It was at the PRI show a couple of years back. As soon as you entered the main hall, there it was: hot lava on wheels. The bright orange 'Cuda was without a doubt the most vicious and charismatic creation on the floor and detailed quite unlike anything anyone had previously seen. It came from Alabama out of Alan Johnson's Hot Rod Shop (JHRS) in Gadsden. Despite its bright livery, the car was still curiously understated against its rough-hewn, natural-surface wheels. It glowed; it growled in harmony with the remarks of passersby.
Defiant as a fine piece of art, it challenged onlookers to find one bit of it that hadn't been modified, molded, or made for its mission. Johnson is probably better known for his dramatic yet understated street rods, but a car is a car regardless and JHRS attends to them all with imagination, candor, and craftsmanship.
Nathan Powell has been a frequent contributor to the Johnson coffers, having enjoyed several JHRS street rod creations over a dozen years or so. He also owns several late-model sports and high-performance cars, so there isn't a single feature of this Camaro that's been overlooked. He wanted a '69 Camaro that would be a comfortable, accommodating driver-one that could also perform well on the track and be a looker without sacrificing a single ounce of function. Get in, jack the throttle once, twist the starter, and rocket down the road like nobody's business, air conditioner blowing chilly, Nathan's adrenalin climbing hot on the high side.
Grunt was the key, Nathan figured, so Keith Dorton's Automotive Specialists Racing Engines in Concord, North Carolina, whipped him up a version of the popular four-bolt main bearing 540 big-block, blueprinted, balanced, and filled with parts of the highest quality.
The rotating assembly includes a Callies crankshaft, forged connecting rods, and Wiseco 10.5:1 pistons that cohabit nicely with pump gas octane. The oiling system is directly affected by the Stef's aluminum road race oil pan and corresponding pump. Pan baffling keeps the lube from climbing away from the areas it was meant to protect during on-track antics. To further draw heat from the assembly, ASRE included an Earl's oil cooler mounted on the core support on the left side of the copper/brass Walker radiator. A Stewart water pump keeps coolant on the run.
A COMP cam (we'd say hydraulic roller) of unspecified characteristics has been partnered with all the rest of COMP's valvetrain technology. The top of the motor wears mighty Dart aluminum cylinder heads straddled by a Victor intake manifold and a Holley as big as a hippopotamus. The cowl-sourced cold air is the job of that spectacularly smooth dual-tract intake system that was hand-formed from aluminum sheet. A K&N filter catches airborne junk before it enters the engine. A Vintage Air Front Runner accessory drive connects the alternator, air conditioner compressor, and power steering pump. Fuel is sourced from a safety cell resting on a trunk floor that was modified for the installation. Spark jumps salty from an ignition system operating with ever-popular MSD components. JHRS machined the decidedly unusual rocker covers from billet stock.
Johnson and his crew set the engine back as far as possible without having to recess the firewall. In fact, JHRS did create a new firewall showing the same rib detail as the rocker covers. They also raised the engine block 11/2 inches, thus precluding off-the-shelf headers. Johnson's Venny Garcia got to it with 2 1/8-inch diameter primary pipes that were ceramic-coated black by Performance Coatings in Jonesboro, Georgia.