Pro Touring cars are the perfect melding of going fast and being comfortable. Cars that can hit the twisties with little effort, yet retain the civility of a nice ride with all the creature comforts like air conditioning and a rockin’ stereo. But that isn’t the type of ride we’re here to discuss. This Camaro is a whole different animal. It’s anger and attitude wrapped in steel, riding on fat, sticky Goodyear race rubber. If it were a guy it would kick your ass, take your girl, and not work up a sweat doing it. It’s brutal, fast, and built for one specific task: hauling gluteus around an autocross track. It doesn’t pretend to be a street car. In fact, it wears its track-only status as a badge of honor. This Camaro can’t be bothered with trivialities like headlights, blinkers, or carpet. Those things just slow you down, and this ride is all about speed.
Milt Burleson has been into the racing scene for quite some time, most recently in a worked-over ’92 Vette, but he was jonesing for something different. As Milt told us, “Paul Caselas, General Manager of Goodies Speed Shop in San Jose, California, had done the modifications to my ‘92 Corvette and we often talked about what we should do next. Also, I race with national champion autocrosser, Frank Stagnero, who drives an original Ford GT350 he bought new in the ‘60s. He influenced me to go for ‘old, loud, and low.’ In July of 2002, Paul drew an outline of what he thought would be a killer first-gen race Camaro on a napkin while we were having lunch. The idea was born.”
The goal was to build a modern version of a traditional ‘60s muscle car, only as a pure racecar. The proportions of the first-gen Camaro fit the bill perfectly, but it was important not to overly change the classic Camaro lines. “We stuck with this objective throughout the project. The classic looks would stay, but everything else would be changed to meet the technical specifications needed for it to be a competitive race car. Most project cars give up half of this equation. They either look like a race car, or run like a street car. Having both of these aspects proved more difficult than we originally imagined,” remarked Milt.
Milt and Paul scoured local scrap yards until a body shell was found near Sacramento, California. After securing the partial Camaro for a measly 400 bucks, the body was acid-dipped and the project launched. Milt recalled, “Since we were building a race car to SCCA-prepared solo specification for C class, we had limitations on critical design features that wouldn’t apply to a street car. The most being that the car couldn’t weigh less than 2,750 pounds, nor the wheels be larger than 16x12. Also, the engine couldn’t be larger than 310 cubes, or be set back in the car at all. This limitation on engine size is challenging for a race application.”
The entire concept was rendered to a graphic and all the key specifications were laid out so nothing would be missed. Paul was in charge of the car’s design and build, which included the chassis, suspension, and engine work. “Paul worried over this project from start to finish and never let an important detail go unattended. The results speak for themselves,” mused Milt. In addition to Paul, Milt also got input from co-driver ‘Speedy’ Bill Knudsen and his wife Jan. Since it falls on Bill to win big with the car, he was an integral part of the build process.