Like a medieval blacksmith, Alan Johnson hammers out top-notch street rods one after another from his Gadsen, Alabama shop. The street rods he's known for are crafted individually for their owners, and like the heavy broadswords of the Crusades, their impact has been felt far and wide.
Assuming that same skilled blacksmith occasionally received an odd weapon request from the crown, consider this car a battle axe built by a skilled sword maker. This beautiful '69 Camaro is Alan's first venture into building a musclecar, and we can see street rod build quality teamed with an aggressive selection of top-end power parts. Like the brutal weapons of old, this car was designed to be pushed hard repeatedly and keep coming back for more. After putting 4,500 miles under it almost immediately upon completion, we'd say it's proven its point. The next few thousand miles will certainly continue the hard life, and this Camaro had better get used to it.
Owner Bob Johnson (no relation to Alan) has owned many top-notch rides previously, and knew precisely what he was after with this one. Power needed to be massive, handling needed to be incredible, and the style had to reflect both traditional lines of thought with a nod toward modern technology. Obviously, craftsmanship could only be excellent, with no corners cut and minimal compromise. Once completed, the car would have to be beautiful, powerful, and reliable in all situations. Like the ancient weapon it's named after, the battle axe would prove to be the best choice in a broad range of situations.
The chassis began as a factory collection of subframes, but was soon transformed with the addition of many components normally found under circle track cars. The front spindles are custom crafted, and support adjustable Bilstein coil-over shock absorbers and a Speedway Engineering anti-roll bar. A Stainless Steel Brakes master cylinder manipulates Wilwood brakes, and steering is courtesy of a 1980 Thunderbird rack-and-pinion arrangement. The rear suspension finds another matching Speedway Engineering anti-roll bar, teamed with one of their Panhard rods, and more Wilwood discs. The Currie 9-inch Ford axle is loaded with an aluminum center section, a D etroit Locker, 35-spline Currie axles, and tight 4.56:1 gears.
With a stable and solid foundation, it was time to sharpen the axe's blade. An all-aluminum 410-inch Donovan small-block V-8 adds plenty of edge, boasting 11.5:1 squeeze, Chapman raised-port 18-degree cylinder heads, Crower H-beam rods, a Callies crank, oil control components (pan, pump, and windage tray) from Stef's, and a Dart raised-port intake manifold topped with a Demon 875 cfm carb. For most, this potent powerplant's 500+ ponies would be enough, but not Bob Johnson. A custom Nitrous Works 250-horse spray bomb was added, and a complete secondary supplemental fuel system was engineered to feed it. While many would envision twin fuel pumps, we say keep going. A complete second fuel tank was installed so the nitrous would have a steady diet of race fuel to enjoy with its high-powered hit. This would allow Johnson to enjoy the copious power of high compression on the street with the added insurance high-octane fuel and nitrous oxide can bring to battle.
The best way to back a high-winding big-power small-block like this would be with a gutsy ultra-tough manual transmission, and Bob chose a Tremec T-56 6-speed for it's beefcake and wide range of gear ratios. Even with the 4.56s out back, the car needed to be a capable reacher. Completing the Power Tour proved it's mettle, and with style to boot.
The car's style is very much worthy of review. While few will argue the beauty of the '69 Camaro, especially when finished in black over arrow-straight sheetmetal, achieving proper stance, wheels, tires, and trim to suit the need was paramount. The resto-quality trim was an easy call. Subtle custom touches (like the addition of PIAA driving lights to the factory turn signal lamps, and the relocation of the turn signals) serve to catch the enthusiast's eye. A vintage flavor is seen in the style of the wheels (Colorado Custom's "Sugar City" offerings, in 18x8 up front and 20x10 in the rear), which have had their centers painted to resemble the cast-center wheels of the past. Obviously, the dimensions are modern, and the car is shoed with BFG Comp TA KDW tires in 245/40-18 and 295/40-20 dimensions front and rear, respectively.
Of course, you cannot fit such rolling stock under a stock-bodied '69 Camaro; so more mods were in order. The rear wheel tubs were widened two inches to accommodate the fat rubber, but with respect to the original look. In a likewise manner, a custom trans tunnel had to be fabricated (11.5-inches higher than stock) to offer additional header clearance, yet the factory shifter console looks like it belongs.
The rest of the interior is decked out in resto-flavored goodness, paying heed to the stock roots of the car while providing a comfortable and attractive way to kick major ass. The black vinyl and houndstooth cloth looks perfectly at home among the rest of the factory goodies and aftermarket additions. Like the engine, the stereo system is a well-engineered case of overkill. A combination of top-end Blaupunkt components (head unit, CD player, and speakers) is urged by Bazooka amplifiers to provide almost enough decibel horsepower to overcome the 410-inch V-8 at full song.
Like any finely forged weapon, top-quality materials were used in the hands of a master to create a beautiful and functional tool. This Camaro had what it takes to earn it a finalist spot during the Street Machine of the Year competition at the Goodguys event in Columbus, OH, and it stood comfortably among the other four contenders. For a car built to look great while performing at an extreme level, this battle axe of an F-body is a credit to the creative build talents and craftsmanship of Alan Johnson. For his first musclecar build, we'd say he's crafted quite a memorable piece of weaponry.