Chrome has really taken a beating in the public relations arena lately. It seems like anything chromed out and polished is relegated to the category of poser. Back in the day, chrome was king, so this is a confusing switch in perception, like when the two-seater sports car went from being the pinnacle of manliness to "chick car." Chrome has gotten the same bum rap. But there are those gearheads who know performance, and all things shiny can live together in gasoline-fueled harmony. When you first see David Wolfe's '71 Camaro, it's easy to dismiss it as just another fairground cruiser that will never turn a wheel in anger. That would be a mistake. David's Camaro might look like a show car, but it's more than capable of wiping the floor with many cars that roam the streets. It's an iron fist dipped in chrome, and wrapped in a pretty velvet glove.
David's story is one many can relate to. His first car was a '67 Chevelle he bought for $700 at a local salvage yard. He had more dreams than cash, so he had to make payments to the owner before he could take the car. Unfortunately, he was still broke, and could never afford to turn the Chevelle into his dream ride. Seven years later, he sold the '67, which still had its straight-six engine and brown primer paint. David's car-guy gene went dormant while he focused on getting an education.
A couple years ago, fate stepped in and unlocked David's love of old iron. As a general contractor, David was asked to give a quote on a house in need of restoration. The owner, Al Coxon Sr., had bought the house new, but he was now in his 90s, and wanted to move in with family. The home needed extensive repairs, so David told the family he would be interested in buying the home in "as is" condition. David tells PHR: "I was working with Mr. Coxon's family to purchase the home for a remodeling project. While looking at the house, Al Jr. and his wife told me about a car in the garage they wanted to sell as well. I told them that I was interested in the house and not the car. They told me it was a '71 Camaro that's been in storage for the last 17 years. I started to think about my forgotten love of musclecars, and decided I would also buy the Camaro to fix up."
After 17 years of storage, the second gen needed a lot of TLC. But while David had a vision of what he wanted, he didn't have the time, or the right skill set, to tackle such an extensive project. That's where Brent Jarvis of Performance Restorations came in. David wanted his new Camaro to sparkle like a show car, but still be able to throw down at the track. After meeting Brent, he knew Performance Restorations could make this vision a reality. "When David and I first sat down to discuss this project, it was to be a basic restoration with a few upgrades," Brent says. "The original plan called for a GM crate small-block, flat-black engine bay and floor pans, a simple disc brake upgrade, and a real nice paint job. We even had a budget, which would have worked had we not been derailed into go-faster and look-prettier land." David would drop into the shop every few days and go over the project. One phrase that kept popping up was "I want." Anyone who has built a car knows just how expensive that phrase can be. Whenever David was given a choice of paths, he always took the one that led to higher performance and jaw-dropping looks.
Since the car lived most of its life stored in a garage, the body was in fairly good shape. The crew at Performance Restorations stripped it down, fixed the gaps, welded up the seams, and massaged the body. Once suitably straight, the ride was coated in layers of PPG Pearl Blue paint. For a little extra pop, three-stage pearl white SS stripes were buried under the clear. With the body looking sweet, it was time to pay attention to performance, starting with the chassis. The factory front subframe was ditched, and Brent built a square-tube replacement. To this they added fabricated spindles with tubular control arms. In the rear, the Camaro rides on 2-inch drop Hotchkis leaf springs and QA1 adjustable shocks to match the QA1 coilover units up front. To help keep the rear tires planted, they also bolted on a set of CalTrac traction bars. Modern braking performance was a must for both David and Brent, so a set of huge Wilwood binders was added to each axle. Finishing off the chassis is a set of Foose Nitrous 17x8-inch (front) and 18x10 (rear) billet hoops wrapped in Goodyear rubber. "I scaled the car and gave it the best setup I could," Brent says. "The CalTrac bars, QA1 shocks, and the front swing arm sway bar are all adjustable, so there's plenty of tuning flexibility to help the Goodyear F1s hook hard around corners. This car isn't a lightweight, but it sure does stick to the blacktop during spirited driving."
According to the original plan, the Camaro was to run a small-block in the 400hp range, but that plan was discarded in favor of something with a bit more punch. Coil Racing Engines in McHenry, Illinois, was contracted to build something special for the rapidly evolving F-body. At 565 cubes, this engine is big even when compared to other big-blocks, and it's filled with top-shelf goodies. JE forged slugs are slung though the massive bores by Scat H-beam rods and a matching forged crank. The monster big-block breaths through a set of massaged Brodix heads with stainless 2.25- and 1.90-inch valves, and a COMP valvetrain. An Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake and a Quick Fuel Technologies 950-cfm carb reside above those heads. It's pure anger packaged in a shiny box. On the dyno, it spits out 609 hp and a 662 lbs of twist. Yes, this ride was going to be hell on wheels.
David feels a big part of driving is manhandling the gears himself, so a bulletproof Richmond six-speed with a McLeod clutch was bolted behind the big-block. All that power tortures the asphalt through a Ford 9-inch rear with 3.25 gears and an Auburn posi. It's an impressive list of parts, but do they work? To find out, Brent took the Camaro to the track. "I was a little uneasy, since this isn't my car, and it was just out of the shop. I only brought it up to 2,200 rpm on the line, and when I dumped the clutch, the thing shot out of the hole like it was on a mission. It actually surprised the heck out of me. I grabbed second and nothing was there, so I shifted into Third, Fourth, and then Fifth. I could feel this car overpowering the Mickeys all the way down the track. The car ran a 12.04 at 120 mph on what must have been one of the worst driving efforts I've ever made. That was it for the day. The problem on the run was a cracked 1-2 shift arm in the Richmond six-speed. We fixed it a few days later, but haven't made it back to the track. I was happy with the car, but not too happy with myself after all those years of running Pro Street in the NMCA."
The interior of the Camaro is as nice as the rest of the car, and is filled with enough gadgets to make James Bond jealous. "David loves options, so what we have here is a combination of an 11-second drag car, a damn good g-Machine, ISCA looks, full-tilt leather, and fully optioned interior." Danny's glass and trim worked over the interior with yards of black Mercedes leather and carpet, while Performance Restorations filled the dash with Auto Meter gauges to track the vitals. Air conditioning keeps the occupants cool and an audio system keeps them entertained. It's all refined and proper, in stark contrast to the power broiling under the hood. Exactly what David had in mind. And it's not stopping here. David has already dropped off a '69 Camaro at Brent's shop, and this time he's skipping the sugar-coated initial build plan and going for blood with a twin-turbo LS7 and a candy red paint job. This could be the start of chrome's path to redemption, and if it's done like this, we're all for it.
The underside is as clean...
The underside is as clean as the top, but beneath the powder paint and chrome, there's a very capable g-Machine suspension.
This is what it looks like...
This is what it looks like when you take a pump-gas friendly race engine and dress it up in true show car fashion.
Power windows, keyless entry,...
Power windows, keyless entry, top-shelf materials, and creature comforts galore almost make you forget you're riding in a 35-year-old car.