BILL THOMAS AND DEAN KLEIN CONNECTION
This Camaro is just one of several Bill Thomas cars that Dean Klein has owned. We featured one of them, likely the only 1969 L78 Nova to get the Thomas touch, in our Apr. 2012 issue (“One and Only,” goo.gl/C81RrE).
Klein and Thomas also collaborated on a very special Camaro back in 2002, when Chevrolet announced it was going to suspend production of its venerable ponycar.
“I said to Bill, ‘You were the first guy to get his hands on a 1967 Camaro to do conversions. We ought to do some of the last ones,’ Dean recalls. “We decided to take the 35th Anniversary Camaro and turn the LT1s into 427 cars.”
Thomas had publicly retired from high-performance work with Chevrolet in the 1970s, and yet somehow he was able to get his hands on not one, but two of the 427 race motors built to power C5-R Corvettes at Le Mans. Bill Thomas III did the fabrication work required to fit that motor in the Camaro SS—“everything was custom on that car,” Dean recalls—and once they got the motor dialed in, it recorded 1,240 hp. To the rear wheels. “And remember, this was in 2002, when there was no such thing as 1,000hp street cars.”
Dean took the finished car to the York US30/Muscle Car Madness show, where he happened to cross paths with Bill Jenkins. In conversation, the Grump admitted he and Thomas had been involved with the race motor’s development.
Search for “1000 hp Camaro” on YouTube and you can see the car on the chassis dyno at the 2005 Car Craft
Summer Nationals. “The tach lead came off on the first pass,” Dean says. “The clutch was hot for the second pass and did 1,000 horses to the rear wheels. Earlier in the day it went 1,140.”