The Top 10 Camaros issue of Camaro Performers magazine has become a huge hit on the magazine newsstand. You might say it's the must-have issue of the year for us Camaro guys, and rightfully so. But it's imperative to point out that we don't just go through all nine issues from 2009 and pick out the most expensive, fastest, or prettiest Camaros and slap them on the list. That's hardly the case. As a matter of fact, carefully wadding through over 40 feature cars and trying to justify why one Camaro makes the list and another does not, is no easy task. It's also 100 percent subjective. With that said, it's our parameters and our ball, so we get to choose.
Now, we're aware that at least half of the cars featured in Camaro Performers magazine deserve to be considered as a top 10 contender; and believe us when we say, "They were considered." Some discussions within the staff on choosing cars were civil, while some, on the other hand, were a bit heated. But that's how it works when science takes a back seat to good old-fashioned editorial subjectivity.
So if we're going to decide which cars make it onto our top 10, then there better be a good reason why one car makes it, and another of equal, or sometimes better build quality does not. Well, that's where the story behind the car comes into play. For example, just because a '69 Camaro carries a build price of over $100K doesn't automatically make the car worthy of the list. But a car that was built for a fraction of that can carry a whole lot of weight if it was homebuilt, or if the car has a history of being beat on at the track, and proudly wears a garnish of rock chips or cone rash.
Take Cody Lebo's '71. It sports a leaf-spring rear suspension and mostly stock underpinnings. The car has a wicked stance and killer paint, and for the most part, was a homebuilt project. A top 10 Camaro of 2009? You betcha! Now, by the same token, let's look at Kyle Tucker's '70. It has been armed with one of Detroit Speed's most elaborate suspensions in all of Camaroland, but the paint looks to be as old as the car itself. A top 10 Camaro? Hell yes! With the way Kyle beats on this second-gen, it's only fitting this car finds its way onto our Top 10 Camaros of the Year.
So after weeks of sifting through Camaros for this list, then changing our minds, and changing them once more, we've painstakingly come up with what we feel to be an honorable group of Camaros that make up the Top 10 Camaros of 2009. We're sure you'll agree that many of the cars we've chosen are deserving of a spot, while a number of you will have something to say about our picks, so don't hesitate to let us know how you feel. In fact, we welcome you to compile your own list just to see how in touch we are with you readers.
With that said, we hope you enjoy this ensemble of Camaro eye candy. Oh, and just like last year, we couldn't narrow it down to just 10, so our Top 10 list actually consists of 11. Blame it on the movie This is Spinal Tap and the famous quote from Nigel Tufnel. "These go to 11."
Here is a prime example of a homebuilt goodie that didn't break the bank, yet still oozes with plenty of style. The car has amazing paint and a vicious stance-one that most second-gen owners tend to miss by a mile. Needles to say, Cody nailed it. This is a prime example of a budget build that can stand up to most any Camaro at any given show. Cody runs a stout 387ci mill with Eagle-forged stroker kit that puts out about 456 hp at 6,300. A beefy turbo 400 sends off the twist to a 12-bolt rearend fitted with 3.73:1 gears and a limited-slip differential. Hotchkis handled the 2-inch drop springs up front, and Cody matched the rear drop with lowering blocks. He bolted up beefy sway bars, and a set of QA1 12-way adjustable shocks smooth the road. We can't wait to see the latest additions as they materialize on Cody's tidy second-gen.
From our top 10 list, let us know what Camaro you would consider to be the Camaro of the Year. You won't win anything, nor will the owner of the car, but it would be cool to know if we're on the same page. Send your pick to: email@example.com
Owner: Cody Lebo
Car: 1972 Camaro
Here is a prime example of a homebuilt goodie that didn't break the bank, yet still oozes with plenty of style. The car has amazing paint and a vicious stance-one that most second-gen owners tend to miss by a mile. Needles to say, Cody nailed it. This is a prime example of a budget build that can stand up to most any Camaro at any given show.
Cody runs a stout 387ci mill with Eagle-forged stroker kit that puts out about 456 hp at 6,300. A beefy turbo 400 sends off the twist to a 12-bolt rearend fitted with 3.73:1 gears and a limited-slip differential. Hotchkis handled the 2-inch drop springs up front, and Cody matched the rear drop with lowering blocks. He bolted up beefy sway bars, and a set of QA1 12-way adjustable shocks smooth the road. We can't wait to see the latest additions as they materialize on Cody's tidy second-gen.
Owner: Bret Voelkel
Car: 1968 Camaro
Bret Voelkel is the kind of guy who was fortunate enough to turn his hobby into a successful business that now supports his hot rod habit. Dude goes through cars like most of us go through tanks of gas. But that's what we like about him. We first got wind of Bret's Velocity Camaro during the 2008 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Bret was carrying around a rendering of the car with the purpose of getting us magazine guys all hopped up to feature it-well, it worked.
The stellar Camaro has spent the better part of a year thrashing its way through (and sometimes over) just about every Goodguys' autocross cone in the country. Bret is not one to "baby" his rides, and this '68 is no exception. If you get a chance to see the car in person, do yourself a favor and check out the numerous one-off goodies this car houses. It's one amazing ride that easily ranks as a top 10.
