Every year, thousands of "new" cars emerge from their owner's garage, remade. They all represent the passion and vision of the builder. Some are reconstructions of a youthful memory-cruising the drive-in during high school or your best friend's car. The car that you couldn't afford at the time, but always wanted. Some are literal recreations of your first hot rod. Others push the boundaries of what is currently being done-radical changes in the way a car is built or performs. More power. A new level of custom bodywork.
But very few of them fit in the category of the car shown here. These types of cars change the way people aspire to build their cars for years to come. They literally change the face of our hobby forever. Cars in this league that came before include the Mustang II that Jack Roush built for Joe Rugirello, the Stone/Woods/Cook Willys, Pete Chapouris' Limefire '32 roadster, Billy Gibbon's CadZZilla, Troy Trepanier's '60 Chevy, and Danny Scott's '67 Camaro. These were cars that influenced people for decades to come and, in fact, still do today.
The carbon-fiber valve covers...
The carbon-fiber valve covers continue the racing theme of the engine down the sides, leading to Stenod Performance custom-built stainless headers.
The '67 Camaro you see on these pages is made of that same substance. If you didn't know the car's history, you'd think it was a pretty cool car. But this car was built 14 years ago. To help adjust your calendar, Clinton was in office with Lewinsky! Mark Stielow had built a brilliant '69 Camaro with combined handling and braking capability in a ponycar that hadn't seen that kind of effort since Dick Guldstrand messed with the platform in the early '70s. With lessons learned from Mark's first Camaro, he set out to build a car that pushed the performance limits of what you could do with a muscle car while still maintaining all that makes that car cool in the first place. Specifically, he wanted to build a muscle car to compete in the One Lap of America competition. The Red Witch was born.
Mark got the '67 Camaro from veteran magazine editor, Jeff Smith. It was a pretty clean Camaro from California with a 396. Jeff had long evangelized his concept of a 3g muscle car: vintage iron that could pull 1 g in acceleration, corner, and brake hard. The concept would become Pro Touring and spawn the g-Machines genre-and Mark and Jeff were of one mind on this topic.
The interior is simple, functional,...
The interior is simple, functional, and comfortable-exactly what is needed if you're going to drive cross-country and run the car hard on road courses. The mix of original equipment and hard-core equipment retains the flair of '60s muscle cars, and lets the interior look as good today as it did 14 years ago when this car was built.
Along with some improvements in the front suspension geometry, Mark wanted the car to ride on Corvette ZR-1 wheels and tires. Seventeen-inch wheels are no big thing now, but they were unheard of on a first-generation Camaro in 1996. Owners of these cars will also remind you that fitting meats like these is a nightmare, between sheetmetal interference, proper ride height, wheel backspacing, and so on. Not to mention that Mark wanted the car to perform on these tires, not just sit on them.
Mark stripped the car down to a shell. He had Shadowoods install the cage, and that's also where he and Kyle Tucker cut the rear of the car apart to install mini-tubs to clear the massive 315/35R17s. Fitting it all together meant fabricating wheel tubs, a custom Currie 9-inch housing, Landrum drag racing leaf springs, and Koni shocks. When it came to the front, Mark applied things learned from his '69 Camaro. He had figured out how to machine a set of Corvette spindles and use them with the factory lower control arms. He went a step further on this front suspension by fitting the system with coilovers and a set of tubular upper control arms. There's no coincidence that Kyle now sells all of these components through Detroit Speed and Engineering (DSE).
The 565ci big-block Chevy...
The 565ci big-block Chevy engine underhood looks anything but conventional. This is primarily because of the custom airbox and air intake. If this engine bay had a generic 350 with a carb, you probably wouldn't give it a second look today.
For the exterior, Mark left the factory lines and proportions alone. This type of car wasn't about stretched sheetmetal, or even flush-mount glass. It was about road race performance in a street-driveable muscle car. The front bumper was deleted, which gives '67-68 Camaros a clean look. The rest of the body is just the way it was originally designed.
A similar theme was applied to the interior. For competition, a full cage was required, as were five-point harnesses. The seats were upgraded to Recaros to keep the driver and passenger as planted as the Camaro would be on the road course. A factory steering column wears a Grant wheel. The original metal dash houses Auto Meter carbon-fiber Ultra-Lite gauges. A Pioneer tape deck sits in the factory radio location. Finally, a vague shifter pokes up through a factory-looking rubber boot on the transmission hump. Only people who know manual trannies really well will recognize the reverse lockout ring under the shifter knob, marking the trans as a '90s Corvette ZF six-speed. You might describe the interior as nondescript, but even this sets the tone for Pro Touring: monster gauges mounted in a way that preserves the classy '60s dash, high-quality racing seats, a cage that intrudes as little as possible on the passenger space, a distinct lack of billet, and nothing is changed for change's sake.
Five-star, 17-inch wheels...
Five-star, 17-inch wheels are the norm now on Pro Touring cars, but they just didn't exist for muscle cars when this car was first built. These Corvette ZR-1 wheels look as appropriate on the Camaro today as they did in 1996.
