Hotchkis' Cutting-Edge Second-Gen
Once in a while we come across a Chevrolet project that really jumps up and grabs our attention. It's got pizzazz, guts, a measure of excess mixed with function. And, usually, dares to be just a little bit different than all of the other nice rides we see. There doesn't seem to be a regular prescription or ingredient for this type of creation, other than possibly being what it is at just the right time and the right place. But whatever can be ascertained about its allure, one thing's for certain, it gives the majority of those who experience it the same feeling. That's what the Hotchkis Performance LS1-powered '71 Camaro has done-it's cast a spell that won't soon go away.
How did this orange-with-white-stripes beauty come into existence?
Like a perfect flower, one might think that it simply was a fluke of nature, created by the car gods years ago and hidden away in some nuclear safehouse. The truth, however, is much less dramatic: John Hotchkis had a vision and wanted to see it through. With the experience of his company-Hotchkis Performance-and the backing of many top aftermarket firms (plus the promise of editorial coverage from SUPER CHEVY magazine), he and his team of R&D engineers set out to create a machine with the perfect mix of nostalgia, brute strength, nimbleness, finesse, and modern technology. And, with that agenda fully in focus, the result is just that: the seamless marriage of old and new.
Sure, we've seen a good share of stellar rides that have combined high-tech with classic construction. And, by no means intending to diminish their impact, they represent a growing trend. But the Hotchkis Camaro will serve to heighten the bar of excellence.
In The Beginning
As already noted, the Camaro was the brainchild of John Hotchkis. His goal was to build a machine that would look good, with performance on the cutting edge in the handling, acceleration, braking, and comfort departments. And, from a marketing perspective, showcase in all its glory, the overall creation with his company's new line of road-hugging suspension components that were designed on the car before it graduated to project status.
From the onset, the car was dubbed F-71. And, as many projects are, it was created from a no-frills, inexpensive driver. Paul Yniguez, one of Hotchkis' R&D engineers, located the donor car after a painstaking search essentially brought him full circle: the '71 RS model, with a 350/350 engine/trans combo, was literally found next door to the Hotchkis facility. After the regular line of suspension goodies were perfected (these included sway bars, coil springs, leaf springs, and shocks), the search for contributing sponsors was on. With time ticking away (it was early March last year and one goal for John and crew was to display their concept at the SEMA extravaganza, which took place in November), they were able to enlist the services and product donation from a virtual Who's Who of the performance industry.
GM Performance felt the car needed its latest high-tech wonder: a Corvette-inspired all-aluminum LS1 powerplant with matching T56 six-speed transmission was plucked before it could be dropped in a '00 Vette.
Facing 16-hour days with no reprieve, even on the weekends, the crew tore most of the stock parts from the basically straight body and set about installing the new components. The LS1/T56 install was a challenge, as were the requisite A/C climate control systems.