And then there's the curious case of Steven Bates. He's 22. He's a student at Indiana University. He says he's got five large figures in his dark, blue companion. How's a college kid able to do that, after-hours job or not? That sanguine form hovering over your garage must be your angel, huh, Steven? Looks kind of like your dad.

Here's Steven's story: "I received the car from my dad for my 14th birthday. It was meant to give us something to build together. It was a solid piece of car but it was very clear from the start that it would need a lot of work before it was anything close to our standards.

"I can remember going straight to the garage after I got off the bus from school and I immediately started disassembling the body to bare bones. Once I had boxed up and labeled all the pieces, it was time to start the bodywork. This was where I really learned how much time, effort, and patience was needed to lay the foundation of a quality car." Then the venue changed and Steve didn't discover why until a year or so later.

"We moved the car to my dad's body shop and I went there almost every day after school to do the metalwork, sanding, aligning, etc. When most of the bodywork was complete, it came to that time in build where some serious cash was needed to keep it moving along.

"Obviously, a high school kid doesn't have that kind of money to throw around. I bought what I could with the money I had saved but there wasn't enough, of course, so I had to put the build on hold while I headed off to college. A year or so later, my dad finished his '37 Ford and started putting money and work into the Camaro." So, yeah, some parents get right down in the mix with their kids and feel their enthusiasm and appreciate the dedication and tenacity because they share and abide the same qualities.

Stance, wheeltubs, and big rubber suggest a would-be pavement destroyer. Yes, it has an LS transplant, but the engine is stock. Where you'd expect a clutch pedal, there is none. A single swoopy custom-made throttle and brake pedal are found underneath the dashboard. And while the exterior is pin-neat, arrow-straight, and captures some delightfully subtle, handcrafted cues, the interior is all-out berserko. Lots of leather, metalwork, and sweat equity from Steve as well as the 30-year hot rod-building veterans at Downs Industries in Lawton, Michigan.

As luscious as the Bates' car is on the outside, the candy is wrapped in a totally wicked interior pod. There is something to be said for a modest, stylish coat covering a completely unsuspected cockpit that leaves you with a lasting imprint. Some parts of it look tempting, almost good enough to eat. Obviously, creature comforts and a pleasant driving environment are revered in the Bates' house, more practicality and accommodation than anything the factory could envision. With such attention to detail and form, it comes as no surprise that Steve drives his piece whenever the weather says yes.

So in a world of want-to-be's, in a world helpless not to embrace the "hot" item of the week, in this world of too many following the pack, Steve Bates has simply built himself a car for all seasons. If memory serves, this is how it was in the beginning. Each person built his car as an expression of himself for himself, not a slavish replicant of the popular notion to which the rest of the pack is clinging.

While local running gets Steve up, he's more than likely to be found sniffing around Goodguys events in Columbus, Joliet, and Indianapolis, as well as neighborhood shows and gatherings. So certainly we've found a young gun extricated from the tedium of rules and from the expectation of others. It's about basking in that custom-built cabana tended by cool air and dulcet (or bust-your-brains-out) tones from the whopping stereo.

Engine & Drivetrain
Five years ago, you couldn't give an LS engine away. Now, they are the darlings of the sport. Thirteen years after its introduction these engines are manifold and available in salvage yards, online, and magazine ads in myriad configurations. Steve found an '08 5.7-liter and dolled up the exterior. With 350 hp and 365 lb-ft of grunt, the motor is strong and flexible enough to satisfy our young gun's power proclivities, yet docile enough to be driven anywhere on the worst pump gas. Instead of that expected stick-shift, Color Craft of Hobart, Indiana, posted a beefed 4L60E automatic with a 2,300-stall converter behind the modest LS1. A custom-length prop shaft transfers grunt to the re-bopped 12-bolt carrying a Posi-Traction differential and 3.73:1 gears. Against that 0.70:1 top gear in the 4L60E, Bates bombs the boulevard with a breezy 2.61:1 final drive.

Color Craft Autobody is in Hobart, Indiana, Steve's hometown. While they advertise as a paint shop, they are equally adept at running metal and making mechanical changes during the build as well. Steve let 'em loose on the chassis that they fortified with Detroit Speed products. The DSE subframe contains all the mechanicals and dynamics, seemingly programmed into the construction. That would include coilover shock absorbers, tubular control arms, and rack steering. CC retained the leaf spring rear suspension but hung it with offset shackles to clear the tires and the mini-tubs. They ran subframe connectors. They set the stance.

Wheels & Brakes
These props are the most important visual cues of any car. Here we have a fine blend of Boze Pro Touring Satin forgings, 18x8 and 19x12, paired with 245/45 and 295/35 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetrical rollers. Though drum brakes still attend the 12-bolt, the front of the chopper grinds down on 13-inch Wilwood discs.

The most sanitary sheetmetal was swabbed of its door handles, acquired minimal tear-drop side-view mirrors, a custom trunk lid, a reformed rear bumper, a lowered spoiler, and LED taillights. The only departure from smooth and straight is the ZL2 cowl hood. Color Craft pronounced Bates' bodywork as the perfect recipient of Sikkens Blue and clearcoats.

Though the familiarity of the ubiquitous '69 Camaro is unchangeable, Steve wanted an interior that departed from the usual, a moon-shot original, a pod totally separate from the rest of the project, a wonderful blend of whimsy and practicality. Looking way too sumptuous for a track beater, Downs Industries used unusual shades and textures of tan and brown leather. Downs created the wraparound dashboard, mimicking the coves indigenous to early-model Corvettes. All the accessory knobs and control handles are logically arranged, quite within fingertip range, and can be manipulated via peripheral vision. The scheme was underwritten with a Painless wiring loom and the all-important Vintage Air HVAC system. A Billet Specialties Stiletto steering wheel mates with a tilt column. Steve's accompanied by a load of Auto Meter gauges, a leather-wrapped Lokar shifter, and electric window lift switches on the side of the custom-built console hard by his knee. Audio looms large. A Critical Mass 1,000-watt amp head, a 10-inch subwoofer, two 6x9-inch speakers, and 6-inch speakers in the door panels.

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