There’s a say­ing out there along the lines of, ‘It’s hard to soar like an ea­gle when you’re sur­rounded by tur­keys’, and a few oth­ers that go vaguely along the lines of, ‘you are who you sur­round your­self with’. The moral of the story is that if you’re sur­rounded by id­iots, chances are, you’ll be one, or, con­versely, if you sur­round your­self with the best, then that’s more likely where you’ll po­si­tion your­self. I can’t say for sure whether Chris­tian Hil­lary, the owner of this stun­ning pro-tour­ing Ca­maro, has aligned his life with such adages, but he’s cer­tainly been hang­ing out with the right peo­ple to build some killer cars. The build of this Ca­maro, which is by no means his first trip down the rab­bit hole, was ini­tially brought about through him be­ing good mates with well-known racer Paul Manuell. “I met Mike ‘Bic’ An­der­son through Paul. Bic had just re­turned back from the States, where he was crew chief on an IndyCar team and had taken charge of Paul’s NZV8 race team in Auck­land,” says Chris­tian. At the time, Chris­tian was crew­ing for Paul — not just to help a mate out in the quest for podium po­si­tions, but also to help in­crease his own lev­els of ex­pe­ri­ence in the never-end­ing quest for knowl­edge. It was dur­ing the tra­di­tional bee-rand-bull-shit ses­sion af­ter a race meet that Bic men­tioned that he’d brought back from the States a ’67 Ca­maro RS/SS, which was sit­ting in the shed. “Bic had hoped one day to get some time to put it on the road. That night, I asked him to give me first choice if he ever parted with it. His re­ply was, ‘Don’t worry; that won’t be hap­pen­ing!’” Chris­tian re­calls.


A cou­ple of years passed, dur­ing which time Bic headed out of Auck­land for the sunny shores of Tau­ranga and es­tab­lished his own busi­ness, Sonic Race and Ma­chine. He was spe­cial­iz­ing in high-end com­pe­ti­tion and street cars, and he needed to in­ject a bit of cap­i­tal — cap­i­tal that came in the form of sell­ing the Ca­maro. De­spite the fate­ful phone call from Bic com­ing right in the mid­dle of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, Chris­tian didn’t need to think twice be­fore jump­ing at the Ca­maro. “Of course, the an­swer was yes, re­ces­sion or no re­ces­sion!” laughs Chris­tian now. When the deal was done, the two-thirds-as­sem­bled RS/SS was miss­ing its match­ing-num­bers small block and four-speed, and had a big block in its place. It was in this state that Chris­tian would drag it home and sit on it for a few years, while he made up his mind as to ex­actly how he wanted it.

“Al­though some would want to keep the car true to its orig­i­nal, the way I saw it was that it wasn’t match­ing num­bers, so it was fair game to change it the way I wanted,” Chris­tian right­fully says, and, with his love of the pro-tour­ing look, the thoughts run­ning through his mind con­tin­ued to get wilder and wilder. Of course, the fact that Bic, be­ing one of the top ve­hi­cle en­gi­neers in the coun­try, had a vested in­ter­est in the project didn’t help Chris­tian to rein the ideas back in. Con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the two turned to wheels, which’d form the ba­sis of the build. Driv­abil­ity was just as im­por­tant as head-turn­ing abil­ity, so Chris­tian set­tled on a set of 19x9-inch and 20x11-inch Traf­fic­star wheels, built specif­i­cally to his re­quire­ments. The plan was to tuck the one-off wheels well up into the guards through the use of airbag sus­pen­sion. Want­ing a ride height some­where be­tween su­per slammed and ridicu­lously slammed, Bic didn’t just bring out the grinder and start hack­ing, but cal­cu­lated ex­actly which metal should stay and which needed to go to make way for the im­pres­sive rear end. In­cluded in the parts need­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tion were the chas­sis rails — not due to the width of the rims, as is usu­ally the case, but due to Chris­tian’s de­sire to get the car well and truly in the weeds. While we’ve all seen airbagged cars that haven’t had any thought put into into their ride qual­ity or driv­abil­ity, the Ca­maro is to­tally at the other end of the scale, with the ride and han­dling be­ing every bit as cru­cial as the looks.

To this end, the rails were raised to al­low the Mark Wil­liams nodu­lar nine-inch diff to come a whole lot higher up. An Air Ride Tech­nolo­gies fourlink was then stitched into place, of­fer­ing plenty of ad­justa­bil­ity, and, of course, a full range of travel. Just as much thought and ef­fort went into the front, with the spring pock­ets of the Ca­maro sub­frame be­ing mod­i­fied to al­low for the Air Ride Tech­nolo­gies air struts to sit as they should. Don’t ex­pect the car to be three-wheeling down the road or rat­tling your teeth out with how quick it hops; it was never about that, and the small compressor and nar­row-gauge air lines are per­fect for the goal of re­fined ad­just­ment. Mind you, with an Air Ride Tech­nolo­gies dig­i­tal con­troller in place — set up us­ing race-in­spired cor­ner weight­ing — there’s no need to touch any­thing be­sides slam­ming it when parked. The ride height set the tone for many other as­pects of the car — ob­vi­ously in­clud­ing where the cus­tom wheel tubs would sit but also in­clud­ing the ex­haust sys­tem. As Chris­tian didn’t want the rear seat and boot of the car to be lost, a plan was de­vised that saw Bic cre­ate a cus­tom side-exit ex­haust. Of course, with Chris­tian lik­ing the sound that only a big block can pro­duce, that sin­gu­lar exit from the cus­tom Spin­tech muf­flers is on the driver’s side. To make


