It all started for me in the passenger seat of my dad’s ’57 Chevy Nomad. My dad would take a buddy and me or two out to Woodward Avenue, all the while listening to Chuck Berry and Little Richard, while by dad tried finding some victims to race. It was probably not the safest thing to do with a couple of kids by today’s standards, but we loved it. My dad always had some kind of street machine, street rod or muscle car, and I don’t know if I was born with this sickness or if I was brainwashed as a child, either way, I have my dad to thank! Actually I can’t thank him enough, because it probably kept me out of trouble. It’s bad enough being a kid and getting harassed by the police for doing nothing, but when you’re in a muscle car it certainly doesn’t help the situation.
My first car was a ’67 Chevelle that my dad and I restored before I could drive. I think I was in that car more hours than there are in a day! From that car I moved to a nine-second ’68 Chevelle, then back into another ’67 Chevelle right after I got married. Thankfully my wife knew what she was getting herself into. Although she is not really into cars, she is very understanding of the whole obsession. I then sold that Chevelle and caught the Camaro bug. My dad’s friend had a ’68 big-block convertible, when he passed away he left the car to his son, who in turn sold it to me. It was about this time that the pro-touring craze was starting, and as soon as I got the car, I upgraded all of the suspension, brake and wheels to give it the PT look, and I painted it dark silver over the original turquoise to upgrade the theme.
After enjoying that Camaro for a couple of summers, I decided I wanted a ’69 Camaro and put the ’68 up for sale on eBay. I told my wife that I would take a break from cars and wait for the right deal to arrive. Only a week had passed when I figured I had waited long enough and put the hard press on to find that ’69. I looked on eBay and immediately found what I was looking for, and as luck would have it, the car was even in my home state of Michigan. No to mention, this Camaro was already stripped and disassembled and only an hour’s drive from my home. A cool $11K later it was mine.
Once I got it home, the project never stopped. I sent the car over to All Kustom Design Machine for the fabrication work and had DSE send over pretty much everything they make, including mini-tubs, Quadralink, front coil-over conversion, frame connectors, close out panels, Select-a-Speed wipers, and more. The car came with a late-model LT1 engine, and the original plan was to install a ProCharger supercharger system, but shortly after I started the build, a great deal on an LS7 engine came up – one that I could not pass up.
It was at this point that my dad got involved in this project. He had always been right there with me building the car or helping out. I knew that the LS7 engine would take this car to a whole new level and also extend the build time of the car. Cash was a problem too. But my dad also wanted the car to come together and began helping out financially. At 67, he’s past the point of lying under the car to help, but I did use his garage for the build-up, and he was right there with me to help and watch it take shape. He was a great parts runner too.
The first year of the car’s build life took place at AKDM, where Kevin MacKenzie and his crew installed the new flooring, all of the DSE treatments, roll cage, and the front mount rack-and-pinion steering setup from BRP Hot Rods. This allowed the engine to be mounted with LS adaptors from ATS and custom-made transmission mounts. AKDM also made the custom brackets to mount the Z06 brakes to the ATS aluminum spindles. From there Dick Noonan completed the bodywork and then the car was sent over to Jimtech for the paint. Dick installed the door poppers, shaved the door handles, mounted the custom mirrors, and other body changes.
Jim Bielecki of Jimtech applied the paint as noted using 10 gallons of paint between the base, candy and clear coats. The nine-day non-stop process was amazing and is something that must be seen to be believed. The paint job features painted carbon fiber style stripes that accent the candy apple read paint scheme. The engine covers received the same treatment.
After seven months of continuous work, the car returned to my dad’s home where final assembly took place. While I was at Dick Noonan’s I had the good fortune to met Ray Grienke. Ray is actually one of the electricians on the Audi R-12 race team, and was instrumental in the final wiring efforts for the Camaro. Using a Speartech wiring harness modified for the application, along with the Mil-spec connectors, he created a very functional system.
Marquez Design crafted the custom dashboard, door panels and speaker shelf. I spent countless hours building the center console and had John Pinkerton cover it all with matching leather from Arizen Racing. The seats were made with black leather with carbon fiber inserts. The radio is a double-DIN Eclipse head unit with DVD and MP3. The door and rear speakers are ADS, and the trunk is finished with a custom enclosure with metal brackets inside that have been cut with a water jet and painted the body color.
With the car completed, I headed to the Goodguys Nationals car show in Columbus and signed up for the Street Machine of the Year competition, which include an autocross event. Of the 28 cars in competition for the award, I was picked as one of the five finalists, and I’m pretty sure my efforts in the autocross were part of what drew me to the top of the list. I let it all hang out and the judges were obviously impressed. The Street Machine of the Year competition was the highlight of my “car life” and I was honored to be included along with the top builders in the country.