It doesn't take a Harvard business degree to figure out that the key to financial prosperity is to profit at others' expense. Take big oil, for example. When the price of gas shot through the roof in 2004, Exxon gave its CEO a $38 million bonus. How about satellite radio? Now that we're paying to hear tunes that used to be free, XM's president and CEO made nearly $27 million last year. The high cost and crappy quality of healthcare got you down? The CEO of a prominent HMO received a $32 million paycheck in 2005.
Lessons like this aren't lost on us, and neither are they lost on the father-and-son team of Roland and Lang Paciulli. Taking advantage of others' automotive woes is a common theme with bucks-down hot rodders, and if done properly, it can result in filet mignon on a hamburger budget. Sometimes you stumble upon someone's languishing project or the irreparable family situation forcing a sale. In the case of Roland's '70 Camaro, it was the prior owner's boredom with a checkbook-built show car that launched our story.
In the spring of 2002, Roland and his 17-year-old son, Lang, were trolling the Pomona Swap Meet, not far from their home in Upland, California. Lang, now 22, remembers it this way: "Dad kept walking by this same '70 Camaro. I asked, 'Do you like this car or something?'" Lang had been racing a '72 Camaro with a nitrous-fed 385 that ran 6.90s at 100 mph in the eighth, and the blown '70 Camaro at Pomona seemed to be dad's ticket to evening the score. "After all, you can't let your son's car be faster than yours," notes Lang.
Something snapped in Paciulli the elder, and a "For Sale" sign immediately went up on his mint '69 Mach I Mustang. Five minutes later, it was sold. Cash in hand, Roland marched over to the bright red 6-71-blown '70 Camaro and handed over 18 large for it. The deal clincher was that this was no half-finished project-it was a fully executed show car. Other than some lame-looking wheels, it appeared pretty much as it does today, right down to the Weiand 6-71 blower. It was also loaded with a ton of goodies still on the car today, including the Moser 12-bolt rear, BDS blower scoop, Competition Engineering drag shocks and springs, fiberglass hood, and forged Venolia pistons. "We took it out that night and beat the living crap out of it," deadpans young Lang.
For the next year, Roland drove the car everywhere; and other than ditching the wheels for the current Weld/Mickey Thompson rolling stock, it has remained the same. Things would get rocky, though. As a show car, it was driven a total of 60 miles by the previous owner, and some aspects of the car were suspect for real street driving. The single keyway in the crank was one such area, and in May 2003, the crankshaft key sheared off, setting in motion a spate of mods.
Lang and Roland got serious, and pulled the engine for some upgrades. In went a nitrided stock crank with two keyways, reconditioned stock rods, and a set of used aluminum Edelbrock heads they snagged from another project in the garage. The 7.1:1 Venolia slugs were reused, a COMP Nitrous 305HP cam kit went into the mix, and the whole enchilada was reassembled with the original Mallory points ignition and dual AFB carbs. With extra torque on hand, the Turbo 350 was upgraded with a TCI Super Street Fighter 3,800-stall converter.
Throughout the summer, Roland drove the car continuously. "Dad's always satisfied with the car-I'm the one who isn't," says Lang. "If it was up to me, it would have an 8-71 with a solid roller cam and mechanical fuel injection." With that kind of attitude, you can see why dear ol' dad's Camaro is always getting massaged. Regular visits to the family garage resulted in ignition component swaps (like an MSD Boost Timing Master to manage the boosted needs), and a set of coated Hedman headers.
Then passion turned to profession on December 1, 2004, when then-19-year-old Lang opened up his own shop-LP Racing in Upland.
"I put up the money to open the shop, but dad put his credit on the line and signed for everything," says Lang. The trial by fire was further complicated by Lang's own race car, a '72 Nova with a 555-inch big-block (which runs 8.50 quarters in PSCA Real Street on a diet of alcohol and nitrous). If you're getting the idea that this family likes horsepower, you're on the right track.
Having opened the fledgling shop, Lang had bigger fish to fry. Meanwhile, Roland gladly racked up another 10,000 tire-melting miles on the Camaro during 2005, using it as a grocery-getter, parts-hauler, and weekend cruiser. Occasionally, an opportunity to improve things would come along, like when Roland-a body shop man by trade-picked up an electric fan assembly from a totaled '00 Camaro Z/28.
By now the chassis of Roland's Camaro was beginning to show age. Without traction devices, it was all over the road. (Did we mention that Roland considers every straight stretch of pavement an invitation for a hole shot?) With Lang's shop in full swing, it was time for the second major round of mods, starting with a set of CalTracs bars. That was soon followed by a custom-fabricated dual three-inch exhaust system built by Lang himself. Lang's welding chops also extended to the fabricated fuel sump in the factory tank.
When a friend of Lang's offered him a pair of Holley 600-cfm double pumpers for free, the Paciullis quickly replaced the old Carter AFB twins on the Camaro. Against mild resistance from Roland, Lang suggested all the fuel lines and fittings be upgraded with braided stainless line and -AN fittings.
More than $1,000 later, the fuel system improvements were in place and Roland hit the road grinning.Then came the moment we all dread. Your project is finally up and running smoothly, and some boneheaded cosmic karma event sets you back. After showing his pride and joy off to a neighbor, Roland closed the hood and jetted off. He did not, however, latch the hood pins. "I was talking to him on the phone when it happened," relates Lang. "I heard a bang, and there were a lot of four-letter words. He's religious about pinning the hood now."
When we met Roland and Lang at the Fontana Super Chevy Show this March, the Camaro had a primered hood from the mishap, but we saw the potential and set up the photo shoot. Cars typically misbehave before a magazine shoot, and this Camaro was no exception. Already preoccupied with the hood repair, Roland discovered that the Turbo 350 trans had experienced enough 500 ft-lb of off-idle torque. Lang dutifully performed the rebuild at his shop the week before our shoot, and all was well again.
When we asked for the ET slips, neither father nor son could produce them. It just isn't that kind of car, we were told. Though both are avid drag racers, they were caught off-guard by our request for proof. As our photo shoot and interview unfolded, we began to realize that quarter-mile times are not what this car is about-no, sir. The theme here is drive it hard, drive it often, and live the life that eluded the Camaro's previous owner. How fitting it is, then, that the Paciullis' Camaro can normally be found less than a thousand feet from the old Route 66-that hot-rodding crucible. Someday soon Roland vows to hit the track, but for now, it's just your typical 550hp grocery-getter.
Look hard, and you can spot...
Look hard, and you can spot the body creases where too many gratuitous burnouts and hole shots have twisted the sheetmetal and peeled the paint. Yes, Roland still has his California driver's license.
The office of Roland's parts-chaser...
The office of Roland's parts-chaser reveals its humble purpose of daily transportation. Well-worn seats, original trim pieces, and the absence of a "jungle gym" rollcage tells the story of an active street existence.
Don't let the car-show appearance...
Don't let the car-show appearance fool you. The look is from its previous life as a pampered garage queen. Since 2002, Roland Paciulli has cranked out more than 30,000 miles on the '70 Camaro. Living with the watered-down swill that is California gas, the 7.1:1 355 manages just fine with 6 psi of boost, and output is a conservative 550 hp. "With race gas and 12 pounds of boost, we could easily make 700 hp, but this is a street car," says Lang Paciulli, Roland's son.