R&D Guy's Ride
Builder Cris Gonzalez of Oxnard, California, has a lot of experience in the automotive industry. He worked in the research and development department of Wilwood Engineering as their project coordinator. Wilwood has an excellent reputation for producing high-quality parts, and are always creating new products. Cris left Wilwood to build cars for a living full time under the name JCG Restoration and Customs. He has been known to turn out some great Camaros over the years. Cris worked alongside Firebird owner, Ken Ramey, at Wilwood, giving them over 35 years of machining and product development experience between the two of them.
Ken bought this '68 Firebird from a friend who had anticipated building it for the last 13 years, but could never get it going. Once it became Ken's, he knew exactly where to turn to do the build. Though known for his work on Camaros, it was no far stretch for him to build the Firebird. The car came to Cris as an original paint project in progress. Most of the disassembly had been done by the previous owner, but Cris got it on a proper body dolly and began the fabrication work.
The body came to JCG as a...
The body came to JCG as a project that was started, but never completed. The paint is so faded, you can see the color difference where the trim once blocked the light.
Ken always dreamed of having a Pro-Touring style car, especially since Wilwood caters to that market. Having Cris in charge of the build, Ken knew he could come by and help with the machining and one-off part fabricating. Like most Pro-Touring rides, this Firebird had to be powered by a late-model fuel-injected motor. To keep it in the family, Cris transplanted an LS2 from an '06 GTO. That way he's got LS power with the Pontiac name. The engine is stock for now, but is awaiting a new camshaft and some other performance goodies.
The suspension is already screaming fast, as the three-link Art Morrison rear suspension is going in with a custom Watt's link setup. The front gets Art's complete front kit that uses C5 Corvette spindles that accept a set of Wilwood 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers.
What better team than a couple of R&D guys for a muscle car build? This car will be ready for SEMA 2009, and can be spotted in the Wilwood booth to showcase Cris and Ken's work, as well as Wilwood's product.
By The Numbers
|1968 PONTIAC FIREBIRD |
|Ken Ramey, 54 • Thousand Oaks, CA |
|Type: ||6.0L LS2 from an ’06 GTO |
|Block: ||aluminum |
|Cylinder heads: ||factory aluminum |
|Camshaft: ||factory hydraulic roller |
|Induction: ||custom intake by JCG |
|Exhaust: ||custom headers by JCG |
|Transmission/shifter: ||six-speed manual |
|Rear axle: ||Ford 9-inch with Strange |
| ||center section and 3.89 gears |
|Front suspension: ||Art Morrison front clip |
| ||w/C5 spindles |
|Rear suspension: ||Art Morrison three-link, |
| ||modified by JCG Restoration & Customs |
|Brakes: ||Wilwood six-piston calipers |
| ||front and rear |
|Wiring: ||Stock ’06 GTO harness, |
| ||reworked by Speartech |
|Column: ||Flaming River |
|Comforts: ||Vintage Air A/C |
|Wheels: ||Forgeline ZX3R |
|Tires: ||Goodyear Eagle 255/45R18 |
| ||and 315/40R19 |
Eddie McMillan of Knoxville, Tennessee, has a thing for '68 Chevelles. His first car at 15 years old was a '68, and he's owned several since. This particular car is pretty rare, being a two-door post car. When he got it, it still housed the original 307, a small-block Chevy notorious for being a dud--the two-barrel carb on top didn't help either.
Eddie was used to the all-aluminum 421-inch small-block Chevy in his 2,300-pound dirt track car, so the 200-horsepowered 307 would not suffice. He started out with a 454 big-block, and replaced every part inside to make it durable enough for the 8-71 supercharger.
The body needed even more attention than the engine. Nearly every panel had to be replaced or undergo major surgery. The roof had bullet holes in it, the floor was rotted out, the quarter-panels were caked with filler, and the fenders were damaged beyond repair. Eddie and his friends removed all the bad metal and replaced them with new pieces. The bodywork had to be perfect, since he would be painting it black; you just can't hide bad bodywork with black paint. To make the car really stand out, he painted realistic flames pouring from the front wheel openings.
The body and engine are dialed in, and the car is drivable right now, but the interior is still under construction. He plans to get the seats covered and custom embroidered for a personal touch. The car started out as a tame granny car, and exploded into a brutal, blown big-block bruiser, thanks to Eddie's hard work!
