Remember those games in kids' magazines where you try to spot the differences between two pictures? Bob Bertelsen's '71 Camaro would be great for the car guy's version of this game. There's not a body panel on it that hasn't been re-formed, modified, or otherwise massaged, but most of the changes are so subtle, without a stock example sitting next to it, they escape the eye. That exemplifies what Bob does as a car builder. He works with the original design, and without trepidation, crafts it into the vision of how he sees the car in his mind.
Bob is not a professional car builder, although he certainly possesses the ingenuity and capability it takes to be among the best in the business. Most importantly, he lacks that mental block that most of us have-the one that mocks us, saying, "You aren't capable of doing that!"
Bob had RPM Hot Rodding do the interior, starting with a clean slate. They fabricated a cu
Take, for example, the roof of his Camaro. Bob wanted to integrate design cues of a fifth-gen Camaro into the car, including a 12-inch-wide recess in the roof panel. Most people who don't do professional metal-fab work would shun the idea, and even quite a few pros would be hesitant to launch into such an endeavor. Not Bob. He dove in, starting by rolling two 3/8-inch tubes and adhering them to the roof to create a basic structure and shape. He then cut out the 12-inch-wide section and crafted a new centersection. He didn't get the consistent arch he wanted the first time, so he modified his metal stretcher, welding a socket to the tool and using a torque wrench to modulate a consistent torque applied to the stretcher. He welded the recessed section into the roof for a subtle enhancement that looks so natural that many people don't even notice it.
That design element continues as the air flows rearward over the decklid. An original spoiler would have looked disproportionate and clunky with the flush and smooth rear panel of the car. Bob created a new spoiler that is 3/4-inch shorter and 1 1/2 inches smaller (front to rear), incorporating the same 12-inch recess from the roof panel into the center of the spoiler.
Another critical part of Bob's craftsmanship is functionality. This is true in the basic hardware, and also in the design aspects of the body. All of the ports and ducts carved into the sheetmetal of his Camaro-aptly named Brute Force-perform a purpose, whether it's directing fresh air toward the engine, onto the rear brakes, or exhausting hot air from the engine compartment. Nothing on this car was overlooked, and every millimeter of sheetmetal was intentionally shaped.
The casual glance doesn’t uncover the extraordinary craftsmanship in this car. What looks
Even with his exceptional level of fabrication capability, Bob took the Camaro to Area 51 Autoworx when it was time to have the finishing bodywork done and the car sprayed. Choosing the color was an adventure in itself. His local paint store mixed a dozen or so variations of blue and sprayed them onto sample panels, but none of them were exactly what Bob envisioned. So he talked the paint shop into letting him do some mixing on his own. A dash of this, a drop of that. He was able to create a color he loved, but there was no formula for it. He sprayed it onto a panel and took the pieces to BASF. They scanned it and created a formula, complete with the name Brute Force Blue!
Bob is the owner of A-Plus Powder Coaters, so he made generous use of his company's coating capabilities on the car. Anything that wasn't painted on the Camaro was powdercoated in a special gray texture that he created. On some surfaces, such as the valve covers, he added black with orange accents, creating detail and connecting the engine to the exterior graphics. In addition to a unique look, the powdercoating is durable and easy to clean. He even mixed up a special orange powder and sent it to Baer to have the calipers powdercoated to match the detail paint he used throughout the car.
Even though this car was primarily built in Bob's two-car home garage, he is quick to acknowledge those who helped him. Shayne Smeltzer, Willys Smith, and Tom McKenzie all spent weekends at Bob's place working on the Camaro. And Jason Rushforth penned the first rendering of the car. Bob and Jason bantered back and forth about many of the design details that make up the overall statement of the car. One area that combined many of their ideas was the nose of the car. Jason recommended recessing the grille and using a three-piece front bumper. Bob created a grille using CAD tools and had it cut using a water jet. He didn't want the nose to look like an RS, though, so he omitted the upper marker lights and integrated round foglights into the rectangular openings that would have housed standard parking and turn signal lights.
Since Bob has competed with cars in the past, he knew that he needed to outfit his machine with the right equipment...
Some time ago, Bob was incurably infected with the Pro Touring disease. He competed in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) with his previous F-body, Code Red, and he took measures with his current project to make sure it lived up to the "brute" in its name. In fact, immediately after the car debuted in the summer of 2012, Bob competed in our inaugural Muscle Car of the Year (MCOTY) competition at National Trail Raceway, a mere day after earning the Goodguys Muscle Machine of the Year award.
