seeing the toy version in a local store. I told myself I had to build a full-scale version."
"I actually ordered the car from Bill Holt Chevy without telling my wife. Once I took delivery, I said, 'Oh by the way, I bought us a new Camaro.'" Gary's wife must be a real keeper because instead of flipping out, she let Gary keep the car and even allowed him to take the next step. With a vision and a car, Gary turned to Shane Jackson and Brad Cline of Thunder Valley Customs to help him figure out how to make his dream a reality.
Of course, to build something this ridiculous, the first step was a large one and actually began by cutting the entire back half of Gary's Camaro out. From just behind the front seats, over the wheel wells, through the trunk and all the way to the rear window package tray—everything was removed. We're talking cut out, thrown in the trash removed. The stock independent rearend: gone. The entire rear subframe: gone. The suspension, gas tank, exhaust, etc: gone. If it moved or got in the way, it got the axe. Why? Well, you can't fit a pair of ZE Forged 24x14-inch rear wheels on a stock suspension Camaro! Yes, we said 24 inches in diameter and 14 inches in width. The Pirelli PZero Nero's roll in at a tremendous 405/25/24 in the back, which is wide enough to get any enthusiast excited.
With everything out of the way, Thunder Valley was tasked with installing a complete 4-bar solid rear clip, the majority of which they acquired from Art Morrison. Now, before you get excited, understand that this isn't a bolt-on clip or something made specifically for the '10 Camaro. Oh no, Thunder Valley had to make everything work using knowledge and skill honed over years of building high end chassis and this project wasn't just another walk in the park. To install the 4-bar rear and 4:11-equipped 9-inch, while keeping the factory Brembo brakes and accessories, was a time consuming and fairly tedious process. But for Gary, it was the only way to get the exact look he demanded. After months of meticulous, OEM-quality work, Brad and Shane finally ran out of welding wire and undercoat, and the Camaro finally rolled on its own again. Once complete, it had the one-of-a-kind look that can only come from such hard work and dedication.
With the Camaro back on the ground, Gary's next trip was to Vengeance Racing, where the LS specialists designed a custom 239/251 duration camshaft, which was cut on a 110-degree lobe separation angle, to give Gary's LS3 the sound and power required to get people's attention wherever it went. Along with the camshaft, Vengeance Racing also took the time to mill the factory LS3 heads, giving the engine a small bump in compression to combat some of the loss that came from fly cutting the stock pistons to clear the giant camshaft. To help the LS3 breathe, Vengeance also installed a Vararam cold-air intake and a pair of American Racing 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers, which flow into a custom 3-inch exhaust.
Why a custom exhaust on a '10 Camaro? Well, with the Art Morrison 4-bar rear and large 9-inch center section, stock-style exhausts just won't work, so a custom exhaust was the only way to go, which was fine with Gary because it meant he could have a one-of-a-kind sound thanks to a mandrel bent, meticulously hand-welded, SpinTech muffler-equipped (long-tube back) exhaust, built by Jay Healy at Vengeance Racing. As for the sound, well, let's just say it is too bad you can't hear it as you read this. The large camshaft combined with the aggressive exhaust produces an aural note that could only be described as amazing. To describe it as an LS3 on steroids does it no justice. Suffice it to say, Gary's Camaro sounds every bit as good as it looks and then some.
And it is that sound, the roar of 500 rwhp, that will probably be the lasting memory in many people's minds as I fired up the '10 and cruised out of the Burnt Mountain lookout. Running downhill, back towards Atlanta, through the foothills and small towns of rural Georgia, Gary's Camaro echoed off of the trees and filled the night air with the heavenly sound of an LS3 singing along at 5,500 rpm. Its sound, combined with its aggressive stance and meticulous lines gave the people of small town USA the thrill of a lifetime. To quote the man atop Burnt Mountain, "What a beautiful sight..." What a beautiful sight, indeed.
Engine: LS3, 376 cid, 11.1:1 compression, stock LS3 cylinder heads, 239/251 duration (.624/.624-inch lift) hydraulic roller camshaft, LS3 intake manifold
Fuel System: 42 lb/hr injectors, stock fuel pump
Engine Management: Stock, tuned by Mike Carnahan at Vengeance Racing
Exhaust System: American Racing 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers, custom 3-inch exhaust, SpinTech mufflers
Driveline: Stock TR6060, clutch, custom 9-inch, 4:11 gears, Detroit True Track, 31-spline axles
Suspension: Stock front and rear sway bars, custom lower control arms, custom front coilovers, Strange double adjustable rear coilovers, Art Morrison 4-bar back half system
Brakes: Stock Brembo, front and rear
Wheels: ZE Forged 22x8 front, 24x14 rear
Tires: Pirelli PZero Nero 245/30/22 front, 405/25/24 rear