By The Numbers
|1968 CHEVY CHEVELLE |
|Eddie McMillan • Knocksville, TN |
|Type: ||blown big-block Chevy |
|Block: ||factory 454 |
|Rotating assembly: ||forged crank, |
| ||6.3-inch rods, JE pistons |
|Cylinder heads: ||Pro Comp aluminum |
|Camshaft: ||.783-inch lift billet roller cam |
|Induction: ||8-71 Weiand blower, |
| ||Biggs Performance set |
| ||of 950-cfm Holley carbs |
|Ignition: ||MSD |
|Cooling: ||Griffin radiator |
|Transmission/shifter: ||race-built automatic |
|Rear axle: ||9-inch Ford rear end, |
| ||spool and 4.30 gears |
|Body: ||all-new sheetmetal |
|Paint: ||base/clear black paint |
| ||with realistic flames |
|Wheels: ||Centerline Auto Drag |
|Tires: ||Mickey Thompson |
'71 Datsun 240Z
With a curb weight of 2,300 pounds from the factory and rear-wheel drive, this car is built for fun. It came with a couple different straight-six powerplants that had decent power, but not compared to the American muscle cars of the era.
Mark Fraizier of San Jose, California, grew up around both Datsuns and Camaros. His father had a '75 280Z that is basically the same as a 240Z, but with a different model designation for that year. He would take it out on Sundays and beat on it when his father was away. Since those days, he has always had a place in his heart for Datsuns. His first sports car wasn't a Datsun, but the other Z, a '70 Camaro. His brother also had a second-gen Camaro built for autocross in the late-'70s. Mark's car took the street/strip direction instead.
In 1988, Mark started working on cars professionally, and in '93 he went to work for Tom Dillard and Mark Schwarts, the owners of Campbell Auto Restorations in Campbell, California. He spent the last two decades building and restoring cars. He'd seen many American cars come and go though the shop, but fantasized of the Datsun Z he always wanted. In 2007, he picked up a decent '73 that had been daily driven most of its life. The car was rough, since it had been sitting for almost 10 years before Mark got to it. He promptly pitched the inline-six anchor to make way for a small-block Chevy. He had already invested a lot of money and time into making this car handle and brake well beyond its original ability, so why limit it to the 150 hp it came with? Mark could've rebuilt the six and gained some power, but with the cost of building a small-block so low, there was no good reason to keep the relic.
After a long search, Mark came across an LS2 with a bad bearing. He was planning on rebuilding any used engine he could find, so it didn't matter to him that this one had the bearing damage. He polished the crank, upgraded the rods and pistons, and revamped the LS with a new cam. The factory claims 400 hp, but with these upgrades we suspect it's got a little more.
With the added power, Mark would have to beef up the rest of the drivetrain. He used a 700R-4. The rearend is a little more challenging to upgrade, since it's an independent setup. With tons of time on the forums, he found a couple options, the best being to graft an Infiniti Q45 housing into the Datsun and get custom shafts made.
By The Numbers
|’71 DATSUN 240Z |
|Mark Frazier, 48 • San Jose, CA |
|Type: ||LS2 |
|Block: ||aluminum |
|Oiling: ||stock with ported galley |
| ||at pump mating surface |
|Rotating assembly: ||polished crank, |
| ||Scat 4340 rods, |
| ||Mahle forged pistons |
|Cylinder heads: ||stock with a bowl blend |
|Camshaft: ||Comp hydraulic roller; |
| ||214/218 degrees duration |
| ||at 0.050-inch lift, 0.560-inch lift, |
| ||114 lobe center |
|Valvetrain: ||Comp springs, stock rockers |
|Cooling: ||two-row aluminum |
|Fuel system: ||modified stock tank, |
| ||Bosch pump |
|Exhaust: ||tri-Y headers into |
| ||2.5-inch dual exhaust |
|Transmission/shifter: ||700R-4 with |
| ||ratchet shifter |
|Rear axle: ||’92 Infiniti Q45 housing |
| ||with 3.54 gears and posi |
|Suspension: ||Tokico five-way adjustable |
| ||coilover shocks, |
| ||Suspension Techniques sway bar |
|Brakes: ||C5 Corvette front, |
| ||third-gen Camaro rear |
|Wheels: ||Reuss Wheel |
|Tires: ||Dunlop 255/35R18 |