Start to finish, his project took about four years to complete. On a regular basis, Carl drives the car to events and in races from Willow Springs to Button Willow. Even with the great results he's achieved thus far, he tells us he has plans to rework the suspension some and improve the fuel system so that the car works better on the racetrack, while retaining street manners. The balance between a street car and a race car is always a moving target.
Take one '68 Camaro, pack the engine bay with 406 inches of small-block, make the chassis handle like a slot car, and drive it at wide-open throttle through nine grueling turns at Willow Springs Raceway. If that sounds like fun, then you need to talk to Carl Casanova.
We'd heard stories of this very competitive Camaro, but never had the opportunity to take a really close look. So when we finally caught up with Carl at the Magnuson Products open house last spring, we had high expectations. Sure, its well-earned reputation and the impressive attention to detail may draw you to this car, but it's the way that Carl has engineered race-proven components to work so well on his street car that makes it extraordinary. Carl's Camaro career commenced in 1982 when he was 16. Carl and his sister decided to trade cars, a '71 El Camino for a '68 Camaro. Over the next 20 years, Carl clocked more than 400,000 miles on the F-body. But by the late '90s, Carl had become very interested in Pro-Touring and made a commitment to go full-bore on his objective.
But instead of turning his ambition into a perpetual example of work-in-progress/daily driver, he bit the bullet and pulled the car down to a shell. Sure, this meant cataloging and shelving an extensive inventory of parts, but most importantly he'd set a finite goal and worked toward completing it each day.
So while his wife Kristin and his kids demonstrated support, Carl made good use of every square inch of the garage. His first step required sandblasting all the brackets and related smaller parts down to bare metal, then having them powdercoated.
Since this F-body's mission would be to turn hard, he tweaked the front suspension geometry for better handling by relocating the upper A-arm mounting points and added a fast-ratio Saginaw 600 steering box with a Lee's dry pump. To tie the front of the car to the rear frame longitudals, Carl fabricated and installed weld-in subframe connectors. Next he got out his car catalogs and ordered parts from Moog, Global West, Guldstand, Hotchkis, Landrum, and Bilstein. Because a road race car needs lots of manual gear choices, he added a Tremec TKO five-speed gearbox and then fitted it with a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch, 3-inch Wenco driveshaft, 3:73:1 Eaton posi-traction rearend, and Tom's axles. He wrapped Nitto rubber around the Vintage Wheel Works Vintage 45 wheels.
For stopping power, Carl liked the idea of using some of GM's best brake components. With a little research, some self-confidence, and his own brand of engineering, he installed C4 Corvette HD 13-inch brakes on the stock Camaro spindle. At the rear he used the same line of attack, but employed two right-hand '94 Z28 rear-disc setups. Using two right-hand calipers on both the left and the right side of a '68 12-bolt allowed the system to clear the stock Camaro staggered-shock arrangement. The brake's power utilizes a '99 Mustang hydraboost and master cylinder adapted to the stock Camaro mounting position.
Under the hood this car needed lots of power to blast the backstretches and accelerate out of turns, so he began with a sought-after 509 casting, adding four-bolt splayed caps and machining the block to a zero deck height. He chose SRP forgings with a -18cc reverse dome and combined them with the FastBurn cylinder heads to yield an actual compression ratio of 10.35:1. To open the 2.00-inch intake valves, he installed a COMP Cams hydraulic roller with 230/236-degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift and 0.544/ 0.556-inch lift. To fuel this big-inch small-block he added a Holley 800DP carburetor, milling the air horn and blending the carburetor venturies. The works is ignited by a full MSD system.
For that awesome Matador Red Carl contracted Manuel Achieves. In the cockpit, Carl wanted to retain as much of the factory items as possible, so he ordered factory-style interior trim from friends at Rick's First Gen (www.firstgen.com).