Owner: Gary Taillon
Car: 2002 Camaro
Some might say modified, drag race fourth-gens are a dime a dozen. That may be true on some accounts, but you won't find many cars at the dragstrip done to the extent of Gary Taillon's 9-second '02. Most guys would have mounted fender-obtrusive rear rubber and lived with the tire rub that goes with it. Not Gary. He proceeded to go the extra mile by mini-tubbing the car and slimming the Moser 9-inch rearend 6 inches in order to accommodate the bulbous Mickey's.
Although the car looks well adapted as a quarter-miler, Gary doesn't shy away from the opportunity to hit the streets at local cruise nights. "The car is a blast to drive on the streets," Gary says. "And I drive it fairly often. In fact, most of the cops in town know me from this car. They can usually hear me coming well before I get to my destination."
You might think this car falls into our "token fourth-gen" category for our top 10 list, but that's just not the case. This car is "all that", and is absolutely deserving of making our 2009 top 10 list.
Owner: Milt Burleson
Car: 1967 Camaro
Generally, full-blown race cars are something we tend to shy away from. And not because we don't like them, but mainly because most of them don't have much Camaro left in their souls. Milt Burleson's first-gen is a competition racer to the bone, but still carries itself with an abundance of original Camaro swagger. Milt salvaged the body from a scrap yard near Sacramento, California. Once the body was acid dipped, the project was underway built to SCCA solo specifications for C class. This means the car has to weigh no less than 2,750 pounds, sport wheels no larger than 16x12, and the engine can be no larger than 310 ci. Oh, and no tube chassis are allowed.
Global West's Cat-5 2.5-inch drop spindles and matching control arms work with Penske three-way adjustable shocks and 1,500-pound Hypercoil springs. The rear suspension is a custom four-link arrangement with a pair of Penske triple-adjustables and 600-pound springs. It may ride like a floor jack, but it handles like a go-kart-it's all in the plan. This gorgeous car peaks the "cool meter," and that's good enough to ink a spot on our top 10 list.
Owner: Mike Williams
Car: 1969 Camaro
Some cars carry an aura about them that makes you want to stand back and give it some personal space. Mike Williams put together such a car. From the exterior, this car just reeks of badness. The sinister, black pigment and race-inspired body mods weren't part of Mike's initial plan. And until he came in contact with Killer Kustoms' owner Blake Foster, the car was headed down a path of simple restoration.
Mike admitted he really wanted more than just a restored car, and further discussions with Blake ultimately led to an extreme g-Machine build. Although the car carries highly modified sheetmetal, it retains much of its Camaro heritage by utilizing a stock subframe. Sure, it sports tubular control arms and antiroll bars from Killer's sister company Speed Tech Performance, it also utilizes a Unisteer power-assisted steering rack from Maval Manufacturing. The Ford 9-inch-style reared hangs from a modified Art Morrison triangulated four-link. Mike could have gone with the now-popular LS engine upgrade, but instead kept with the 383 stroker, and puts the car on edge with a healthy dose of nitrous. The kicker: This car went from pedestrian barn find to a killer custom (no pun intended) in just 10 months.
Owner: George Paul
Car: 1980 Z28 Camaro
It's not often we come across a late second-gen built the way George Paul managed to build his the right way. Not that there is really a wrong way, but not many guys are willing to give an '80 Camaro the attention to detail the way George has. These later-year second-gen Camaros are still plentiful and relatively affordable, which may be part of the reason guys tend to hold back on de-bulking their wallets for such a common sled. Maybe the '80 second-gens have been quietly misunderstood. Well, here's a car that should change the minds of those who think that only the first three years of the second-gen is worth a damn.
George treated the car to Hotchkis suspension goodies, which lowered the car to a more credible ride height for improved handling and attractive visual characteristics. He upped the engine compartment with a GM Fastburn 385 and beefed up the TH350 with a 2800 stall converter. The car won't light the streets on fire, but it will certainly turn the heads of most any Camaro enthusiast. No matter what generation of Camaro you're into, this award-winning car should be considered as the benchmark of what can be done with a '80 F-body.
Owner: Kyle Tucker
Car: 1970 Camaro
Early second-gen Camaros are the latest to receive kudos from the g-Machine crowd. It's a natural progression in the Camaro world, and Kyle Tucker, co-owner of Detroit Speed, saw the virtual writing on the wall. With the first-gen Camaro market fully saturated with handling components, the second-gen was quietly waiting its turn for a suspension makeover. Kyle bought this '70 with the intention of using it as a test vehicle for developing a host of DSE suspension components. Although the car went through an incarnation that featured just upper and lower control arms, sway bars, front springs, subframe connectors, and rear leaf springs, it's now a calling card for their baddest of the bad: Hydroformed front subframe and Quadra-link rear suspension.
Motivated by an L92 6.2L motor, Kyle estimates horsepower to be around 598, and over the past two years, he's been dishing out relentless abuse on the company's second-gen test Camaro. The car has awarded Kyle a number of autocross victories across the country, and he's also lit up a plethora of road courses along the way.
