So much is wrong with street machines these days. All too often, it's not about how far you can drive on a gallon of gas during a weekend cruise. It's about how far you have to drive before you get to apply another gallon of polish at the show-and-shine. People used to spend big bucks on parts to destroy every challenger in town. Now, spending big bucks just means you've built the most expensive rolling prop in town. At this rate, street machines are only a few cans of Geritol away from morphing into street rods. Gulp. So enough of this pretending-it's time for street machines to prove their mettle as the do-everything Swiss Army knife of hot rodding.
Given that the population of Pro-Touring poseurs is multiplying like Exxon-Mobil's kickbacks to Washington, that's one tall order to fill. Fortunately, cars like Scott Hall's '69 Camaro serve as a catharsis for the wrongdoings of the masses; it restores our faith when it starts to waiver. While it has no mega-buck motor under its hood, it runs solid 12-second ETs. Although it doesn't boast a fancy EFI system, it still knocks down 20 mpg on the freeway. Despite living in states with the most punishing summer climates, Florida and Texas, Scott drove the car every day without air conditioning for four sweaty years. The real kicker here is the budget. Including the original purchase price of the car, Scott built it all for $25,000.
With his second child on the way, Scott was forced to sell another '69 Camaro he owned prior to purchasing this one. It's a decision he deeply regretted, but he found an opportunity at redemption while driving down the street one day. He spotted what appeared to be the shell of a '69 Camaro sitting in a car port, and tracked down the owner to see if it was for sale. "It was a factory RS/SS with just 45,000 miles on the body," says Scott. "When he agreed to sell it to me, I left with a huge smile even though I knew my wife, Lisa, was going to say 'no.'" He was right, but a month after his son was born, his wife brought home another baby. She bought the Camaro for $6,500, and gave it to Scott as a surprise Christmas present. A woman has to put her foot down somewhere, however, and the gift came with an ultimatum: "I was told this car had to be built on a budget, or not be built at all."
With that in mind, Scott knew he'd have to complete most of the work himself. He hopped online and started gathering parts from eBay and Rick's First Generation (Athens, Georgia). In the meantime, Scott set out to build a motor. He pulled a 350 small-block out of a '72 Chevelle, and gave it a budget makeover. It was bored .030-over and fitted with a cast 3.750-inch crank for a ubiquitous displacement total of 383 ci. Rods are so cheap these days, it makes no sense to recondition the stockers, so in went a set of 5.7-inch steel Eagle pieces. They're attached to Keith Black 9.0:1 hypereutectic pistons, and a COMP Cams 236/236-at-0.050 flat-tappet camshaft actuates the valves. Up top are an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, a 750-cfm carburetor, and a K&N filter. A PerTronix billet HEI distributor lights it off, and exhaust exits through a set of Dynomax 1.75-inch ceramic-coated headers and trick GMMC chambered dual 2-inch pipes. Dressing it up a bit are a March accessory drive system, Cool-Flex heater and radiator hoses, and a billet air cleaner and valve covers.
Even more impressive than what is in the engine is what isn't in the engine. Since power adders and high rpm weren't part of the game plan, money wasn't wasted in futility on a forged crank, billet four-bolt mains, or forged pistons. Most surprising of all, not only did Scott decide against upgrading to aluminum heads, the stock GM iron castings he used haven't even been ported. They were simply fitted with 2.02/1.60-inch valves. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the combination flat out works in this application. How much power does it put out? We haven't a clue, but the Camaro runs very respectable times of 7.86 seconds in the eighth-mile (or about 12.30-12.40 in the quarter), which indicates horsepower figures in the 400-425 range. RPM Performance (Ft. Walton Beach, Florida) built the motor, and what a fine job they did.
Backing up that power are a Bowtie Overdrives 700R4 transmission and an 8.5-inch GM 10-bolt rear end that houses 3.73:1 gears and a limited-slip differential. Following the motif of functionality, overdrive isn't so much a fashion statement as it is a necessity. "After I got the car running, it became my daily driver," says Scott. "With the 3.73s, the TH350 just wasn't cutting it, so I stepped up to an overdrive. Now, I can cruise all day at 1,800 rpm at 70 mph, and get 18-20 mpg, depending on how heavy my foot is."
As impressive as all that may be, perhaps the most shocking aspect of this budget buildup is the $600 paint job. The hue is Light Carmine Red Metallic off of a '97 Corvette, topped with three coats of clear, but that's not the impressive part. It looks as good as paint that costs ten times as much. Shady magazine staffers can usually sex up a sub-par finish by using an extra-long zoom lens and Photoshop, but that's not the case here. "I drove it around in primer until the Florida humidity finally took its toll," explains Scott. "I took it in for a cheap paint job to get some color on it until I could afford a show-car finish. Luckily for me, the owner happened to be a musclecar guy and really liked my car, so he put in a little more effort than $600 would normally buy for most customers. Five years and 17,000 miles later, it's still holding up great."
Although the Camaro was now running well and looking great, it was far from finished. Scott started perusing Lateral-G.net and Pro-Touring.com, and got some inspiration to give his car the g-Machine rubdown. The chassis was stiffened with a set of Competition Engineering subframe connectors. To keep body roll in check, Scott installed a set of QA1 adjustable coil-overs up front, and a 1.125-inch Performance Suspension Technology sway bar. Out back, the multi-leaf setup that came with the car was ditched for a set of stock mono-leafs to lower ride height a tad bit more, and matched up with KYB shocks and a PST .875-inch sway bar. To finish off the aesthetic upgrades, a set of Billet Specialties Street Stars measuring 17x8 in the front and 17x9.5 in the back were installed. They're wrapped in 245/45 and 275/40 Nitto 555 tires in the front and back, respectively.
Inside the cabin, the slim budget was again put to good use. Plenty of modern touches were added, but not so much as to break the bank. While it's commonplace to see high-dollar Recaro seats and five-point harnesses in g-Machines, Scott went the frugal route with a set of '94 Camaro front buckets wrapped in houndstooth upholstery. Sure, they're not as flashy as aftermarket perches, but they're still a huge improvement over '60s technology and offer plenty of lateral support for a street car. Other upgrades are limited to a Grant steering wheel and a set of Auto Meter gauges. Scott decided that he could do without luxuries such as air conditioning and a stereo system, so you won't find them in this Camaro. And there certainly isn't anything wrong with that.
If your definition of a g-Machine is a car that's packed to the brim with every piece of hardware that implies handling, acceleration, braking and comfort, this Camaro falls short of the mark. However, if you're sick of parts that are installed just for the sake of installing them and cars that are never used for their intended purpose, then this Camaro hits the mark with pinpoint precision. Love it for what it doesn't have: a big brake kit, a roll bar, EFI, a fire system, or racing seats. When it comes down to it, if you hardly ever drive on the street and have never even been to a road course, those parts are just expensive props. On the other hand, Scott Hall's Camaro knows exactly what it is: a bonafide street car that can hold its own at the dragstrip and competently tackle corners without pretending to be a road racer. What you see is what you get. Too bad you can't say that about most g-Machines.