DRIV­ING FORCE

Street Machine - - Contents - STORY CRAI G PA RK ER PH O T OS B E N H O SKING

With nearly 1500hp of twin-turbo grunt up front, Steve Hopes’s SINISTR Ca­maro is not to be messed with

RACE-SPEC SUS­PEN­SION, BUL­LET­PROOF DRIV­E­LINE AND 1500HP OF TWIN-TURBO GRUNT MAKE THIS SHOW-AND-GO PRO TOUR­ING CA­MARO A FORCE TO BE RECK­ONED WITH

WITH its flaw­less pan­els, mile-deep paint, in­cred­i­ble bright­work and in­sane de­tail, you could be for­given for think­ing the ’68 Ca­maro of Steve Hopes is all show. But such no­tions quickly evap­o­rate the in­stant Steve pops this bad boy’s bon­net to re­veal those 406 cubes of Nel­son Rac­ing En­gines small-block, which busts out a gen­uine 1451hp.

Mov­ing un­der­neath only serves to un­der­line the point, with a com­plete Street Rod Garage Srg-force chas­sis, mon­ster brakes, Tranzilla six-speed, Watt’s link­age, nine-inch and fat, sticky rub­ber – all ex­treme G-ma­chine gear. Steve built his rad Cam for tack­ling the twisty stuff – a pro tourer on steroids.

“I started out build­ing a tough, big-block-pow­ered track car,” Steve says. “Then I tubbed the rear and cut out the fire­wall and floor, and one thing led to an­other.”

And no, that’s not a mis­print; en­gine num­ber one was an al­lal­loy 640-horse 540ci Shafiroff big-block. But SINISTR’S story starts even ear­lier than that. Steve was al­ready cruis­ing around in a mint match­ingnum­bers black ’68 Ca­maro that was too nice to chop up, which is ex­actly what he knew he’d be do­ing in his quest to build a barn­storm­ing cor­ner-carver. So he sold it on. En­ter ’68 Ca­maro #2 in 2010, a plain-jane six-cylin­der with orig­i­nal pur­chase re­ceipts.

Know­ing he wanted some­thing that han­dled even bet­ter than it looked, Steve or­dered the SRG chas­sis and duly bolted it in place. “It’s one of the best-look­ing and engineered chas­sis on the mar­ket,” he says. “I told them the wheel off­sets I was us­ing and they cus­tom-built the com­plete rolling chas­sis for me, diff and all. I was re­ally sur­prised how well it all went to­gether; the tyres fit the guards per­fectly.”

One thing Steve wasn’t so fussed about was how low the chas­sis hung. So­lu­tion? Cut the whole floor out and sink it 1.5 inches fur­ther up into the car. While the grinder and

YOU COULD BE FOR­GIVEN FOR THINK­ING STEVE’S CA­MARO IS ALL SHOW. BUT SUCH NO­TIONS EVAP­O­RATE THE IN­STANT HE POPS THE BON­NET TO RE­VEAL THE 406CI NEL­SON RAC­ING EN­GINES SMALLBLOCK, GOOD FOR 1451HP

welder were handy Steve also opened up the wheel­wells to ac­com­mo­date the mon­ster 345/25/20 rear hides.

Things were def­i­nitely start­ing to look SINISTR now. With the new chas­sis and floor start­ing to take shape, Steve be­gan to re­think whether his big-block was the best way to fill all the ex­tra space, so out it came, and in went the twin-turbo NRE.

Steve runs a build­ing busi­ness, and had one of his con­trac­tors roll up the new trans hump, tail­shaft tun­nel and rear roll­pan, along with a host of other bits and pieces. “I wanted ev­ery­thing to be sym­met­ri­cal,” he says. “From the tur­bos to the back of the car, it’s all mir­ror-im­age.”

Cast­ing an eye over his hand­i­work, you have to ad­mit that for a car­pen­ter and joiner, Mr Hopes is a dab hand with the MIG. He’s done a very nice job of piec­ing it all to­gether in his shed, al­beit with a ton of help from good friend Lit­tle Steve.

One of the more chal­leng­ing parts of the build was in front of the en­gine. “Be­cause I raised the chas­sis, I also had to make a new ra­di­a­tor sup­port that was lifted three inches,” Steve says. “Pack­ag­ing was re­ally tight. I made wooden repli­cas of the ra­di­a­tor and in­ter­cooler, com­plete with brack­ets plus in­let and out­lets. Shaun’s Cus­tom Al­loy welded them up and it all fit­ted per­fectly – even the a/c con­denser!”