it all fit with­out com­pro­mis­ing power out­put or ground clear­ance, oval­ized pip­ing was re­quired, as well as plenty of head-scratch­ing. The weapon mak­ing that bliss­ful sound is a work of art in it­self — al­though Chris­tian says that it is only a tem­po­rary one un­til the twin-turbo mo­tor ar­rives. The 454 block is all that re­mains of what was un­der the hood when the car was pur­chased, with Phil Pa­gan at Track Sport En­gines trans­form­ing it into a 468ci mon­ster. For this, the block was filled with a Scat ro­tat­ing as­sem­bly topped with Keith Black pis­tons, and ARP fas­ten­ers have been used through­out, in­clud­ing to se­cure the Edel­brock Per­former RPM al­loy heads. While this is the­o­ret­i­cally just the baby mo­tor, that didn’t stop them from en­sur­ing that Chris­tian would have plenty of fun with it, or from do­ing the job prop­erly — this is far from a slapped­to­gether stop­gap. The in­take side of the pack­age in­cludes an 850cfm Quick Fuel carb atop an Edel­brock RPM Air-Gap in­take man­i­fold, while the ig­ni­tion is all MSD. Back­ing up the dyno-proven 600hp and 600lb·ft mill is a Tre­mec five-speed man­ual box. Yep, this bad boy has three ped­als! The hope is that the driv­e­line has been built tough enough that, once the 1000hp-plus mo­tor goes in, noth­ing else will need to be changed. That’s also par­tially the rea­son be­hind those din­ner plate–sized brakes. As Chris­tian tells it, “I went for the largest 13-inch Wil­wood rear ro­tors and four-pot calipers we could get” — but that’s just part of the story, as up front they mea­sure in at 15 inches and are clamped by huge six-pot calipers. Of course, brakes like this don’t sim­ply bolt onto a stock Ca­maro spin­dle, and that’s where Chris­tian’s po­si­tion as owner of Global Ma­chine Tools comes in handy. The busi­ness spe­cial­izes in im­port­ing and dis­tribut­ing hard­core en­gi­neer­ing tools, specif­i­cally CNC ma­chines — handy when you’re build­ing some­thing such as this. Be­fore long, Chris­tian’s team had pulled off some homers to cre­ate cus­tom CNC-ma­chined spin­dles, hats, and caliper brack­ets. The rest of the front end as­sem­bly is equally com­plex, with var­i­ous mod­i­fi­ca­tions be­ing made to the sub­frame it­self be­fore Air Ride Tech­nolo­gies A-arms and drop spin­dles were fit­ted.

With wheels as big as this, some tricky work was re­quired on the front guards to en­sure that noth­ing rubbed, re­gard­less of how hard the car was driven. Bic’s skills came to the fore here; he stretched, shrank, pulled, and preened the wheel open­ings un­til they were com­pli­ant, be­fore turn­ing his at­ten­tion to the rest of the cus­tom body­work. As per the build plan, noth­ing stands out as be­ing ma­jorly messed with be­sides the front bumper be­ing re­moved. But look a lit­tle closer, and you’ll see that the sills now ex­tend closer to the ground, the front valance is ex­traor­di­nar­ily smooth, and the car is de­void of door han­dles. The fi­nal colour on the car was in­spired by Graeme and Wendy Cowin’s leg­endary ‘King Kong’ Cuda, a car that shook the Aus­tralian street-ma­chine scene right around the time the Ca­maro build was kick­ing off. It’s a unique blend that flips in the light be­tween grey, sil­ver, and brown. The team at Greer­ton Panel and Paint Re­pairs were the masters be­hind the job — which didn’t be­gin un­til they’d added the fin­ish­ing touches to the met­al­work to get the body as ar­row straight as it needed to be. With the Ca­maro be­ing built to drive, the in­te­rior isn’t just a place that needs to look good but one that also needs to be ex­tremely func­tional. The re­quire­ments were put to Shawn at Ac­tion Can­vas and Up­hol­stery, who de­liv­ered a leather-clad cock­pit, thanks pri­mar­ily to com­po­nents pur­chased from TMI Prod­ucts. Chris­tian didn’t want the cock­pit to be over the top, lik­ing the clas­sic mus­cle car look, so he opted for a tra­di­tional set of Auto Me­ter gauges to keep an eye on the 468 and a Bil­let Spe­cial­ties steer­ing wheel to keep the car pointed in the right di­rec­tion. While the full cus­tom re­wire by Matt of Sparked Elec­tri­cal did in­clude wiring for a stereo, as soon as the en­gine was fired for the first time, it was de­cided that the ex­haust alone pro­vided enough mu­sic. The four-year build was com­pleted just in time for Repco Beach Hop 18, but, with a fleet of CNC ma­chines at his dis­posal, Chris­tian’s yet to re­ally add the fin­ish­ing touches to the car. How­ever, the goal of build­ing some­thing that looks de­monic yet drives like a dream has been achieved, and then some!



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