Don't hate Marty Ceccarelli just because he's got some coin. We don't want to hear it. There's a reason why Marty's got the financial and psychological fortitude to slug it through a two-year buildup with Heath Elmer, one of the Southwest's premier car builders. Both men are imaginative, passionate, and obstinate individuals who are used to getting their way in life's game of high-stakes poker, and this 1970 Camaro SS is the multiplied product of that combined bravado.
Marty's 27-year career as a contractor and developer is pockmarked with the scars of the real estate market's volatility in the Phoenix area where he plies his trade. In the span of decades, gallons of blood and sweat have been shed, pounds of flesh sacrificed, and fortunes have been lost and won. It's not a vocation for the faint of heart. Yet through it all, Marty has protected the glowing ember of his vehicular passion, shielding the fragile flame from life's flatulence, waiting for the right time to set his dream ablaze.
Rip your eyes away from the story copy for a moment, and gaze again upon Marty's 1970 Camaro SS. It is an X-rated muscle car in its most prurient form, and you know you want it. That paint. That stance. Those wheels. That sexy injected big-block. Even Chevy-haters must submit to its spell. Like a beautiful vixen on the pages of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, that look doesn't come easily, cheaply, or through cavalier happenstance. And in case you're wondering, this thing also runs, turns, and stops as good as it looks.
The long hard road to Marty's punishing Camaro took many twists and turns, not the least of which was Marty's ambivalent relationship with powerboat racing—a sport which left deep wounds on his psyche, if not his body. Marty: "I had five crashes when I was doing it, and I walked away from them all. I feel like I was pretty lucky." Lucky indeed. "What got me out of it was I was losing too many friends. I started having kids, then a business with quite a few employees who relied on me. It was just too dangerous. I was getting a lot of pressure from my controller and my family. It just wasn't worth it."
After moving from Super Stock to Pro Stock, then to K-class boats, Marty called it quits. The price was just too high in more ways than one. Notwithstanding, Marty came away from the experience with three key ingredients: a reaffirming desire for all things Chevrolet, an addiction to speed, and the friendship of engine builder, Al Cherney. Through Cherney, who has since died, Marty met Bob Ream, owner of Imagine Injection, the tuner and induction guru who would later play a big part in our story.
For a while, Marty tried his hand at flying, then took up shifter carts, which he claims still fills the void for a quick adrenalin fix. But there was still a need for something more substantial, and after Marty sold his contracting business in 2008, he began looking in earnest for a viable project. "I've always had a passion for muscle cars," Marty says. "I was looking for a 1970 Camaro and found a roller with no engine or trans locally in Glendale. Me and my older boys—Mario and Tony—took it apart, and I started looking for a person to build the car. One of my close friends had work done by Heath Elmer on one of his cars, and he introduced me. My friend's very picky—he's about as picky as they come—so if he likes the work, it's good enough for me. When I met him, he quoted me a price and a time line that I liked, but as you can imagine, both doubled!"
Once safely ensconced in the Heath Elmer Restorations (HER) digs in Mesa, the Camaro's transformation from pile to style began. Marty and Heath quickly came to the conclusion that in order to make the second-gen on par with contemporary supercars, they would need to throw the complete Detroit Speed & Engineering catalog at it, including a hydroformed front subframe, C6 spindles, splined sway bar, JRi coilover shocks, rack-and pinion steering, mini-tubs, QuadraLink rear four-link conversion with a 9 inch rear, and integrated subframe connectors. A six-speed T56 Magnum gearbox and huge Baer 13-inch platters with six-piston calipers were considered mandatory, and occupant comfort would be a priority with Recaro leather, Vintage Air, and audio from a Pioneer/Rockford Fosgate combo.
That's when the "mission creep" set in. HER and Marty were like-minded about creating the ultimate big-block second-gen Camaro; it would be fast, high-tech, cutting-edge, and visually stunning, but as is often the case when two alpha dogs meet who talk more with actions than words, some of the details get lost in translation. Elmer had a pit bull–like grip on the project with his artistic vision, and nothing was going to get in the way. Dimple-die lightning holes? Check. Lightweight carbon-fiber body panels? Check. C5 Corvette door handles? Check. Scads of custom body and chassis mods? Check. Fully integrated rollbar? Check. Tons of custom millwork? Check. Custom aircraft-style gauges—check. Show car undercarriage? Check. Marty's Camaro was moving inexorably closer to a tour de force of HER's fabricating capabilities, and all that would require greenbacks—supplied not always eagerly by Marty.