Longtime PHR readers should know this car simply from seeing how tall the valve covers stick up under the hood. No, that engine isn't raised in the chassis--it really is that tall. Where a normal big-block Chevy has a deck height of 9.8 inches, and a "big" big-block measures 10.2 inches, what do you call one with a height of 11.7 inches?
"Unbelievable" was the cover blurb when we featured Tony Bartone's Bill Mitchell-built 705, the biggest engine ever covered in these pages. Back in that February 2000 issue, we presented some scary facts about this crazy Merlin setup. This engine made 800 lb-ft of torque on the dyno's first sample, just off idle! Since then, Tony had Pat Musi convert the engine over to EFI, mostly to make sure it would fit in the car. That car is this '69 Camaro, which is part Pro Street, part g-Machine, and completely nuts.
A winner of 25 NHRA National Events in Top Alcohol Funny Car and holder of the all-time NHRA record for consecutive round wins (37), Bartone is no stranger to sick power. He's been reading PHR since his teenage years and had his share of hot rods, but never owned a feature-quality car or something that set a precedent within the hobby. In fact, Tony's automotive interests (beside drag racing) have focused on European exotics up until now, and his heavily modified 993 Twin-Turbo Porsche with AWD boasted 650 hp and plenty of thrills. Still, he wanted a car like this.
The project started with a visit from yours truly, where Tony and his younger brother Michael asked what would re-set the curve for street machine excellence. Since their race shop is near Bill Mitchell's Hardcore Racing Products and World Products engine facility, we went down the street to see the inspiration, aluminum Merlin Superblock. This wasn't to be a racing engine, but a true street engine that could tear the driveline out of any ride on the street. Using a Callies 5.300-inch crankshaft, Crower's 7.750-inch forged billet rods, and a set of Lunati's 4.600-inch pistons, the foundation was laid for a $30,000 dream engine that makes 893 lb-ft at 4,600 rpm and 829 hp at only 5,300 rpm. The engine only revs to about 5,500 rpm on its best day, since those heavy parts are hard to get moving and the Brodix -4 cylinder heads (which start with a giant 390cc intake runner before porting) just can't keep up with such a giant port. The giant intake valves, measuring 2.350 inches, are a major hindrance, too. Would they go this route again? Though it's not the most efficient engine around, the "wow" factor makes it worthwhile if you have the means.
Now, back to the actual car. Michael Bartone found the victim in the Bronx, and within hours of calling the kid who was driving a blue '69 Camaro to work, that same kid was then riding the bus, looking for another car! Since they used so little of that original car, they could have actually built this project from scratch. After graffiti party, where everyone took turns spraying their favorite sayings on the Camaro, it was disassembled and Joe Collazo's Magnum Force Race Cars, in Ronkonkoma, New York, started on the chassis. Collazo built a 12-point cage from .038 x 1-5/8 chromemoly and used traditional 2 x 3-inch box tubing upon which to attach the suspension systems. Chassis Engineering supplied the four-link and back half foundation for the rear, while Tony purchased a fabricated front clip from the late Art Rasmussen (whose business is now run by Wayne Due). Wilwood supplied gargantuan brakes for this car, with 13-inch NASCAR rotors and huge, 6-piston Wilwood Grand National calipers, but using these parts required special hats machined by Doug Rippie to attach to the C4 Corvette spindles. Adjustable QA1 coilover shocks are found all around, mounted with attachments from Chassis Engineering, from where nearly all of the subsystems were located.
Under the hood you'll find the industry's best parts, like Aeromotive's fuel pressure regulator, 1000hp/45psi electric fuel pump (a must for an engine this big), and two of Aeromotive's billet fuel filters. All the fuel lines and fittings are from XRP, and the FAST computer for the EFI is mounted along side a FAST transmission controller for the TCI 4L80E electronic automatic transmission. When this engine was carbureted, it had a Hogan sheetmetal manifold with two Hardcore Dominators on top. Now, it has a similar Hogan manifold that's chopped five inches and routed Viper style, with a front inlet featuring two Holley 90mm throttle bodies. March Performance pulleys are everywhere, with the kit including the alternator pulley and bracket, A/C pulley and brackets, idler pulleys, front crank pulleys, and the rest of the parts that make up March's serpentine belt system. Flex A Lite's dual fans keep down the heat, as does a TCI transmission cooler.