This is quite possibly the most wicked second-gen g-Machine on the planet, but all you paint guys can just keep your business cards tucked in your wallet. From what Kyle tells us, he has no plans of painting it anytime soon. Still, this car rates high enough to make it as one of the Top 10 Camaros of 2009.
Owner: Mike Yale
Car: 1970 Camaro
Second-gens make a heavy showing in this year's Camaro Performers magazine Top 10 list. And for good reason: Apparently the '70-73 Camaro has become the golden child among Camaro enthusiasts. For one thing, this body style is still relatively affordable in terms of vintage Camaros. It doesn't hold the hierarchy crown like a '69, but it possesses the same aggressive attitude when built with the right stance and riffs. To say Mike Yale "nailed it," is an understatement.
This Tomball, Texas, second-gen has all the makings of a car show winner, yet we've seen Mike beat the crap out of it at a recent Goodguys autocross, much like it belonged to someone else. And he should. With suspension components picked straight out of the Detroit Speed catalog, and Rushforth "Whiplash" rollers, this gorgeous F-body was built to be flogged on the course, and noticed on the street. The LS3 delivers a street-healthy 500 hp, and the T56 transmission helps the Camaro handle the rigors of long drives on the heated Texas highways.
There's no doubt Mike will be hitting the autocross hard in 2010, and with a reliable horse to saddle up, he'll be one to contend with on every orange-coned corner.
Owner: Chad Raynal
Car: 1969 Camaro
It's hard to think of anything cooler than a '69 Z/28 Camaro that's been decked out in Trans-Am trim. Well, there is one thing: an actual SCCA Trans-Am Competition '69 Z/28 race car that's been recognized as a survivor by the Historic Trans-Am Registry. Although the car has been through a number of paint schemes since its introduction to the racing series (it even wore the Sonoco colors in the mid '70s), Chad nurtured it back to its original race paint and graphics.
As the racing series constitutes, the Z/28 relies on a 302ci mill, and at 12:1 compression, it's hard to find an engine that is capable of expressing as much anger through straight pipes as this small-block. The short-stroked package belts out 450 hp and relies on a 12-bolt rearend stuffed with track-witty 4.56:1 cogs.
As one might expect, most dedicated race cars tend to wear a combination of rock chips and a myriad of fluids spewed throughout, but Chad keeps his special "Z" in show car condition between races.
So is this just another vintage-style race car? We think not. But what we do think is that this is an exceptionally well-preserved piece of Camaro history that makes more than worthy of being part of our top 10 list.
Owner: Charley Lillard
Car: 1969 Camaro
One surefire way to get your Camaro considered for most any top 10 list is to name it "Jackass." Or, drop in an LS9 capable of dishing out 703 hp-Charley Lillard did both. But to his defense, and from the standpoint of how much money he's got in this car, the name is quite fitting. But Charley didn't go it alone. Noted car builder Mark Stielow grabs credit for much of the precision-built '69 that features a carefully orchestrated ensemble of the best suspension and brake components available.
From a distance, the car looks like a relative sleeper, but a close-up look reveals 12-inch wide rear wheels sporting 335/25 rubber-a dead giveaway of what lurks beneath. And when the car is running at partial throttle, only a subtle indication of Jackass' brute strength is revealed. But when Charley lays on the loud pedal, the car instantly comes alive, and its cover is blown. And it's not that Charley has something to hide, we just think he gets a giggle when an unsuspecting gearhead pulls along side his steroid-fed '69 for a little acceleration duel.
This first-gen may be the most brilliantly executed Pro Touring Camaro to ever grace the pages of Camaro Performers magazine, and it's easily a "no-brainer" for our top 10 list. Besides, who are we to tell Charley he can't play in our sandbox?
Owner: Jesse Greening
Car: 1971 Camaro
There's plenty of speculation going on today about why there is a huge resurgence in popularity of the Camaro. And at this point we could give credit to the '10 Camaro hitting the showroom floors in early 2009, but that might not be 100 percent accurate. Sure, the new Camaro has aimed the spotlight back on America's favorite muscle car, but what about the guys who have always dug the styling of the classics?
Jesse Greening and his dad, Jeff, have gained notoriety for the past 11 years building vintage tin for the Street Rod world, so it was no surprise to see them come out of the muscle car gate by building one of the most beautiful second-gens we've ever seen. There's an abundance of subtle nuances on this car that the duo successfully incorporated without losing site of what the Camaro is all about. The plan was to build a '71 Camaro with modern engineering, a good amount of muscle (400 hp), and killer suspension; all without losing the car's spirit and signature race-inspired lines.
But don't let this car's multitude of one-off pieces sway your thoughts that this car doesn't get plenty of drive time. It does. In fact, the first time we saw the car it was ripping around the 2-mile road course at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park in Pahrump, Nevada, during the 2008 Optima Batteries Street Challenge Invitational. Yeah, we couldn't believe it either, and that solidifies the car a spot on our top 10.