Mark originally built an all-aluminum splayed-valve engine designed by GM for an ISMA race program. The engine displaced 396 ci and used an ACCEL fuel-injection system. Don't bother looking for it in the engine photos; we'll come back to the engine shortly.
Remember when we said that Mark built this car to compete in One Lap? He let the car off the jackstands at 5 a.m. the day before the competition. After a testdrive up and down the street, he and codriver Lance Mallet (who also did plenty of the fabrication and paintwork on the car) loaded their stuff into the car and hit the road for the 350-mile trip to Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin for the start of the race. Mark tuned the EFI on the way, and they burnished in the brakes. Ironically, with a car that would become so important to the sport, it didn't do well at all in the One Lap competition. They were plagued with mechanical problems. But that didn't stop Hot Rod magazine from naming it their Car of the Year in 1996.
A custom Currie 9-inch with...
A custom Currie 9-inch with aluminum centersection meets all the needs in the back. The axle is plenty strong without taking up too much space, adding too much weight, or requiring anything funky. It also looks pretty cool.
RS taillights (no backup lights)...
RS taillights (no backup lights) give the rear a cleaner look. The factory fuel-fill location holds a fuel cell cap, and the stainless steel fuel tank is half in the trunk and half underneath the car. Those rear tires look impressive and fit in the sheetmetal perfectly.
With most cars, once it's complete, the story is more or less over. But this one was just reaching halftime. Shortly after the car was built, Mark started work on the next Camaro: an LS9-powered '69 named Jackass. When that car was complete, the Red Witch was just going to sit, so he decided to sell it. The car changed hands, and the car's story, and influence, continued. Charley Lillard bought the car from owner number two off eBay. What Mark did by building the car and getting recognition for competing in One Lap, capturing magazine covers and awards, Charley matched by driving the car, everywhere. He did Hot Rod's Power Tour in 2001 and 2003. The car was being driven across the country, to events and just about anywhere else Charley and his wife, Shirley, felt like. The splayed-valve engine was gone, and a 532 big-block was now powering the car.
In 2005, the car had accumulated more than 20,000 miles in its current form. Charley decided it was time to freshen it up and tidy up some things. After all, the car was built in a thrash for a competition, and some things could definitely use a little attention. He decided to ship the car to the Detroit area and have Mark lend a hand in overseeing the makeover.
Kurt Urban at the now-defunct Wheel to Wheel, tossed a stroker crank in the 523 to grow the displacement to 565. Urban really wanted to change the cylinder heads and make some other changes to modernize the engine, but Charley wanted to stay true to the way the car was built. The ACCEL EFI was replaced with a Big Stuff 3 system, including a custom sheetmetal intake.
Stenod Performance built a set of stainless steel headers and wired the car using a Painless kit. A set of production DSE upper control arms were installed with one of their coilover kits. The car was repainted, and a custom carbon-fiber hood was added. The original fuel cell was also replaced with a stainless fuel tank from Rick's Tanks. The car was wrapped up in time for Charley to do the Power Tour in 2007. He ran his last Power Tour in the car in 2008.
This car also started a pattern of Charley buying Mark's projects. He purchased Jackass, as well as the next Camaro, PHR project car, the Mule, after Mark was done with them. While he still owns these two cars, he sold the Red Witch to Mike Jenkins at the Barrett-Jackson auction in cottsdale, Arizona, in January. So the car starts a new chapter with a new owner after writing the book for the Pro Touring genre of cars.
By The Numbers
'67 Chevy Camaro
Total cost to build: $70,000
||Chevy 565 big-block
||Trick Flow aluminum block, bored to 4.600 inches
||Moroso oil pump, Steff's pan
||Callies 4.250-inch forged crank and billet steel Callies rods;
|forged 10.0:1 JE pistons
||GM Performance Parts aluminum castings ported by Mark Stielow
||unknown, solid roller
||Big Stuff 3 injection mounted in a custom-built, sheetmetal intake
||304 stainless by Wheel To Wheel, custom 2-inch with 3-inch collectors,
|downpipes, and dual 3-inch stainless Borla XR-1 mufflers
||Bosch external pump, converted to Big Stuff 3 fuel injection
||MSD coil, billet distributor and plug wires
||Ron Davis radiator
||est. 500-plus horsepower (not dyno'd)
||Currie aluminum 9-inch rearend housing
|with 35-spline axles, Tru-Trac and 3.89:1 gears
||Koni coilovers with 550 lb/in coil springs,
|DSE upper control arms, Corvette spindles
||200 lb/in Landrum leaf springs, lowering blocks, Koni shocks
||Baer discs front and rear
|WHEELS & TIRES
||17x8.5 ZR-1 Corvette, front;
|17x11 ZR-1 Corvette, rear
||F1 255/40R17 Goodyear Eagle, front;
|F1 315/35R17 Goodyear Eagle, rear