Big dollar cars with six figures wrapped up in custom drive trains, metal and paint mods, one-off dashes, and insane interiors are a true sight to see. While these cars are definitely the epitome of pavement-shredding perfection, we certainly have to argue how realistic they are to the enthusiast of average income? It’s cool to dream, but sooner or later the majority of us have to get back to financial reality.
John Wargo, owner of The Custom Shop in Flanagan, Illinois, builds hot rods, muscle cars and custom trucks for a living, and when it came time to build a project for the 2008 SEMA show in Las Vegas, his idea was to build a pro-touring-style muscle car on a realistic budget. With eight weeks build time and roughly $60K in spending cash, the hunt began for a suitable build platform. A ’67 Camaro with reasonably straight panels was located for $6,500 bucks, and the madness began to unravel.
The first order of business was the car’s underbelly, and John wanted it stout for exceptional handling. The stock 10-bolt rearend was suspended with adjustable air ride lifted and dumped with Firestone air bellows. Up front Firestone airbags and Speed Tech control arms take care of the suspension structure, while Baer brakes fed by a MBM chrome master cylinder and power booster flowing the juice to the binders through Classic Tube brake lines handles quick stopping demands. The chassis was capped off with 19 x 8-inch front and 20 x 11-inch rear TSW Petrol wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza P245/35ZR19 front and P295/30ZR20 rear rubber for a bit of modern flair.
When it came to the power plant John kept his budget in check by picking up a 1975 Chevy 454-c.i. truck engine freshened from carburetor to oil pan. MSD ignition components light it off, while a Weiand intake and Pro Charger supercharger running at 10-PSI make it sing. Flow Tech headers, 3-inch stainless steel pipe and a MagnaFlow crossover pipe and muffler let the 600-HP beast be heard. A Spal cooling fan and Universal Products radiator handle the temperature control for those extended road tests, while the mill is dressed to impress with chrome goodies from Big End Products. For a bit of retro appeal, a Muncie M21 four-speed with a Centerforce clutch and triple disc pressure plate makes piloting the Pace Maker a gear-banging and tire-frying experience.
Once the drive train and suspension updates were fit and finished, attention was shifted to the Camaro’s factory metal landscape. Dynacorn was contacted for a new set of quarter panels because the originals were dust. A Year One cowl induction hood conceals the roaring big-block, and the leading edge is accented with a Classic Industries grille and hide-away headlight kit. Billet bezels for the air dam lighting were integrated into the picture, and custom fender vents were artfully carved into the front fenders. Shaved rain gutters, billet air intakes and flush-mounted front and rear glass are just a few of the subtle metal mods trapped under the silver and white two-tone accented with real fire graphics blazing up the cowl induction bonnet. Orange, white and black graphics separate the main hues, all from DuPont Hot Hues line of paints, while black pinstriping provides a nice crisp dividing line for all of the artwork.
With the paint and body portion of the build complete, the interior was the last stop on The Custom Shop tour of thrash. Enduratex vinyl and carbon fiber stitched over 2005 GTO seats fills the cruising chamber. A Rod Doors headliner and console, and custom-built door panels look right at home in the Camaro’s updated confines. Nordskog digital gauges provide clear reports on the big-block’s behavior, and a Grant steering wheel helps John keep the Camaro pointed in the right direction. Clayton Machine Works inner door handles serve as stylish exit tools, and a billet ASM rearview mirror helps John keep close followers in clear view. For tunes the crew at The Custom Shop stuffed the Camaro with a Sony 820 IP head unit backed by a Sony amplifier sending the wall of power to a pair of 10-inch subs, two 6 x 9s, two 6.5-inch midrange speakers and two tweeters. Custom enclosures were built for the audio arsenal in house at The Custom Shop. Driver and passenger are securely fastened in by Beam’s Belts seatbelts for those full-throttle blasts.
“Pace Maker” was built entirely in-house by the crew at The Custom Shop using a little creativity to hit that $60,000 mark, and they nailed it just in time to make it to the 2008 SEMA show where the car dropped jaws and pulled looks. John would like to thank all of his sponsors who participated in the project, as well as Kim, Vern, Rich, Pat, Dan, and Mitch of the Custom Shop for all of their hard work. John’s classic Camaro is proof that if you get creative, a nice custom muscle car can be built on “real world” money.
Badger Air Brushes
Clayton Machine Works
DuPont Hot Hues