PAINT IT, BLACK

All Ca­maros will be re-cre­ated time and again

Chevy High Performance - - Front Page - TEXT: Ro McGone­gal | PHO­TOS: Robert McGaf­fin

All Ca­maros will be re-cre­ated time and again

Maybe you re­mem­ber like it was yes­ter­day: light­ing the fuse on your first cherry bomb but fum­bling it be­fore you could launch it to­ward the enemy, the first time you dropped the ham­mer at the dragstrip, maybe your first kiss. Or your first cap gun or your first pair of blue suede Thom McAn Snap-Jacks. Or maybe you were 16, the day you fi­nally got your ticket to the king­dom and couldn’t go back home un­til you’d driven the wheels off your first damn car.

Cer­tainly, Gary Popolizio has his own take on this. “My first car was a 1967 Ca­maro that I pur­chased from the orig­i­nal owner. I re­worked the body, en­gine, and fin­ished it with a new coat of paint. The car ac­tu­ally looked good … so good that some­one else ap­par­ently liked it, too, and it ended up dis­ap­pear­ing. It broke my heart and I al­ways said if I could get an­other one I would.”

Real life be­came his life and it steam­rolled right on down the line with­out re­gard for Gary

or any­one else. His chil­dren grew up, got mar­ried, and set off on their own. He cracked the empty-nest syn­drome. He took a chance. He wanted to re­visit a first-gen. He found some­one else’s pile on the In­ter­net. It was in Grand Rapids, Michi­gan. Soon, he and a buddy drove the 24 hours up and back from Penn­syl­va­nia. He had the crate shipped to Pennsy where the tran­si­tion, or evo­lu­tion, as Gary calls it, be­gan. So then, Evo­lu­tion the car would grow the guise of Pro Tour­ing and was slated for com­ple­tion in 2017 to cor­re­spond with the an­niver­sary of the Ca­maro’s 50-year run.

The F-body in Grand Rapids had a 427 backed by a Mun­cie. “It was be­ing con­verted to a Yenko clone,” said Gary. “It had the power but all its bones were six-cylin­der stuff.” Gary drove it dili­gently; he learned how the car felt be­neath him and then used that in­ter­pre­ta­tion as a guide for the car’s next chap­ters.

“That big-block just didn’t work as well as I would have liked with sus­pen­sion in­tended for a lighter en­gine. This started me on the path that led to a frame-off restora­tion,” he opined. He sur­veyed the cus­tom­car crews in prox­im­ity and then “part­nered” with Justin Brun­ner and Bent Metal Cus­toms in nearby Lans­dale, Penn­syl­va­nia. Bent Metal han­dled all the mechanicals as well as the paint­work, but the magic bul­let and the up­hol­stery were farmed out.

When it came to the big pic­ture, Gary’s back­ground and train­ing as a foren­sic en­gi­neer un­doubt­edly gave him a leg up. His work­ing life is rife with de­tails as it is his re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­ves­ti­gate ma­te­ri­als, prod­ucts, struc­tures, or com­po­nents that fail or do not op­er­ate or func­tion as in­tended, of­ten caus­ing per­sonal in­jury or prop­erty dam­age. In other words, eyes are on him. If any­one would have a bul­let­proof floor plan, it would be Popolizio.

For this big ad­ven­ture, he was of a mind to in­cor­po­rate some of the best sys­tems in the world. Bent Metal sup­ported both ends of the car with De­troit Speed (DSE) sus­pen­sion and cinched the struc­tures with sub­frame con­nec­tors. Damp­ing comes from ad­justable coilover as­sem­blies, di­rec­tional du­ties from the rack steer­ing, and pos­i­tive trac­tion from a DSE 9-inch axle prepped with a True­trac dif­fer­en­tial and Moser 35-spline axles.

The po­ets at Mast Mo­tor­sports sup­plied the la­tent power with a 427 that nets more than 600 horse­power at the tires. Its cross-ram in­duc­tion is an ex­citer. To high­light the red horns, Bent Metal did an ex­em­plary job on fin­ish­ing off the en­gine com­part­ment. The hand-hewn pan­els they made are coolly dis­tinc­tive and don’t di­min­ish the glory of the en­gine one bit.

There were the usual tri­als and tribu­la­tions to as­sume but what sticks out in Gary’s mind like flash­ing neon

is this: “The day we re­al­ized that the in­take man­i­fold wouldn’t fit un­der a stan­dard hood or cowl.” They had crafted mounts that would po­si­tion the en­gine lower and a tad far­ther back in the chas­sis but that didn’t solve the is­sue so they did some hot rod­ding and built a bon­net from scratch. “In hind­sight, I think [the hood] ul­ti­mately proved to be an as­set pro­vid­ing one of the best fea­tures on the car, set­ting it apart in looks and style with­out go­ing too over­board.” As man­dated by the PPG Black, Bent Metal crafted the body­work ab­so­lutely straight and high­lighted the whole, tuck­ing the front bumper, adding Dap­per Light­ing head­lamps and Digi-Tails LED rear lights, and Speed Source door mir­rors.

For the in­side job, the Ca­maro went up to Gillin Cus­tom De­sign in Mid­dle­town, New York, that brought all its ex­per­tise to bear with Mer­cedes car­pet and Mer­cedes leather for the Pro­car seats and in all that black, the red of the Ci­pher Auto five-point har­nesses. The safety um­brella is a four-point 1026 DOM roll­bar. Since this is a true Pro Tour­ing build that de­mands crea­ture com­forts known to re­duce stress and fa­tigue over the long haul, it main­tains a po­tent col­lec­tion of au­dio equip­ment as well as a mod­ern HVAC sys­tem.

“I think the evo­lu­tion from the ini­tial de­sign and con­cept to the fi­nal prod­uct pro­vided just what we were look­ing for,” Gary signs off with.

“And best of all, I now gain the ben­e­fit of driv­ing a one-of-a-kind cus­tombuilt car. Life doesn’t get much bet­ter!” CHP

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