Though the engine in this car is what gets people's attention, it's the interior that keeps them looking. Collazo shaped the door bar down around the Momo seats to make ingress and egress that much easier. Auto Meter's Ultra-Lite series of gauges fill the cockpit, including a 200mph speedo (don't laugh--with such a tall tire and a 3.55:1 gear, they're serious). A line lock button is built into the B&M shifter handle, while various Lokar accessories fill in the rest (like the gas pedal, e-brake handle, etc.)
Paint and body work required a ton of time, most of which went into shaping the quarter panels to look right with the various wheels and tires that the Bartone's would run on this Camaro. Credit Auto Body Specialties and Bona Fide Auto Collision, both from Patchogue, New York, with getting it right, including the work on the fiberglass bumpers, the giant fiberglass hood, and laying down the PPG Mitsubishi Silver paint.
The car's stance took some tweaking to reach its killer look. Picking the correct front springs for the coilovers was tough, as they needed a bit more length than imagined to avoid coil bind at ride height. The Budnik Fontana wheels took some tweaking too, as they need more backspacing to tuck correctly under the front fenders. Going with Nitto's 450-series (front) and 404-series (rear) rubber did wonders. That's 33-inch tall, 315/60/18s on the rear, and damn it looks right! It's Pro Street with a big rim, and we think you'll see it more and more as street machine fans try to have it all. Tony Bartone's Camaro took more than three years to build and it involved a bunch of special people. Though Michael, Joey, and Tony's contributions have been mentioned, Top Alcohol Dragster racer (and Michael's father-in-law) Tony Lebor kicked in his skills by wiring the entire car and troubleshooting the various systems. EFI pioneer John Meaney and local standout Dale Cherry had big time contributions, too.
For all of the help Tony received, why won't anyone ride with him in this Camaro? It's that scary, friends.
Here's what the original car...
Here's what the original car looked like. It was good from far (and far from good), straight out of the Bronx with the rust to show for it. The car was purchased almost on a dare, when Tony and Michael Bartone said they wanted to be in the magazine, so they were told to build a project car that no one would forget. So, this was the start.
Chassis Engineering was a...
Chassis Engineering was a huge help on the project. They were interested in adapting the typical Pro Street/drag car parts into a car that was more versatile. Using their parts meant that the car was not only accurately assembled, but it could take a hit, too. You never know.
Joe Colazzo's tinwork was...
Joe Colazzo's tinwork was right out of a drag car, though this ride wouldn't see the strip in most of its road time. The giant wheels tubs from Chassis Engineering would accommodate practically anything that Bartone could bolt under it.
The quarter panel took a ton...
The quarter panel took a ton of work to accommodate the giant rubber, while still looking like a '69 Camaro. Originally, Michael Bartone had selected this Pirelli Scorpion SUV tire to get the dimension closer to a drag car with a 17-inch wheel, but it proved to be just too much. After the car debuted at SEMA, we took the car to Budnik Wheels and fitted it with the look you see in the finished product, complete with Nitto rubber that provides the perfect blend of street, handling, and strip. How tall is that tire? It's 30.4 inches tall, as big as we've ever seen in a tire that still worked well.
The aftermarket front clip...
The aftermarket front clip wasn't as easy to incorporate as they thought it would be, since locating C4 Corvette front suspension parts is tough these days. It seems that lots of guys are trying this same project! Regardless, it took a lot of weight off of the nose and helped us to incorporate this giant Wilwood Grand National brake system.
Chassis Engineering kicked...
Chassis Engineering kicked in to help the Bartone's get a proper sway bar arrangement to work with the four link rear suspension system. This fabricated Pyle Bros. rear-end housing used Chassis Engineering tabs to locate and adjust the pieces.
Seeing this car half complete...
Seeing this car half complete is the only way to truly fathom just how big that 705 really is and how much room it takes up in the car. Here, the engine had already been converted to EFI by Pat Musi, but you can just imagine how tall that Hogan dual car setup would have been!