It’s called the Silver State Classic, a balls-out blast across the floor of the Nevada desert. Conceived nearly a quarter century ago, the Silver State has attracted vehicles of all sorts, from bone-stock Malibus to twin-turbo Audi R8s and everything in between. During its infancy, the Silver State saw several high-speed mishaps caused by automotive components stressed beyond their limits. Tires shredded, wheels flew apart, cars went airborne. It’s the sort of stuff professional race teams sort out with engineers and pro drivers. The thing is, the Silver State is an event for average Joes, guys who change their own oil and paint their own houses. They don’t have a team of engineers behind them. They usually have some guy named Bob, you know, the guy with a Coors Light surgically attached to his hand.
Still, the allure of the Silver State caused more than a few high rollers to build cars specifically for the event. The most famous of these was Big Red, the '69 Camaro of the Gottlieb family. Although it looked pretty tame from the outside, beneath its skin laid stuff culled straight from the NASCAR bin-tube chassis, revised aerodynamics, racing suspension, and lots of expensive technology.
Setting an average speed of 198 mph on the 94-mile course, the entire car community was left in awe. After all, the ’69 Camaro is the cornerstone of American hot rodding. It’s a car built for average Joes.
The front sheetmetal has been modified to include a cowl-induction scoop; massive side pip
Tim Hulcher of Crestline, California, was one such man who dared to dream big. A former cop on the mean streets of South Los Angeles, Tim put in his 20-plus years and decided to spend his remaining time in rest and relaxation. Actually no, he did just the opposite. Rather than chase bad guys through trash-strewn alleys, he was going to chase the legend of Big Red. "I told the guys at Hotrods To Hell I wanted the fastest stock tub and body car in the Unlimited class for the Silver State Challenge."
Anyone with a rudimentary grasp of physics can understand this was a daunting proposition. After a certain point, going faster becomes geometrically more difficult. Simply making the leap from 180 mph to 200 mph requires more than a 20 percent increase in power. Factors like wind resistance, balance, gearing, rpm, and downforce come into play. Screw one of them up and you can fail big time. Oh, and a hell of a lot more horsepower doesn’t hurt either.
Hotrods To Hell is known mostly for the chassis and suspension expertise, but proprietor S
Tim's Camaro started life as a base model car. It was clean, straight, and most importantly rust-free. Pristine as it was, however, the chassis would be subjected to stresses far beyond its original design. Imagine putting a Pratt and Whitney turbofan jet on a Cessna. Sure, it would work great until the extra thrust tore the wings from their roots.
Led by Steve McClenon, the well-honed crew at Hotrods To Hell in Anderson, California, stretched the frame 2.5 inches for a wheelbase of 110.5 inches, and revised its chassis to move the engine 14 inches south of its birthplace. The idea was to move the center of gravity more toward the center and keep its mass low to the ground. The whole frontend sheetmetal was also drooped down and a large cowl-induction hoodscoop was added; this would provide more downforce on the frontend at high speed. The floorboard includes a custom-built transmission tunnel that houses a carbon-fiber driveshaft. Following substantial reinforcement including a fully integrated rollcage, the chassis was fitted with a Hotrods To Hell first-gen Camaro Roadrace front clip. Comprised of lightweight tubular lower arms and revised coilover mounting points, the Hotrods To Hell front clip lends a wider stance while lowering the unsprung weight. It’s beautifully built, featuring gorgeous welding and substantial gusseting on stress points. The bits are dampened with coilover units fitted with QA1 double-adjustable shocks. The steering rack is based on a Woodward unit with a 16:1 ratio and lends itself well to high-speed usage where input changes must be carefully modulated.
The rear geometry has been fitted with Hotrods To Hell hardware as well, including its Centerdrive Truckarm system with custom coil springs and QA1 dampers. Resembling the stuff you’d see in NASCAR, the Hotrods To Hell rear geometry lends exceptional cornering ability to the Camaro, making the most of its simple design. The Truckarm design is also equally capable for drag racing; its ability to move the instant center where it can create maximum bite is hard to achieve with other designs. But perhaps best of all is the Truckarm’s relatively gentle ride—a far cry from the wagon-like behavior of most full-on race cars. Considering live-axle technology is a century old, that’s not too shabby.
Circle Wheels built the custom forged hoops, which are both strong and light. Like many of
Tim commissioned a special set of Circle Wheel wheels based on a forged blank and crafted into 9x17 and 11.5x17 rollers fore and aft. Weighing a paltry 18 pounds each, this running gear eliminates a sizable chunk of rotating mass and helps keep unsprung weight to a minimum. They wear BFGoodrich gForce tires measuring 275/45R17 in front and 315/40R17 aft. Those sizable chunks of rear rubber are spun with a Speedway Engineering GN Super Speedway floater rearend equipped with posi and 3.20 gearing. Obviously the rear fenders have been tubbed to accommodate such meats. The Camaro's spindles are custom Sweet 5-on-5 units hung with Howe lightweight aluminum hubs. The front brakes are based on Wilwood's GT calipers that grip 12.1-inch ventilated rotors with their Dynalite units anchoring the rear. "Hotrods To Hell took extreme care to remove as much unsprung weight as possible," Tim says. "The car is designed to handle high-speed corners and the occasional 'whoopsy-do' over long, fast pavement. The less mass you carry, the faster you can go."
