"When I was a young man, just 17, I had a friend who built his race cars with parts that some else had already used. Therefore, the exclusive price was always right ... and so was the performance." While others were spending thousands to make their dreams smoke off the line, he held on to his hard-earned hundreds like grim death and haggled shrewd as much as possible. That's the way he did it. Doug Renner adheres to the very same notion. Here's his sound rationale.
"I'm building this car because the Pro Touring style had started to really grow on me. Your magazine and my two favorite sites (Pro-Touring.com and Lateralg.org) made it easy to get addicted. To be able to drive the car anywhere and at anytime was really appealing. That it would handle on par with a new Vette and have air conditioning to go with it was way cool. So I started looking for a black '69 Camaro with white or silver stripes.
"I found my current car on eBay and began the ongoing slow transformation process. I own another '69 Camaro that is a heads-up drag radial car and knew that unless I had a plan for this buildup, it would end up being stripped down to a shell and become a major project. The emphasis I put on this was one upgrade at a time, refine it, and then move on-all the while keeping the car driveable and not torn apart for months at a time."
He adhered to his original outline, pointing his hands-on energy to the front suspension, seats and console, tires and rims, rear suspension, front brakes, etc. The car was already holding a wimpy 406ci small-block backed by a Turbo 350 and peg-leg 8.5-inch 10-bolt axle. It was a good place to begin, thought Renner, all the while tuning his antenna for the deals of the decade. How're these? Sparco Chrono Roads seats, $1,000 for the pair; new Rushforth wheels and Nitto stickies; fourth-gen Camaro console (with cup holders) for $50; new Alston G-Bar suspension for another grand; a new, never-run 406 with forged innards and AFR heads for $3,200; big Baer front brakes at the right price "because I knew somebody."
But all of the construction issues weren't so sanitary in Doug's workshop. "I had the movie Apollo 13 on and it was at the part where the guys are stranded in deep space, dealing with a busted-up ship that, in order to stay alive, they would have to fit square breathing filter canisters into round holes. I immediately realized, as I stood there beaten up and tired out, that the name Apollo 13 was right for this car. Seems like that's all I do, constantly trying to get the 'bolt-on' square part into the round hole." Thus far, the name has been appropriate.
Doug's been able to stick to his plan of making one mod at a time and has kept the car on the road. He recently attended his first real driving event, (Run through the Hills West Coast), and found the Camaro far more capable than its driver. Many of his drag racing buddies have asked if he prefers Pro Touring to heads-up drag racing. "Certainly there are pros and cons with both, but I do really like the seat time you get in this car and the fact that you can roll up the windows on the drive home and turn on the A/C. The PT community is a great bunch of people, and I am happy to call many of them friends now. I doubt very much that I will ever step away from this movement. It is more fun and addicting than should be allowed."
No steam yet. As a work in progress, the Camaro will be in a state of flux for quite some time. The engine is currently the 406 it came with. Recently, a happy-time 406 fell out of a tree by Craig Reed's High Performance shop and promises to be much stronger than the noodle that's slouching in the engine bay. Doug's blueprints originally included an LS derivative but not having one on hand, he took what was offered, saved some loot, and got a screwed-together package equipped with splayed main caps, Manley crank, rods and Mahle forged coated pistons, a Comp Cams hydraulic roller, AFR Eliminator heads, Crower rockers, and a damper-all of it new. Ultimately, this motor will be doing its swearing with a ProCharger. Like the current 406, the drivetrain holds little mystery and poses yet another goal to reach. A stock Turbo 350 (ratios, torque converter) is equipped with a B&M Carbon Fiber shifter and a Setrab fluid cooler. As 10-bolts go, the one with an 8.5-inch ring gear is preferable. Axle ratio is 3.08:1 and is without a positive traction device.
Rollers And Anchors
Doug found another screamin' deal at Drivez Inc. in Corona, California. Head man Jon Henson made him a preposterous offer on some 19x8 and 20x9 Rushforth Super Spoke rims with Nitto 555 P235/35 and P275/35 rubber. "I hadn't planned on going this big on the wheels," Doug said. "But once again, it was a great deal. Jon rehooped the wheels twice to get them to sit perfectly under the car at the ride height I wanted." Since the front brakes take most of the load, for the time being Doug swapped in some Baer Pro Plus 14-inch, six-piston discs but left the back ones in drum form. They, too, will bow to the almighty Baer in short order.
Shiny Side Up
What you see is what Doug got, a black car with white stripes and a solid body. He doesn't know what color it is or by whom it was applied, but it certainly stands out.
For the time being, the chassis is the hero. Lil' Bri Fabrication in Riverside, California, installed the Global West frame connectors, made the custom rear sway bar mounts, and inserted the 1/2-inch Detroit Speed solid body mounts. Doug brought it home and began assembling the custom ATS spindles and Speedtech upper and lower tubular control arms, fitting Alston adjustable VariShock coilovers and a 1 1/4-inch Hellwig bar. He swapped out the lazy steering box for a 12:1 AGR. After several attempts at de-arched leaf springs to get the rate right and the stance as he wished, Doug found the swap meet Alston setup. "I converted the non-adjustable bars to heim ends in order to get extra adjustability for pinion angle, and I also added a 7/8-inch sway bar. This move really improved the ride quality over the leaf springs. The leaf springs were de-arched to the point that they were like a bow trying to shoot an arrow on every bump I went over."
For now, Doug sports the factory dash, but Pascual and Judas at Marquez Design are making a dashpanel designed around the Racepak IQ3 diagnostics. Doug: "I'm really looking forward to see what they come up with, since I consider their products, fabrication, and design to be some of the best the market has to offer. I run a Racepak dash and data logger on the drag radial car and swear by them. They monitor every aspect of the car and are easy to set up and use. Racepak's Roger Conley is also working on the installation and the overall setup of the IQ3 in the newly designed dash. The rest of the scene is just as business-like: Sparco Chrono Roads seats, Momo Carbo Fiber steering wheel, got that Vintage Air, too.