Dur­ing the build NRE re­leased its sym­met­ri­cal tur­bos. De­spite the con­sid­er­able cost, Steve even­tu­ally bit the bul­let and or­dered the NRE pumps to re­place the orig­i­nal Tur­bo­net­ics items. But by the time they ar­rived 18 months later, all the de­tailed turbo plumb­ing was com­pleted and the chas­sis was painted. For­tu­nately, fit­ting the new sym­met­ri­cal units only re­quired re­do­ing the tran­si­tion for the blow-off valves.

With such mas­sive power on tap, driv­e­line longevity quickly be­came Steve’s next hur­dle. “The six-speed Tranzilla is rated at 1200hp,” he says. “I’m not re­ally wor­ried about it though; the street tyres have lit­tle chance of putting all that power down.”

Af­ter con­tem­plat­ing sev­eral op­tions for the in­te­rior, Steve em­ployed the same tac­tics as un­der­neath – cut it all out and start from scratch. Un­der the cus­tom dash went the brake booster, mas­ter cylin­der, clutch, wiper mo­tor, Vin­tage Air a/c, coil packs and Elec­tro­mo­tive ECU! “It’s very cramped; there’s a lot un­der there,” Steve says with some un­der­state­ment. “I had to do the pedal box four times to make it all work.”

While he fash­ioned the dash from fi­bre­glass, the rest of the in­te­rior shows off more of Steve’s metal skills. There’s the ful­l­length con­sole that flows up into the rear par­cel tray, which in turn flows back into the door trims and through into the dash. It’s full wra­paround, with­out look­ing like some kind of boat in­te­rior – it’s very well done. Head­lin­ing is a three-piece unit out of the States. “I was sur­prised how well it fit­ted,” he says. “Mind you, I had to cut it at the pil­lars to make it sit right.”

Stitch­ing the leather­work was one of the very few tasks Steve didn’t com­plete him­self – that dis­tinc­tion went to Cam at North Coast Cus­tom Trim. Same sit­u­a­tion with the wiring: “Adam from Caloun­dra Cus­tom Auto Elec­tri­cal hid ev­ery­thing,” Steve says. “He’s pretty tal­ented and does lots of very neat cus­tom stuff.”

All this brings us back to that gor­geous Chevro­let body­work. By the time our skilled wood­worker had fin­ished dis­card­ing all the can­cer­ous sheet metal, all that was left was the tur­ret, lower wind­screen panel, rear scut­tle and doors. Steve added new quar­ters, sills and boot chan­nel, along with a host of sub­tle changes, be­fore mas­sag­ing it all into shape.

“My painter, Steve from Cre­ative Body­works, was pretty im­pressed,” Steve says. “He com­mented that it was as good if not bet­ter than most of the work that comes out of shops.”

You re­ally need to park SINISTR next to a stock Ca­maro to ap­pre­ci­ate all the lit­tle changes. Some are easy to spot, like the lack of boot or bon­net catches. “Catches look ugly,” Steve states. “I smoothed them off and they’re now elec­tri­cally op­er­ated.”

BY THE TIME STEVE HAD FIN­ISHED DIS­CARD­ING ALL THE CAN­CER­OUS SHEET METAL, ALL THAT WAS LEFT WAS THE TUR­RET, LOWER WIND­SCREEN PANEL, REAR SCUT­TLE AND DOORS

CAST­ING AN EYE OVER HIS HAND­I­WORK, YOU HAVE TO AD­MIT THAT FOR A CAR­PEN­TER AND JOINER, MR HOPES IS A DAB HAND WITH THE MIG

Ad­di­tions to the thank you list in­clude Dar­rell’s Metal Polishing for the miles and miles of in­cred­i­ble bright­work, not to men­tion Steve’s wife Kim for putting up with him not be­ing at home for five years.

As for SINISTR’S fu­ture, the 540ci Shafiroff donk is still stashed un­der the bench, so it might find its way un­der the Ca­maro’s silky-smooth hood for some big-block fun at the track.

In the mean­time, Steve’s con­tem­plat­ing re­turn­ing to Summernats for the first time since 1988! Back then he used to street-race his SL/R 5000 To­rana in the Dan­de­nong back­blocks. I won­der how many tak­ers he would have got if he’d rocked up with SINISTR back then. Hmmm, now where did I put that flux ca­pac­i­tor?

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