Llew Picton’s 2014 Camaro was cool. It was slammed within an inch of its life; had the right wheels with the right offsets; and, better still, had twin-turbos hiding underneath. There’s no doubt that it was a tough machine, but what really interested him was the challenge of building a complete custom car — something that included all the qualities of a real-deal pro-touring set-up. It had to be old school but built to out-handle almost anything else on the road, not to mention able to turn heads locally and on screens around the globe. It couldn’t be just any car, but a car built his way, and by that we mean it had to be P-E-R-F-E-C-T perfect — not 99.9-per-cent perfect, but 100 per cent — and it had to include plenty of precision engineering. But, while we’re sure that he’s probably pushed a few of those who’ve helped out with the build to their limits with his quest to get the car he wanted, the end result of his five-year labour of love is nothing short of flawless. Having been to the SEMA Show a few times, and being heavily involved in the online protouring community, he knew exactly what he wanted, so, when a friend, Brian from All Speed Customs, let him know that there was a great, unmolested ’69 Camaro for sale nearby, Llew added a few days on to a US business trip and made a detour to Michigan to check it out in the flesh. It must have been good, as Llew did the deal then and there, leaving Brian in charge of the car for the next year or so while the project got underway. Being responsible for countless SEMA-spec vehicles, Brian was the perfect guy to kick off the build, but, rather than get the car finished off overseas, Llew brought it home midway, so that he could work alongside the technical team at the LVVTA to make sure that things got done to the letter of the law. This factor was so important because, rather than just throwing some aftermarket suspension arms at the car or putting in a front clip, the car would be based on a complete Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis. Those in the know will be aware that the Camaro never had a full chassis from the factory, so grafting one in was no small task. Complicating matters even further is the fact that if it were simply bolted together the car would be deemed scratchbuilt, which would mean converting it to right-hand drive. The way around this was to graft the exquisite Roadster Shop platform into the bodyshell, to transform it back into a monocoque vehicle. Luckily, Brian and Llew were on the same page, and, along with the rest of the All Speed crew, with input from the tech staff at Roadster Shop, they began the car’s transformation from stocker to pro-touring weapon unlike any other New Zealand had ever seen. While all along Llew’s plan was to paint it black, that didn’t put him off commissioning some serious body mods — like flaring all four guards to emphasize the classic ’69 styling. Being the mastermind behind many highend builds, Brian threw some ideas at Llew, while Llew came back at him with his own, with every one making the Camaro cooler than before. While each of the mods adds attitude to the car, there’s nothing that detracts from the iconic Camaro shape — the shape that Llew fell in love with all those years ago.
Of course, the plans for the car weren’t just for something that would look good sitting still, but for one that would kick arse on the road and track, too. The best way to achieve this was to have an engine built while the car was still Stateside, then dropped in before it was shipped.
Wegner Motorsports is a key engine builder for those who love their late-model horsepower and is the builder of choice for many high-end shops like Ring brothers and Roadster Shop. Thus, it wasn’t long before Llew was in negotiations with the team at Wegner to create a killer combo. Based around a Racing Head Service (RHS) LS block, the mill would displace no less than 427ci and soon be topped with a Whipple 2.9-litre supercharger. For maximum flow rates, the best factory heads out of the GM stable were sourced — those usually found fitted to an LSA. With that much airflow coming in, it’s for good reason that the rotating assembly now comprises hand-selected componentry that can handle what is expected of it. The bones of this are Callies Ultra rods, which are stretched between Mahle forged pistons at one end and a Callies Dragonslayer crank at the other.
With the Camaro fully loaded with parts, it was was dropped onto some 18x10.5-inch and 19x13 inch HRE Performance wheels and soon on its way home to Auckland, where the second stage of the build could take place. It was here, after having discussed his build plan with a handful of different businesses, that Llew met with the team at International Motorsport (IMS).
Right from the get-go, it was clear that he and IMS were on the same page, and, having come fresh off the back of completing another high-end Camaro, they were the perfect team to see the build through to completion.
Working closely with the LVVTA, Llew was assured that, despite early trepidation, all the hard work would be worthwhile in the end. What he didn’t need to have any concerns about were the mechanical aspects of the build. Not only did IMS assign its workshop manager Shaun Hayes to project manage the build, but the business’s decades of experience building high-end race and road cars was also at hand. Master fabricator Brendon Dovey was also a critical member of the IMS team involved with the project and responsible for much of the fabrication and assembly work you see today.
However, many aspects of the project had already been taken care of for before it reached IMS, such as the braking system, the main components of which came as part of the Roadster Shop chassis package.
Of course, the Wilwood hydrovac needed to be added to control the six- and four-pot Wilwood calipers before it could be called done, but Llew being Llew, he wasn’t going to call it finished that easy. Instead, his level of detail went down to ordering Clayton Machine Works billet pedals for the Chev, as well as an electric handbrake system. Having CAD and CNC resources at his disposal, Llew went a step further and had many of his own parts custom-created too, such as seat brackets and adjusters, door pulls, and the shifter stem. The seats themselves, Recaros, were imported from overseas before being delivered to Mark and Lee at Supertrim Upholsterers to be wrapped in gorgeous imported Relicate leather. The door skins, centre console, and rear side panels were all custom-made, while the carbon-fibre A-pillar covers were from Anvil Auto. Llew called in Motorsport Electronics to wire up the Auto Meter gauges and ensure that the monster under the hood would fire into life when the key was turned. Before this could happen, the fuel system, comprising two ZL1 Camaro fuel pumps that draw fuel from a Rick’s Tanks stainless fuel tank, needed to be installed, as did the 65-pound fuel injectors from FAST.
Llew’s perfectionist nature meant that there was no way that he would cope with an exhaust system that was less than millimetre perfect. Thankfully, the IMS crew was up to the task and poured untold hours into creating the exquisite two-inch headers that now weave under the car to meet with a twin three-inch system. While Llew
While each of the mods adds attitude to the car, there’s nothing that detracts from the iconic Camaro shape
Speaking of rubber, up front, the massive 275/35R18 tyres give the car a seriously tough stance, and, yes, even at that ride height they give the car full lock without rubbing on anything. This is thanks to IMS’s technical know-how; some custom inner guards; and the Roadster Shop Fast Track front-suspension set-up, which works in conjunction with C6 Corvette spindles and Z06 hubs. Ride-height adjustment and dampening are care of Penske coilover shocks wrapped in H&R springs, while body roll is negated by a 1.25-inch splined front sway bar. Out back is a four-bar set-up, again matched with Penske shocks and H&R springs. While the build was taking place, Llew was busy growing his Pro Touring Garage social-media brand, a brand that now has a significant following in the pro-touring world, and the relationships that he has fostered through Pro Touring Garage have helped a lot with the tech know-how and products used on his car. It may, then, seem somewhat ironic that he tried his hardest to keep the ’69 project quiet. Yet there was method to the madness, and, on the vehicle’s debut at the recent CRC Speedshow, people were blown away by it, to the point that it deservedly took out the People’s Choice award and best Modified Coupe.
With the car’s tough look and parts, it’d be easy to pinpoint it as a high-end American build, but clearly that’s not the case. Sure, there’s been international input, but this piece of pro-touring perfection is all Kiwi. And, as Llew set out to achieve, it ticks all his boxes of what it needed to be: old school, flawless and kick arse.