Smoother than a TV news an­chor’s cheeks

Chevy High Performance - - Contents - TEXT: Ro McGone­gal | PHO­TOS: Dominick Dam­ato

Brad Erick­son says he al­ways wanted a “nice” Ca­maro. And since he’s been re­search­ing and col­lect­ing for this one, he’s got­ten a pretty fair idea of what nice is. What wasn’t ex­actly nice was the way this Ca­maro came up. He bought the crate from a col­lege pal who needed to fund his kids’ col­lege years. His friend and his friend’s fa­ther had “re­stored it” when he was in high school.

“I al­ways told him that if he ever wanted to sell it to call me. I said do you mind if I mod­ify it. He said that was al­ways his plan but he couldn’t af­ford to and that he needed the money for his kids’ col­lege tu­ition,” Brad of­fered. “They’d done the restora­tion in their garage. It was very ’80s. It looked nice but the tiny V-6 would never cut it. I haven’t driven it much since it was fin­ished, but it’s def­i­nitely a head­turner. It’s fun to see the jeal­ous looks on the guys driv­ing mod­ern Ca­maros and muscle cars. Some­day I’ll sell it back to him.”

To get what he wanted the very first time, Brad dragged the project south­east to join up with re­nais­sance man Jeff Schwartz, who never cot­toned to us­ing cat­a­log stuff be­cause Schwartz likes to make his own stuff. He is also in league with some of the most pro­lific tal­ent in the Wood­stock, Illinois, en­vi­rons, es­pe­cially known for up­hol­stery and paint. One phase led to an­other but none of it ever left town.

Jeff re­al­ized a long time ago that race-car per­for­mance no longer re­quired pur­pose-built track cars. He went on to il­lu­mi­nate his point with a schizoid barge: an im­pos­si­ble Fleet­wood Caddy, which won

Car Craft’s Real Street Elim­i­na­tor com­pe­ti­tion in 2002. He never looked back. He just went ahead and did it. He’s ma­ni­a­cal about ease of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and the idea that things should bolt on rather than be trial-and-er­ror, cut-and-pasted. To that sim­plic­ity, the foun­da­tion is a Schwartz G-Ma­chine chas­sis en­com­pass­ing square, rec­tan­gu­lar, and round sec­tions. Ex­cel­lent han­dling em­anates from a stiff sub-structure with min­i­mal bend­ing and max­i­mum tor­sional rigid­ity.

To this hefty spine, Schwartz sit­u­ates tubu­lar con­trol arms and tall spin­dles along with a 1 1/4-inch an­ti­sway bar, Ride­Tech coilovers, and a rack steer­ing sys­tem. For the busi­ness end, they put up a Moser full-floater 9-inch and lo­cated it with a tri­an­gu­lated four-link sys­tem and a

3/4-inch an­ti­sway bar. There are big brakes all around for Brad’s Ca­maro: Baer 14-inch plates wor­ried by six-pis­ton calipers that are plied by a Baer mas­ter cylin­der backed by a Raybestos booster. For form as well as func­tion, Schwartz in­cluded high-zoot Forge­line wheels lined with pre­mium Miche­lin Pi­lot treads.

With the V-6 just an un­pleas­ant mem­ory, Schwartz and Erick­son plucked a 2016 LT1 from the Chevro­let Per­for­mance hurt locker. Be­yond its di­rect fuel in­jec­tion it fea­tures Ac­tive Fuel Man­age­ment (corp-speak for se­lec­tive cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion) and con­tin­u­ously vari­able valve tim­ing to take full ad­van­tage of the di­rect fuel in­jec­tion qual­i­ties. In the big pic­ture, out­put is mod­est but re­li­able and in a mid-weight car like the Ca­maro, re­spectable fuel mileage is a given. And there’s this ker­nel to chew on: with 465 lb-ft of torque avail­able at 4,600 rpm, the LT1 is nearly the equal of an LS7 (with a torque peak at a lofty 6,300 rpm). Schwartz fixed the breath­ing in Brad’s en­gine with cus­tom head­ers sport­ing 2-inch pri­mary tubes, a man­drel-bent 3-inch stain­less sys­tem merg­ing with hu­mane Mag­naFlow stain­less-steel muf­flers.

This lofty new en­gine begged for a just-as-mod­ern trans­mis­sion. Brad backed it with a 4L65E four-speed that was as­sem­bled by Ad­van­tage Trans­mis­sion with a 2,300-stall con­verter.

With the driv­e­train sussed out, the men moved on to the beau­ti­fi­ca­tion stage. Among other things, Schwartz and Steve Nick (Nick’s Cus­toms, Wood­stock, Illinois) smoothed the fire­wall, shaved the rain gut­ters away, and filled the slots where the side marker lights once were. Nick then prepped the body and ap­plied the PPG GM White and La­guna Blue graph­ics. Schwartz put new glass in all the holes, GM Sport mir­rors on the doors, and sunk Dakota Dig­i­tal LED tail­lights in the fend­ers.

As for ac­com­mo­da­tions, Brad spec­i­fied Re­caro seats, re­tractable

Seat Belt Planet belts, tilt steer­ing col­umn, and Ger­man velour car­pet. In Wood­stock, Shane Cassin fit­ted the Re­caros with leather and suede hides and cov­ered the dash­board in black leather. To go with them, Schwartz built cus­tom door pan­els and the con­sole that cod­dles the Lokar gear changer. The pas­sen­ger pod is calm and sub­dued, and not one bit sug­ges­tive of may­hem.

Though the ges­ta­tion took a rel­a­tively short time (18 months in­stead of 18 years), Brad re­calls that the wait­ing was the most frus­trat­ing part of the process. He says the most sat­is­fy­ing part of the process was the ex­pe­ri­ence. “I loved the one-stop shop­ping at Schwartz.” CHP

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