Step By Step
If you have been reading Chevy High Performance for the last year, you have seen the stories documenting the progression of my latest project, a '69 Chevy Camaro dubbed "The Thrasher." The name comes from my willingess to run my cars hard and take abuse without failure. Just before writing this last installment, I put the first few miles on the car and my initial impression is that this is the best Camaro I've ever built. It's powerful, smooth, and more than willing to hammer through a corner or smoke the tires into Third gear. I plan on enjoying the Thrasher for quite a while, and I hope you have been able to avoid at least one car-building snafu or improve the performance of your Chevy by employing some of the ideas presented in this buildup.
THE THRASHER DEFINED
This car integrated all of the lessons I've learned from building previous Camaros. It's simple, yet features advanced design and construction techniques. On the simple side, the body is stock and the floorpan is unmolested except for subframe connectors to increase chassis stiffness and a four-point rollbar to provide driver safety. The drivetrain is typical small-block street fare that can be easily serviced anywhere in the country. Though there are several advanced ideas in the car, I did my best to simplify those as well. The best examples are the spindles I designed and had built to correct inherent front suspension geometry problems and the spring and shock combination providing 1990s ride-quality and performance.
I also built a custom instrument panel loaded with Auto Meter gauges, a stainless steel trunk battery mount, and a 3-inch stainless steel Borla exhaust. All of those components were designed to be completely functional, so, from the exterior, this car just looks like a clean 1969 Camaro with a nice set of tires and wheels, which is fine with me. The Thrasher is a purpose-motivated car. Whether I want to cruise the highways chilled by the Vintage Air or blast around a road course abusing the tires, this car will happily answer the call to action.
The subject of cost is always a difficult one; it's an essential topic that few magazine articles are willing to address. Simply put, if you wanted to duplicate this car--not including the paint and body cost--you would need around $20,000 to $25,000 to purchase all the components and pay for the specialty work, while still assembling the car yourself. That's not to say this is the minimum price, but if you want all the components and features of The Thrasher, that's a realistic price tag.
If you had someone build the car for you, the cost could range anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. Don't think there are any $100K Camaros running around? Think again. Shop rates of $40 to $60 an hour can quickly add up to tens of thousands of dollars. I'm telling you this because it's important to know your financial limits before starting. I knew mine, and I tried to design and build a car that wouldn't exceed them. In the end, I still went over budget.
There are many components on this car that I consider "foundation" parts, and so they had to be the best. Things like the Currie 9-inch rearend, the prepared Borg-Warner T56 six-speed transmission, the Goodridge braided-steel lines, and the water, oil, and power steering coolers are all top-of-the-line components because this car is going to be road raced. In that case, a component failure could be catastrophic. If you don't intend to use your car this way, lighter duty and often less expensive components can be used.
In the end, the Thrasher successfully combines off-the-shelf, aftermarket components with '60s-era ponycar technology to create a hot rod worthy of the next millennium. So don't be surprised if I park next to you at some rod run with chunks of rubber hanging off the rear fenders, the headers crisply crackling, brake dust plastered on the front wheels, and rock chips on the front valance. What better way to enjoy a hot rod than to drive it?