From 100 yards, Brett Campbell’s Camaro convertible could be mistaken for just another high-dollar boulevardier out for its biannual weekend jaunt. That image quickly morphs into something more sinister as Brett pushes this handsome sled well into triple digits, knifing through a series of high-speed sweepers. Relaxing Sunday drives typically don’t go this way, at least not without a phalanx of police and news choppers overhead.
On pavement once used by F-4U Corsairs and F-4 Phantoms, Brett has come to El Toro Marine Base in Southern California to compete in the El Toro RTTC (Run To The Coast), a three-day slugfest of new and classic American Iron. And while Brett’s Camaro is certainly a gorgeous example of the vintage, its behavior is decidedly 2012. Virtually the entire, sizable field was left in Brett’s formidable wake.
Brett Campbell’s ’67 Camaro...
Brett Campbell’s ’67 Camaro convertible is a classic study of form following function. Subtle modifications to the fenders allow it to utilize its hugely revised chassis.
“I had been keeping tabs on the Pro Touring and g-Machine movement of the early 2000s,” Brett says. “While I loved the performance of the newer cars, I loved the styling of the older stuff. I needed to put them together. To me, it was the perfect marriage.” The only problem was Brett had neither a car nor an engine. He had an idea though and for some, that’s enough.
Well, most of an idea anyway. There was the engine issue, or more accurately which engine would be best. And, of course, a car would help too. “My Corvette-collecting next-door neighbor came home with a ’01 LS6 Z06 Corvette motor purchased off eBay,” Brett says. “He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it as I helped him pull the pallet off the truck. He didn’t have room in his garage, so he asked if I could store it for him. Sucker! Six months later, that motor was mine. Funny thing is, I didn’t even have a car to put that in yet. I was on the hunt for a Camaro convertible.”
A Martz front clip with widened...
A Martz front clip with widened lower and upper control arms are designed to accept deep-set Z06 Corvette wheels; custom spindles accept Corvette C4 hubs.
As fate would have it, an older gentleman in Camarillo had just the thing: a clean, one-owner, six-cylinder car. Now the real fun would start. “As I started the collection of parts and information, I realized this was going to take some custom work. There weren’t a lot of options at that time to just bolt this thing together,” Brett says. “I took the car to a custom race car shop for help with some of the metal fabrication. With delays and disappointment, I felt like small potatoes at this well-known shop. Eventually, the car came home with just a few of the modifications completed, and to make things worse, they needed to be redone.”
The frustration served as a catalyst of sorts and Brett began doing the work himself. Friends liked what they saw and were soon asking Brett to do the same to their rides. Pretty soon, Brett started a little venture called Fab53. If you want a car like the one on these pages, give them a call.
Unlike a purpose-built drag racer or Bonneville car, a Fab53 vehicle has got to be proficient in several schools of competition. Plus, it has to look awesome while doing it. That’s a lot to ask of any automobile. The Fab53 formula requires equal parts addition and subtraction to make it work. “My current Pro Touring belief is not the typical horsepower-to-weight ratio rule,” Brett explains. “These cars, including mine, also need to turn fast and stop quickly. My formula is less overall curb weight for a better power-to-weight ratio.”
Shown in race trim, Brett’s...
Shown in race trim, Brett’s interior features a Kirkey racing bucket and four-point harness. A Toyota Tercel surrendered a chair for the passenger. The rollbar can be removed should Brett decide to take the entire family for a spin.
Nearly 60 years ago, a man named Colin Chapman of Lotus Cars said the same thing: If you want to go fast, add lightness. Following a complete teardown, Brett acid dipped the entire body and began developing the Camaro’s underpinnings. The front frame clip started out as a Martz Chassis unit and was heavily modified to accept Corvette-style brakes and wheels. The front suspension hard points were moved forward 1.5 inches to help with the front-to-rear weight bias (corner weighting revealed a near perfect 50/50 front-to-rear split). The modified front clip was then mated to custom frame connectors, hoop supports, and interior frame bars. A Chris Alston four-link coilover rear suspension with modified frame link locations handles things aft. A Panhard bar locates the rearend from side to side. In addition to custom front control arms and spindles, the motor mounts were designed to lower the engine in the frame for an improved center of gravity; some minor modifications were made to keep the factory LS6 Corvette oil pan.
The Camaro features a full inner frame for additional rigidity. Running the length of the chassis, the custom wrought structure essentially links the rear four-link subassembly to the reinforced front firewall. Additional front and rear stress bar assemblies ensure no unwanted flex.
Widened lower and upper control arms were designed to accept a deep set of Z06 Corvette wheels with custom spindles to accept Corvette C4 hubs. They were also modified to have a 5-degree caster adjustment without shims, while the lower control arms were modified to get a better coilover motion ratio. Front binders are Baer Eradi-Speed rotors with C5 Corvette calipers. The rear units are also Baer Eradi-Speed rotors with Camaro F-body PBR calibers. Running gear is comprised of Corvette Z06 wheels, 17x9.5 (front) and 18x10.5 (rear) shod with Toyo R888s measuring 275/40R17 and 295/30R18.
