Though we could relate the chain of events leading to the unknotting of this '67 Camaro, we think the story carries a lot more weight coming directly from the source. It is a confirmation and, in the end, proof positive that owner Mike Bassi sweated the details, the logistics, and, most importantly, the moolah to make it happen as he envisioned.
This car just didn't fall out of tree all wholesome and bright. Mike's got a fat wad of jing (about the price of a new, well-equipped home garage in Campbell, California) invested in a car that reflects northern California automotive traditions, hot rodding, and road racing.
Mike matriculated from the latter discipline heartily encouraged by his dad: "I raced RX-7s when I was in my 20s in various Solo 7 events, autocrosses, and road racing in northern and central California, so having fun with cars was always something my father, George, and I had in common. He was a car guy for as long as I can remember. He always had something fun even when I was in high school, and darn him for leaving the keys to the Porsche and Vette lying around for me when he was at work." Not many of us had such an accommodating and conspiratorial dad.
"Fast-forward 15 years," says Mike. "Now I have my own small electrical company and my father is a newly retired electrician from our local union. He has a beautiful Deuce roadster, and he just bought a '55 Bel Air that he is customizing. But the plan at some point was to get me another fun car. Times were good, so my dad got a harebrained idea to see if I wanted a car (ready to drive) for me to putt around in, take to shows, and have a good time with him. We didn't have much experience in muscle cars, but I always loved the first-gen Camaro."
Meanwhile, George was ravaging eBay for some worthy meat. "He found one," says Mike. "It was stock but looked to be in great shape, so I bought it. A month later it came in from the east coast, and it was really nice-looking. Yow, it was a turd. The body was in good shape, but it had been worked on by someone who didn't know what he was doing. It had drum brakes and a crappy engine, and the paint was so-so at best. It didn't drive very well at all. It looked like I had been taken."
Yassum, it was another cold-sweat case of the Caveat Emptor Blues, wherein you discover that photos aren't reality. Rather than shed his little rat trap like a bad habit, he stayed the course and sought out some guys local "to see what it would take to make this thing a car again." Mike was in it until the ends...all two of them.
He first approached Campbell Auto Restoration (campbellautoresotration.com). CAR had some serious projects working and couldn't take him on. They would get to him later, though. Mike left Silicone Valley like vapor and headed north to Gearhead Garage (gearheadgarage.com) in Sacramento. "Gearhead's Jason Walworth put in a new tranny, brakes, and some other stuff it needed," says Mike. "And all of a sudden, this was a major project."
Mike drove it until he had to have more. CAR got the contract because Mike wanted the Camaro closer to home. The Camaro got fed again: a Procharger for the purpose-built ZZ430 small-block, water injection, new ignition, more chassis work, new wheels, carpet, engine bay bits, and so on. "Dad thought I had gone way overboard," 'fesses Mikey. "But as soon as his '55 is done, we'll be cruising in our bad-ass Chevys." And be sure to invite your very understanding other half, Leona. No doubt about that, bro.
Even without the high-performance changes, the low-volume, serialized ZZ430 Crate (circa 2005) is a pretty cool deal in itself. Top of the Hill (Livermore, California) did the machine work and balancing, while CAR blueprinted the assembly. They filled the high-nickel block with a stock-stroke forged GM crank, Scat forged connecting rods, and SRP 9.0:1 blower pistons with Speed-Pro ring packs. The oiling system is stock ZZ430. Because more cam would have been excessive for this pressurized intake system (too much overlap would bleed off peak cylinder pressure), CAR retained the GM Hot Cam. On top, they fastened the original Fast Burn aluminum cylinder heads and an Edelbrock intake manifold with a Holley HP 750 as prepped by The Carb Shop. Germane to the blower install: an alcohol injection system, the MSD ignition with boost retard, and a J&S knock sensor. All this poses a safe threshold for the ProCharger's 10-psi manifold pressure. Mike estimates 600 hp from the worldly 350. The Camaro manages this largesse with a Tremec TKO five-speed and passes torque through a McLeod pressure plate, twin-disc clutch assembly, and steel flywheel. Grunt terminates at the Moser 12-bolt and its 31-spline axles, Tru-Trac differential, and 3.73:1 gearset.
This is primo, kids. Soft, sumptuous, and textured like only leather from Italy can feel in a simple though elegant, carefully structured environment. The space emotes a Zenlike calm. Shawn Catt at Gearhead Garage did the door panels, the pin-neat Corbeau GTS II seats, the console, and the dashboard. We see some billet bits, Auto Meter gauges, and a McLeod shifter, flanked by an ididit tilt steering column topped with a Momo wheel. Gearhead rewired the car with Painless spaghetti and also installed an aftermarket HVAC system and an Alpine audio compilation including iDA-X100 head, speakers, and 12-inch woofer; iPod player amps are MRP M650 and MRP F250. At his feet are Porsche carpeting tailored and installed by CAR and three-point seat belts from Morris Classic Concepts.
When Mike and his dad found it on eBay, the Camaro was red with a bumble-bee stripe. Gearhead added an RS package and headlight doors, removed some minor rust, and rubbed the very straight body to bare metal. In the event of something untoward, Mike wanted over-the-counter paint. Here we see Subaru World Rally Blue for the main body and Nissan Silverstone rally stripes as per a 350Z. Mike can see perfectly over that ZL2 hood.
To the road racer in Mike, nothing was more important than the Camaro's chassis and suspension. While at Gearhead, the car was fitted with a Fatman subframe, cut, channeled, and modified with Koni coilover shock absorbers. When CAR took over, they added a splined-end Speedway Engineering/CAR antisway bar, DSE frame connectors and crossmember, and a driveshaft loop. Front springs are hefty 450-lb/in Eibachs. Rack steering was pirated from a late-model Mustang. The rear of the car has Hotchkis coils and QA1 adjustable shock absorbers.
Boze ZE Forged Boost 18x8 and 18x9 hoops are shod with 245/40 and 275/40 Nitto Invo rubber, which has a distinctive tread pattern and otherwise great appeal. Just out of sight are the requisite Baer 13- and 12-inch discs.