FULLY LOADED ’67 CAMARO
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.
THE RAILS WERE RAISED TO ALLOW THE MARK WILLIAMS DIFF TO COME A WHOLE LOT HIGHER UP
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
THE SMALL COMPRESSOR AND NARROW AIR LINES ARE PERFECT FOR REFINED ADJUSTMENT
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!
THE SMALL COMPRESSOR AND NARROW AIR LINES ARE PERFECT FOR REFINED ADJUSTMENT