Under the revised sheetmetal hood rests a gorgeous Donavan D500 tall-deck big-block Chevy built by Hotrods To Hell. Filled with a Lunati crank and rods and custom cut JE pistons, the motor’s entire rotating mass was balanced and blueprinted to perfection by the folks at Eddings Engine in Sylmar, California. Boasting 540 ci of displacement, the all-aluminum mill includes a CamMotion cam featuring a Hotrods To Hell custom profile. Bits from Isky and COMP Cams comprise the roller rocker valvetrain while Dart Pro 1 CNC 345 heads flank each side. A Hilborn electronic fuel injection system provides fuel with an MSD igniting the juice at 32 degrees total timing. The Camaro features a Moroso dry-sump oiling system to ensure oil is delivered during high-load situations.
The guys at Morse Muffler in Burbank, California, fabbed a free-flowing custom exhaust beginning with 2.25-inch primary headers and terminating in a setup that appears on only the coolest Hot Wheels cars. Tim warned us numerous times to watch our shins as the monstrous side pipes get "quite warm." It didn't help, and we were rewarded with a nifty branding scar as a memento of the photo shoot.
The Donovan engine was designed to be happiest in the upper reaches of the tachometer with a very flat torque curve. “The power this thing makes is incredible,” Tim says, “and it sure beats anything with forced induction.” Sporting 13:1 compression, the mighty Donovan produces in excess of 800 hp. No fancy turbo, no blowers nor nitrous oxide, just pure, unaltered horsepower.
Tim designed the cabin to include a pair of Sparco Corsa racing seats with RCI five-point harnesses. The dash has been fitted with a full complement of Auto Meter gauges and a FlameOut Halon fire suppression system.
For our photo shoot, Tim met us in a deserted parking lot high above Los Angeles in the mountains of San Bernardino. We heard him coming long before we saw him, a sound akin to the ripping of heavy-gauge canvas. Birds scattered, deer bolted, and rocks fell from the cliffs as he arrived, the Camaro’s light blue paint reflecting in the waning sun. “We’re going to have a shakedown run this weekend,” Tim says. “On paper, we should be well over 200 mph. We’ll see how that pans out.”
Sparco Corsa seats and RCI racing harnesses occupy a Spartan but functional cabin fortifie
We imagine astronauts feel the same way as they strap into a rocket, light the fuse, and hope like hell all the theoretical stuff works out. In the end, it's a trial by fire.
“…the Silver State is an event for average Joes, guys who change their own oil and paint their own houses. They don’t have a team of engineers behind them.”
By The Numbers
“Resembling the stuff you’d see in NASCAR, the Hotrods To Hell rear geometry lends exceptional cornering ability to the Camaro…”
1969 Chevy Camaro
Tim Hulcher, 62, Crestline, CA
Type: Donovan-based big-block Chevy
Displacement: 540 ci
Block: cast-aluminum Donovan D500 tall-deck
Bore & stroke: 4.50x4.25 inches
Compression ratio: 13:1
Rotating assembly: Lunati forged crank and rods, JE forged pistons
Cylinder heads: aluminum Dart Pro 1 CNC, 345cc runner
Camshaft: CamMotion solid roller, 277/287 degrees at .050-inch lift, .780-/.790-inch lift
Valvetrain: COMP Cams Pro Magnum rocker arms, 1.72 ratio, aluminum stud girdles
Intake manifold: Hilborn
Engine management: Hilborn/Kinsler
Exhaust: 2.25-inch primary ceramic-coated headers, 3-inch merge collectors, dual side pipes
Oiling: Moroso dry-sump, 5-gallon capacity
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet distributor, coil, and 8.5mm wires
Cooling: custom aluminum core, dual electric fans
Output: approximately 900 hp
Built by: Hotrods To Hell of Anderson, CA (530-365-6561, www.HotrodsToHell.net)
Transmission: Tremec TKO 600, five-speed manual, McLeod Street Twin clutch
Rear end: Speedway Engineering GN Super Speedway floater, Strange forged centersection with 3.75-inch bearings, Detroit Locker, 3.20 gear
Frame: unibody Camaro, front clip tied to rear suspension with welded-in subframe connectors, full 10-point rollcage
Front suspension: Hotrods To Hell first-gen Roadrace front clip with double A-arms, coilovers, QA1 double-adjustable shocks, 1.24-inch sway bar
Rear suspension: Hotrods To Hell Centerdrive Truckarm, custom coil springs on screw jacks, Panhard bar
Steering: custom-built Woodward rack-and-pinion with 16:1 ratio
Brakes: Wilwood 4-piston GT calipers with 12.9x1.25-inch rotors (front); Wilwood 4-piston Dynalite calipers with 9-inch rotors (rear)
Wheels & tires: Circle Wheels custom wheels with forged centers, 17x9.5 (front), 17x11.5 (rear); BFGoodrich tires, 275/45R17 & 315/40R17
Everything about Tim Hulcher’s ’69 Camaro has been lightened and optimized for high speed,