Some groundwork on cars and rules, philosophy of boundaries and identity and purpose

The purpose of this project is to construct a ’67 Camaro that can win the SCCA STX Solo National Championship.  To do that I’ll have to beat some very fast drivers in much more modern cars – the Mazda RX-8, BMW 328, Subaru WRX, and 1989 Honda Civic Si (those not familiar with autocross will wonder about that last one, it’s a long story…)

In doing so I have to adhere to the rules of the STX class.  Along the way I am going to have lots of problems making the car work as well as I need it to within those allowances.  Here are a couple links too, the rules may change a little over time, depending on how long this thing takes to get put together…

SCCA “Cars and Rules” page

SCCA 2010 Solo Rulebook

Those not accustomed to this sort of competition are likely to think to themselves along this road “why don’t you just cheat and do X”…”nobody will be able to tell if you do Y”..”just do Z, they’re probably doing it too”.  None of those thoughts are going to fly here.  SCCA Solo is a much different sort of motorsport – there is no “tech inspector” to try and fool with illegal modifications – it is a competitor policed sport, and all your competitors, who are also your friends, are relied upon to make sure your car is legal.  I think this is part of why there really isn’t that much cheating in Solo – if you did, you’re really cheating on your friends.  In roadracing, where all the best cheating stories come from, there’s much more of an “us vs. them” mentality, and people probably take getting away with having “outsmarted” the inspectors, with pride.

Others may wonder why I’m choosing to limit myself to what is a fairly low level of modification for a platform that you often find extensively modified.  Part of the reason is I’ve built two winning cars to this level of preparation before, and enjoy what it allows me to do, while not making me do anything I don’t want to do…like cut up the car to fit huge tires.  In the case of the Camaro, there are actually a surprising number of similarities between the ST Solo category, and what Donohue and the Trans-Am racers were allowed to do back in their day.  I am a huge Mark Donohue fan, and part of the wacky appeal of this car to me, is that when I’m done, the car should extremely similar performance to what he experienced back in the late 60’s.  If I do it right, maybe even slightly better performance… 🙂

(this is a totally irrelevant picture of the crummy motor that came in the Camaro, in the middle of a compression check.  Had to break up all this ugly text with a pic! Motor going on craigslist soon)

Of course, there are more things one can do to make a car faster than what I’ll end up with.  I think at some point though, the more a car is modified, it begins to lose its identity.  Everyone has a different line where they feel a car loses its identity, and for me, it’s not far beyond where I’ll be going with this car.  Sure, it could handle better if I replaced the frame with C6 stuff, and it would make more power with a new LS9, and there could be huge improvements moving the firewall, back-halving and mini-tubbing the car, rack-and-pinion steering, etc.  But would it still be a Camaro?  Is a new C6 with a first-gen Camaro body on it a Camaro or Corvette, does it even matter?  I guess my point here is, the STX rules are a place I feel allows me to make the car all it can be, and a ton more fun to drive, without sacrificing its identity.  When you’re operating in a world without rules or boundaries, if you want the fastest drag Camaro, you take your Camaro’s firewall identification plate and slap it on a top-fuel dragster; if you want the fastest autocross Camaro, you slap it on an A-Mod car, or for the fastest track Camaro, find a spot for it in an F1 car.  Obviously those are extremes, but if you don’t have boundaries, you’re depending on everyone to have their line where the car loses its identity, at the same place.

It also helps the budget, that STX rules are somewhat limited.

Q: I want to ask a question or leave comments. How do I do so?

I’ve set things up so I’ll have to create you a username to comment.  This is mostly to keep out the spam bots, but will also help me get to know everyone interested in the project.

To request a username or ask a question, please email me,

Q: Why am I detailing the build here instead of on {some forum}?

Good question!  Actually nobody has directly asked me this yet but this is a model of how I’d like the Q&A section to work.

The answers are several-

  1. By posting things on my own site, I retain ownership of the “intellectual property”.  Over the years I have spent a lot (way too much probably) of time reading and posting on dozens of different automotive message boards.  I’ve always done so in the most kind and helpful manner I could, but at the beginning of a project like this, with all the time I figured I’d spent creating posts, and answering questions, all that work would be going into someone else’s database, helping drive hits to their site, delivering money to the site owners from its sponsors.  Of course not all sites are sponsored (shout out to and!) but the ones that are have a whole ‘nother set of problems-
  2. Often times sponsor-supported sites slide into heavy-handed moderation in favor of certain products.  I’m picky about what goes on my car, and if I buy a product from Brand X and feel it’s crap, I want to freely be able to say so, without any fear my post will be edited or deleted.  At the same time, if I acquire a sponsor, I’ll be able to keep anyone from saying anything bad about them here.  🙂
  3. I’ve done a few other build threads (240sx – STS build; 240sx – SM build; SS Viper build) and I don’t like how they sometimes go off-topic.  I think it’ll be easier for me to maintain a good signal:noise ratio in this fashion.  I will probably allow comments to the posts to get feedback but will maintain full censorship control over each submission.

Like the build of the car itself, I’ll like having a high level of control over what goes on.

My audience

I suspect the people reading this blog will fall into one of a few categories:

  1. Family and friends interested in what I’m doing with all those hours in the garage
  2. Fellow SCCA autocrossers, interested to see how it is I plan to make this thing fast and nationally competitive in SCCA autocross
  3. Persons into making these classic cars better and faster, as part of what some call the “Pro-Touring” movement, from sites like and
  4. Potential sponsors

If you don’t fall into one of these categories, let me know.  In my posts I’m writing mostly for the crowd of groups 2 and 3, but will try to at least make it a little entertaining for the rest, and provide plenty of pictures.