Since Bob has competed with cars in the past, he knew that he needed to outfit his machine with the right equipment to get the job done. He chose DSE suspension systems front and rear, using the company's Hydroformed subframe up front and its Quadralink kit in the rear. The front subframe is a bolt-in system that mounts tubular upper and lower control arms, C6 steering knuckles, DSE power rack-and-pinion steering, and a DSE splined sway bar into one seamless package. The Quadralink rear system completely replaces the leaf springs, using a tubular four-link setup with a Panhard bar. Bob used JRi coilovers-DSE's preferred unit-at all four corners. Bob also installed a pair of DSE wide wheeltubs in the rear to make room for massive 335/30ZR18 tires. Together, the front and rear DSE systems created a high-performance chassis that's as competent on the track as it is on the street.
The entire rear view of the Camaro is created by Bob’s fabrication handiwork. He formed a
Of course, suspension upgrades alone do not a Pro Touring car make. The DSE front spindles wear Baer 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, while the Moser 9-inch rear axle is outfitted with the relatively new Baer Tracker full-floating axle kit and 14-inch rotors with six-piston calipers. The Baer Tracker converts the rearend to a full-floating design to eliminate axleshaft deflection during hard cornering. This keeps the rotors from pushing the pistons into the calipers during high lateral loads, requiring you to pump the pedal to move the pads back into position.
Under the almost completely handbuilt hood lies a Mast Motorsports-built LS7 powerplant. The Mast-built 427 grunts out 650 hp with a reciprocating assembly made up of Callies and Mahle components that are built to take abuse without worry. The engine uses a Mast dual wide-band engine management system for calibration work. Bob had a Flex-a-lite aluminum radiator built to fit his custom core support, and added a Flex-a-lite dual electric fan setup that moves 4,600 cfm of air to keep the engine cool, even when Bob has the Vintage Air cranked up on hot Midwestern summer days. A Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed connects the power to the Moser axle.
Bob is an ordinary car guy with extraordinary vision and fabrication skills. This is the f
When it came to the interior, almost everything was pitched to make room for custom work. This is one part of the car that Bob didn't do himself, calling on RPM Hot Rods in Pittsburgh instead. They crafted a custom dashboard to house the Stack Motorsports multifunction display gauge cluster, Vintage Air controls, and ididit tilt steering column. The dash also holds a Stack tire pressure monitoring system to report air pressure and temperature, both critical factors on a road course. RPM also fabricated custom door panels and replaced the rear seat with panels to cover the widened wheeltubs and to hold a mix of Kenwood and Alpine stereo equipment. ProCar seats were modified and stitched up in gray and orange leather that was also generously laid over every surface in the interior except the floor. Even though RPM did most of the work in the interior, Bob's attention to detail still prevails. He powdercoated the center and spokes of the Lecarra steering wheel, and then had the rim wrapped with the same leather and orange stitching of the rest of the interior.
In addition to an artfully conceived and executed design, we dare say that there isn't a single component on Bob's Camaro that was taken out of the box and simply installed. We've uncovered only a couple dozen of the ultracool modifications that he has done to this Camaro. How many more differences can you find?
Bob is not a professional car builder, although he certainly possesses the ingenuity and capability it takes to be among the ...
By The Numbers
1971 Chevy Camaro
Bob Bertelsen, Columbiana, IL
Bob did a masterful job of making the 650hp Mast Motorsports LS7 look it belongs under the
Type: Mast Motorsports 427ci LS7
Block: aluminum GM
Oiling: ARE dry-sump system
Rotating assembly: Callies forged crank, steel connecting rods and Mahle pistons
Cylinder heads: Mast Motorsports Black Label 305cc aluminum heads
Camshaft: GM LS7 with 246/260 degrees at 0.050-inch lift and .658/.667-inch lift
Valvetrain: Mast Motorsports
Induction: Chevrolet Performance LS7
Exhaust: DSE 1.875-inch primary headers, 3-inch exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers
Power adder: none
Fuel system: Cadillac CTS-V electric in-tank pump
Ignition: Mast Motorsports
Cooling: Flex-a-lite aluminum radiator and dual electric fans
Output: 657 hp at 6,700 rpm and 575 lb-ft at 5,300 rpm
Built by: Mast Motorsports
Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed manual
Rear axle: Moser Engineering 9-inch with 3.90:1 gears, Eaton Truetrac
Front suspension: DSE Hydroformed subframe using DSE upper and lower control arms, DSE spindles, JRi coilovers, and DSE splined sway bar
Rear suspension: DSE Quadralink four-link suspension with Panhard bar, JRi coilovers
Brakes: Baer 6-piston 14-inch rotors front; 6-piston 14-inch rotors rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline CF3C wheels 18x10, front; 18x12, rear
Tires: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW, 275/35ZR18 & 335/30ZR18