For some reason every car guy has no problem remembering the first time they sat butt in a muscle car—sitting shotgun or both hands on the wheel. Either way, the event is etched in the "old hard drive." The who, where, when, and why have subtle differences for each of us, but the memory is as vivid as though it happened yesterday. Keith Echols is no exception. "My first experience was in 1980 when my brother allowed me to drive his brand-new Camaro," Keith matter-of-factly tells us. "The experience was exhilarating and I was hooked right then and there. From that day forward, I knew I'd have a muscle car of my own."
Life-changing challenges bought Keith a little face time with his faith so he seized the moment and took advantage of his newfound lifestyle. "My initial quest was to own a first-gen, but the price point and the fact that a second-gen had a similar body style to the first Camaro I had driven was appealing to me," remembers Keith. "I came across this '73 in a consignment shop, but I have to admit it was by no means love at first sight."
Taking a little over eight weeks and several repeat visits, the car began to grow on Keith to the point where it had sunk its teeth into him with an unrelenting force." After seeing it a few times, I finally realized this was the car for me. It had gone through a previous restoration and was in pretty good driving condition," said Keith. "After purchasing the car, I always knew I'd rebuild it again, I just didn't know exactly when, but I have to say, that first drive home with the car was amazing—I had the widest grin on my face and tears of joy, all at the same time."
It was three years later when Keith was driving the Camaro home from the Woodward Dream Cruise and carburetor issues rendered the car helpless in what Keith referred to as a "questionable" part of town. It was then that he decided the rebuild was in order—immediately.
With the final straw cracked in half, Keith limped the car over to Pratt & Miller Restorations in New Hudson, Michigan, with the intention of converting the engine over to a fuel-injection setup. Well, that "little conversion" turned into a frame-off restoration. The complete overhaul included a media blast, which uncovered some rust and significant quarter-panel damage.
On the engine side Keith did go with fuel injection—that fuel injection came by way of stuffing a 2012 GM 6.2L blown LSA mill between the 'rails, but not before enlisting the talents and expertise of Thomson Automotive (Wixom, Michigan) to do their machine work magic. The aluminum block features a 4.06-inch bore and a forged steel crankshaft that delivers a 3.62-inch stroke. Lightweight powder-metal connecting rods and hypereutectic pistons come in at 9.1:1 compression. Set at 10 psi, the Eaton sixth-generation supercharger perched on top incorporates a four-lobe rotor design and uses long dual rotors and an eight-rib pulley and belt design. Air intake comes via a custom P&M air cleaner housing and K&N element while the greenhouse waste escapes through a set of Kook's 1 ⅞-inch headers and P&M custom 2 ½-inch crossover chambered exhaust. With the Thomson massaging, the LSA squeezes out 630 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque—plenty of grunt for Keith's needs.
For additional engine bay appeal (it's all about looking good, right?), P&M's Dave Brown smoothed the firewall and bolted in a set of Eddie Motorsports billet hood hinges and custom-made fender braces. It's subtle touches such as these that make a huge impact.
To handle the increased power, Gordon Stoney (Stoney Automotive Engineering) toughened up the stock 4L80E, while a General Dynamics 2,500-stall converter sends twist down a Dynotech driveshaft and a Chevy 12-bolt posi rearend stuffed with 3.55 cogs.
With lateral performance the institution for today's Pro Touring builds, this second-gen complies. Detroit Speed Inc. 2-inch drop spindles and tubular A-arms were bolted in up front and a set of Eaton springs and QA1 double-adjustable shocks control the ride. DSE 2-inch drop springs and QA1s reside out back and ensure the car responds accordingly on twisty roads and track days. P&M custom-built subframe connectors verify additional chassis stiffness.
In today's world of "bigger is better" Keith forwent the mini-tub route and instead dialed in a set of relatively narrow Formula 43 wheels (18x8 front, 18x9 rear) and BFG KDW rubber. Wrapped in 245/40-18s up front and 275/40-18s out back, the black finish and redline pinstripe institute a rather dark side of the car's personality. Wilwood binders on all four corners offer plenty of whoa power to offset the copious amount of go power.
The interior inherits the pinnacle of the Pro Touring theme—in fact, its extensively plush confines mark much of the car's attractive appeal. P&M's Pat Laporte took charge and brilliantly covered the Pro Car front seats in black Ebony leather and Alcantara, then tied the ensemble together with similar wares on the door panels and console. Rob Murphy took the honors of installing the custom fiberglass kick panels armed with 5 ¼-inch Pioneer speakers and custom housing for the PCS touch pad and Pioneer CD/DVD head unit. A pair of Pioneer 6x9s help orchestrate the cockpit's audio sensation. Auto Meter gauges fill the stock gauge locations and provide Keith the necessary vitals while a Vintage Air A/C system blows a comfy interior climate.
Mike Brown and Troy Whyte of Browny's Customs created the immaculate sheetmetal foundation to spray the Lesonal black pigment. Mike then accented the scene with red pinstripe, creating a vivid divide line to the Eastwood satin black paint on the hood, deck lid, and rear valance. Other custom nuances include reworked front bumpers, lower foglights, and narrowed and tucked rear bumper.
"I never thought I'd be in a position to own such an incredible car," Keith excitedly informs. "The divine name ‘Showbread' speaks directly to the presence the car has for all enthusiasts. Its simple and retro design joined with contemporary upgrades make it comfortable, while the raw power just throws you back in the seat. This car was built exactly how I saw it in my dreams."
When a long-term muscle car build finally comes to fruition, the common thread usually consists of an assemblage of skilled people who pour their talent into the project. This was the case with Keith's immaculate '73. He'd like to give a special thanks to Mike Atkins, Rob Walker, Troy Whyte, Bob Murphy, Pat Laporte, Dave Albright, Tim Byzewski, Bob Chapman, and Erin Henk for all their hard work and dedication to the build.
With Keith referring to this Camaro as "Showbread," he credits the car to bringing his faith to the forefront, but the performance of this menacing hot rod slams him back in the seat where life takes on a totally different light.