Brett’s current front suspension setup is comprised of 550-pound front springs and Strange Engineering adjustable coilovers; the rear features 250-pound springs with Strange coilovers. A pair of beefy Stock Car Products antisway bars keep corners extra flat.
With the Camaro weighing in around 3,000 pounds, Brett chose a proven powerplant to motivate the Camaro. Underhood rests a largely factory LS6 engine, which is rated at a healthy 425 hp. For the 20 extra horsepower over stock, the engine was augmented with Brett’s own aluminum cold air intake, an 80mm BBK throttle body, shorty headers, and Street and Performance’s ECU upgrade. The LS6 mill now exhales through Brett’s custom aluminized exhaust.
“As it is now, the Camaro’s power level is a fine match for the chassis,” Brett says. “I’ve been toying with adding a supercharger or maybe a 427 LS7 engine, but I don’t know … the car behaves so well. I suppose I could lighten it even further. Still, more power would be nice.” It’s a forgone conclusion this car will continue to evolve. Guys like Brett rarely sit still.
Standard C5 Corvette Z06 running...
Standard C5 Corvette Z06 running gear provides ample contact with the pavement. Measuring 17x9.5 and 18x10.5, the Vette alloys wear Toyo R888 tires sized at 275/40R17 and 295/30R18.
The driveline is based on a Camaro Tremec T56 with modified Fifth (.64) and Sixth (.50) gearing. A factory LS6 flywheel, clutch, and pressure plate transmit energy to an ultralightweight Mark Williams carbon-fiber driveshaft. Out back, a Ford 9-inch has been modified with a Strange aluminum center assembled by Currie. Its guts are Detroit Truetrac with a 4:11 ratio.
Both lengthened and widened, the factory bodywork no longer fit the Camaro frame. Brett stretched the front fenders and fabricated fiberglass inner liners while mini-tubbing the rear wells. The top mechanism was dumped to save weight and covered with a tonneau of Brett’s own design. The front spoiler was also spawned in Brett’s own garage.
Although its original white paint was in decent shape, Brett opted to respray it with PPG Mercedes-Benz Silver paint. “I made my own spray booth,” Brett says. “I figured painting couldn’t be that hard. I figured wrong. Needless to say, this is the last car I’m going to paint myself!”
Brett’s Camaro started life...
Brett’s Camaro started life as a standard six-cylinder model. It has since morphed into something that could have been spawned in GM’s own hot rod garages.
The cabin has two versions: race and street. When Brett goes to pick up either of his two kids, the car is outfitted with Toyota Tercel seats covered in heavy-duty gray and cream vinyl. The rear chairs are from a ’70s-era Chrysler, chopped in half and recovered. On race days, a Kirkey seat provides extra lateral support with a full Simpson harness. The dash features a Donovan insert filled with Auto Meter Phantom gauges.
“I drive this car at least twice a week, usually to pick up the kids from school,” Brett says. “No, it doesn’t have A/C, or a heater, or even side windows, but they don’t seem to mind. Plus, the principal is a big fan of our smoky burnouts.”
We met up with Brett in his home garage in Long Beach, California. Scattered amongst con-rods and hose clamps were gorgeous bits of sculpted steel and iron. Should he tire of cars (which ain’t gonna happen) the guy could make a good living as an artist. As it is though, this Camaro is one fine piece of high-performance art!
Brett Campbell, 39, Long Beach, CA
Block: factory, ’01 vintage
Bore & stroke: 3.90x3.62 inches
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Rotating assembly: stock LS6
Cylinder heads: LS6 243 heads
Valvetrain: hydraulic roller lifters, overhead valve, two valves per cylinder
Intake manifold: stock LS6
Exhaust: ceramic-coated shorty headers, 3-inch collectors, 2.5-inch dual exhaust into dual Flowmaster mufflers
Transmission: D&D replacement Camaro Tremec T56
Driveshaft: Mark Williams 4-inch diameter carbon-fiber driveshaft
Rear end: Ford 9-inch with Strange aluminum center assembled by Currie, Detroit Truetrac 4:11 ratio
Front suspension: Martz front subframe, double A-arms, Strange Engineering coilovers, Stock Car Products 1-inch sway bar
Rear suspension: custom triangulated four-link, Strange coilovers, Panhard bar
A lightly massaged 425hp LS6...
A lightly massaged 425hp LS6 engine now rests underhood. Brett modified the mounts to situate the engine lower in the chassis. More power would be nice, relates Brett, but he’s loath to change things because the car is so well balanced.
Steering: Ford Mustang II/late-model Thunderbird power rack with GM III pump
Brakes: Baer Eradi-Speed rotors with C5 Corvette calipers (front), Baer Eradi-Speed rotors with Camaro F-body PBR calibers
Wheels: ’01 ZO6 Corvette: 17x9.5 (front), 18x10.5 (rear)
Tires: Toyo R888: 275/40R17 (front), 295/30R18 (rear)