Of the 250-plus area codes in the country, the only ones you're probably familiar with are the three digits designated to your immediate local. There is one universal exception to the rule, however, and it's the 330. That's because the mystical land that the 330 area code encompasses is home to Tallmadge, Ohio-based Summit Racing, the mail-order parts powerhouse that every enthusiast calls at least a half-dozen times a year. Chances are, there's a stack of Summit catalogs sitting behind you on the can as you're reading this very issue of PHR. The fact that the inhabitants of the other 49 states all funnel their hard-earned bucks to Ohio can't be explained as a mere mathematical anomaly. As high-end shops like Ringbrothers and Rad Rides by Troy have proven, the Midwest car scene is giving the West Coast a serious run for its money. Yeah, those two shops aren't actually in Ohio, but the region of the country from which they reign keeps churning out some mighty impressive homebuilt machinery. Stellar mechanical aptitude is what distinguishes Midwestern enthusiasts from the pack, so when we found out that Bob Bertelsen hailed from the 330 area code, we had a hunch that his '72 Trans Am was more the product of resourceful ingenuity than a fat bankroll. That assumption is mostly true, but resourcefulness is just part of the story. Thanks to his incessant quest to become a more proficient fabricator, Bob's Trans Am is quite possibly the finest street machine ever built in a modest two-car garage.
The love of F-bodies runs deep on both sides of the Bertelsen lineage. The first new car Bob's mom ever purchased was a '67 Camaro convertible. She later stepped up to a 350-powered '73 Firebird in which Bob took the test to earn his driver's license. When years of driving on salty Ohio roads did the car in, Bob and his dad fixed the sheetmetal in their garage. "That was my first experience doing paint and bodywork, and from that point on I was hooked on building cars," he says. His mom kept her Camaro for decades, and after Bob built it up he needed a new project to fulfill his need to fabricate. "Three years ago, second-gen Camaros were starting to get really popular, so I didn't want to build the same car as everyone else. I found a nice '72 Trans Am on eBay, and drove up to Pennsylvania to pick it up. The good thing was that the Trans Am was built as a show car in 1984, so it had new GM sheetmetal on it. The bad news was that it still looked straight out of the '80s with a 4x4 stance, side pipes, and a lime green interior."
To address the anachronistic situation, Bob hired veteran hot rod designer Jason Rushforth to draw up a set of blueprints for his new project car. After a grueling two-year build process, the final result is every bit as nice as prevailing stereotypes might suggest, and Bob's Trans Am is one impressive specimen of homebuilt engineering. It boasts a 575hp LS small-block, variable valve timing, a paddle-shifted 4L80E overdrive, a hydroformed Detroit Speed front subframe assembly, a four-link rear suspension, six-piston Baer clamps, and fat 345/30R19 rear meats. Maxing out the Pro Touring theme is a Vintage Air A/C system, power everything, and a Kenwood stereo with integrated GPS navigation. While that impressive list of hardware would normally be enough to steal the show, in this setting none of it seems to matter. It's all good stuff, but anyone with enough money can emulate a similar caliber of execution, and we've seen it all before. What we haven't seen before is a homemade street machine that could easily get mistaken for something built by one the country's premier big-name shops.