The long strange trip

Up at 5am today, hit the airport for 6:40 Southwest 119 to Sacramento with perfect timing.  Caused a stir at the bank by trying to withdraw my own money (?), paid the fellow and left in this-

Yes, that is a red/orange overspray on the left front tire.  Fellow was doing a quick fix-up and sell, and got a little rambunctious with the paint gun – the windows, engine compartment, license plates, door handles, radiator, etc., all got paint on them.  No big deal as most of those things will be replaced or repainted anyway.

So with no speedo and no gas gauge I set off from Sacramento towards San Diego around 9:30am.  Car has a V8 out of an ’84 Camaro with an Edelbrock carb.  Transmission is a 4-speed, Muncie we think.  It’s not too whiny and first seems a little tall and close to second, so I’m hoping it’s an M21.  Rear end is a 10-bolt but very steep, thinking probably a 4.10.

With this setup I’m expecting 13-14mpg, even at the guesstimated 55mph I’m traveling.  Car had about 30 miles since last fill-up, so I stop about 40 miles in to gauge consumption.  Never filled up one of these wacky rear-fill things before, the lack of evaporative emissions  gear readily apparent.  At about 3.2 gallons, fuel starts spilling out all over the back bumper.  That’s odd.  The fellow mentioned it leaks a little bit and to hold it tight, so I do, but after about 3.5 gallons, everything I dispense splashes on the ground.  Hmmm…

Make it another 110 miles, and I can only fit in 5.2.  It is a new tank and the owner said something about the level and rake in the car, so I turn it around on a slight slope, and still can’t fit any more in the tank…

(Can you see where this is going yet?)

The darn thing got 20-24mpg for every leg of the trip.  I still stopped every 110-130 miles to be safe, but I never fit in much over 5 gallons.  Since I was going to be taking the car apart at home and didn’t want too much gas in it, for the last leg went from the south side of the grapevine, all the way home, about 150 miles.

Definitely plan to get a functional gas gauge going!

So…how was the car on its first drive?

It has manual everything – steering, brakes, etc.  The steering ratio feels like it’s 99:1 in parking lots – takes 2 turns to do anything and it’s still heavy.  There’s about 1/8th turn of dead spot in the middle, monkeying around with 1/8th turn in the Viper would get you spinning.

The brakes are phenomenally…atrocious.  Manual drums at all four corners.  The worst brakes of any car I have ever driven.  There was a little pull to the left but I have to imagine they probably aren’t much worse than when the car was new.  Scary stuff!

Speaking of scary, there were no seatbelts in the car.  It had seats from the ’84 Camaro, must have lost the belts in the translation.  I’m a big believer in seat belts and always wear mine – their absence is part of why I’m going right to work on this thing instead of tooling around with it for a bit.

Side window vents rock!  They did a great job of making window-down a comfortable and quiet thing.

The engine was pretty weak and sounded like it was full of exhaust leaks.  The gas pedal required huge force to press, that got really annoying.  Not going to miss this motor.

Used the transmission/engine to help deceleration on offramps.  It would pop out of third gear under decel.  Looks like the trans will for sure need a rebuild if kept.

Got home around 8:15pm, tired, but excited to actually check out the car.  Had been in “get it and get it home” mode all day.

Couple scary things – one missing and  one half-off lugnut on right front.  Other corners have all five.  Camaro Berlinetta 14″ wheels have too much offset for this suspension, the lower steering ball joint was rubbing the tires the whole way home.

The wiring is a complete disaster, stuff going everywhere, lying on hot parts, tangled in steering, you name it.  Will have to be completely redone.

The thing is SOLID!  No signs of rust anywhere with some extensive magnet testing.  Looked underneath, the original factory bump stops are there, all the suspension appears unmodified.  It even has the original sound deadening under the carpet.  This is a great place to start for an STX car, as so much of the original stuff is still there, and I won’t be stuck with the car in “paint/body jail” for 6 months.  At least, I hope not.

Standard what?

Starting working on a plan of sorts for the build sequence.  Most steps involve wrenching on the car.  No problem, I’ve done a lot of work on cars over the years, and have a good assortment of ratchets, extensions, and wrenches, from 6mm all the way up to some 30+mm axle nut sockets.

Wait, mm?  This is an American car built in the ’60s.  Before we’d been to the moon.   Before we were using metric fasteners on our cars.  Stopped by Sears while out today for some good-old fraction-based sockets and wrenches.

The Craigslist ad to start it all…




After scouring eBay, half a dozen online classifieds, and manually combing through every region’s Craiglist from Nebraska to San Diego, finally came across a decent looking car at a good price.

Some cute mis-spellings.  “Solid car” sounds good.  Rust free sounds optimistic, but I can check the carfax, and if the car really has lived its whole life in CA, it should at least be minimal.  Nice older gentleman owner says car was originally a 327 with 3-speed floor shift, but now has a V8 out of an ’84 Camaro, with a 4-speed Muncie.  Says it’s totally daily-driveable.  Looks like I may need to replace the wiring with a new factory harness, but that’s not too bad as there’s not much to these cars and it’ll be stripped down to the shell anyway.  He says it hasn’t been restored, hoping to find most of the original things like sound deadening, intact.

Going to get the VIN tomorrow and if it looks good, fly up to Sacramento next week and drive it home to San Diego.  Did a similar trip with my 240sx in 2005, though that trip took me to Portland!

This is it.

If you’ve found this post, you’ve found where this Camaro build will be documented.

At this time I don’t yet have a car to start from.  Done lots of research and planning, have all sorts of service manuals and other documentation.  In talks with motor builders.  Been scouring ebay and Craigslist for a donor.

Once I have a car in the garage, the pictures will begin, along with all the background and the answering of several pent-up questions already asked.

Till then, be patient!