Suppose you found this Camaro. Suppose you didn't know what to do with it. Suppose you better close up this book and take nap. Mark Sanders didn't do that, of course. He didn't even lust for this car, you know, like from when he was a drooling 10-year-old or something. He bought it because he liked the shape of the body and the way it inspired him. Besides, it had a mere 60K on the clock and was in terrific shape.
"I paid $6,000 for the car. It was in too nice of condition for what I did to it because everything was there from the factory...but I eliminated all of it to customize the car. The biggest surprise was the amount of prior repair to the quarter panels. I've learned that you will always be surprised when rebuilding a 35-year-old car, but the '71 SS was a California original so it had no rust," says Mark. And its lineage and experience were documented. "I bought it from a friend who got it from his friend's grandfather." That was in 2005.
For another six Gs, Mark found a motor and transmission. "I thought I would have a total of maybe $20,000 in the car. Needless to say, I exceeded that mark well before the project was finished." Mark didn't see a Pro Touring car or street and strip racer in his Camaro, either. The car just sort of evolved, following no particular discipline, much like it would have back in the day.
As for the two-year gestation, Mark thinks it was a protracted experience. "The reason the car took so long to build was because I was only able to work on it every other Saturday or so due to the extensive travel my job requires. [Ed. note: He is COO of Caliber Collision Corporation.] Besides, my wife Jennifer and daughter Bailey and I were in the process of adopting a baby boy." Mark, you still got away clean. We know some guys that still aren't driving a "finished" ride 10 years in!
Mark used the palette at hand to create a clean, simple one-off silhouette: Door handles shaved, '69 Camaro parking lights parked in the valance, side marker lights eliminated, bright single-color paint, rear body seams filled. Mark did all this work and had pal Mike Reed shoot the paint. Under the hood the theme stays simple yet compelling. Mark customized and smoothed the firewall and crafted a custom cover on top of the cowl panels that hides the windshield wiper motor assembly, the ignition box, and the coil. The detailing is what makes Mark's car stand out. There's nothing radical, bizarre, or incomprehensible here. Everything is naked and joined together seamlessly. There are no knots.
Despite its simple, sanitary appearance, the Camaro has a wealth of change quietly roiling beneath its bright orange. Mark took particular care with the interior, its subtle shades of gray and charcoal bipping lightly against sculpted panels and straight, brushed-finish pieces. In all, a calm station, a welcome oasis in a world of uncertainty. Though they don't exactly jump out and grab you by the throat, the billet dash inserts, customized dash face, package tray, and headliner are undeniable, and they front for a trunk with orange backlighting.
Mark estimates output from the 468ci at about 600 hp and 600 lb-ft, more than enough to justify supplanting drivetrain pebbles with boulders. The chassis, likewise, has been upgraded accordingly to handle the influx of torque. Big brakes front and rear, a quick-ratio steering box, new bones for the suspension, subframe connectors, a welded frame, and some wiggy 17s flesh out the package. While Mark did all the bodywork and building, he got some mechanical help from his dad and props from painter Mike Reed.
What would he do over again? In light of the world conservation worry, he would replace the guzzling Rat with a small-displacement Mouse-twirling twin hairdryers! And that's the way it is in Colleyville, Texas.