Mark wanted a cruiser, not a bloodletter. All the comforts of home tied to an upgraded chassis/suspension and an engine that wasn’t close to being out of bounds. Clean, steady, conservative power was what he sought, enough grits and stick to stretch the outer limits of the chassis but without stepping off the ledge. “Of course,” winked Mark, “This set me back a few years because of cost and time, but I made the decision to go all the way no matter how long it took.” Let us say now that Mark has been a car painter for the past 25 years (and a journeyman welder) that had the knowledge and mindset to take this case right to the end.
Since he was pouring a lot of loot into the interior and the body, he felt justified in making his take-out LS motor (a 22,000-mile 1998) mild, yet he was optimistic that some minor tweaks would put some moxie in the all-aluminum sack. Changes amounted to new valvesprings, lifters and pushrods; a bumpier but still cruise-oriented camshaft from HiTech Motorsport in Elk River, Minnesota; and an LS6 intake manifold. To handle the scut work, the sides of the block were anointed with Stainless Works headers built with 1¾-inch primaries. The system was extended with 2.5-inch stainless steel pipes and MagnaFlow mufflers. These scant modifications were enough to make the motor zoom. EFI tuner Speartech Fuel Injection Systems in Anderson, Indiana, worked the computer and the harness, then Dennis Wheet at Air Flow Development did the exacting final tune on the chassis dynamometer. A punk fuel pump notwithstanding, the critter still cranked out 360 hp.
Mark: “Moving on to the interior was a major hump.” About three years into the build, he met Tracey Weaver of Recovery Room Hot Rod Interiors in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. The two hit it off famously and for the year following, the Camaro became Tracey’s special project. As you can see, the results are astoundingly good. Every piece is right where it should be. Every piece looks chosen rather than required. The tableau is tight. The message is as clear as crystal. Before it went to clothes jail, Mark installed the stereo system, building twin sub boxes beneath the convertible top niche and the amp rack in the trunk. Tracey swathed all in buttery leather.
The centerpiece for the design was the then-new Marquez dashboard. Although Mark put it up originally, Tracey later painstakingly re-installed the piece in three sections. The instrument panel is filled with American Instruments. Those sexy, out-of-the-ordinary A/C vents were sourced from a ’10 Porsche. That sexy, out-of-the-ordinary Isotta Katiena steering wheel meshes seamlessly and the ears behind the spokes are Twist Machine paddle shifters connected to a 4L60E. Tracey did the door panels and seats as a matched set. He built the center console. He did just what Mark desired simply because the pre-job discussions were pointed and the deliberation did not end quickly. Mark: “To this day, the interior is the biggest compliment I get at car shows.”
Mark had no intention of beating up on his car because it was, after all, a ragtop and not meant for torture, blood, and sweat, but he fixed the chassis as if belonged to a hardtop just as well. “It makes a really big difference by welding up the subframe seams and using solid bushings,” Mark advised. The front suspension is based on factory spindles, Speed Tech upper and lower tubular control arms, Chris Alston VariShock coilovers (single-damp type), and a 1.0-inch antisway bar. Steering is enabled by Pontiac WS6 equipment. Stability is furthered by DSE subframe connectors. To convert the rear of the car, Frank Serafine’s son Mike flew up to Pennsy to help Mark hang the Moser 12-bolt (3.73:1 gears and a Detroit Truetrack differential), VariShocks, and the Alston G-Bar setup. They also put up the DSE mini-tubs.
Energy burning is the province of 12-inch, four-piston caliper Wilwood discs all around, abetted by a Wilwood master cylinder and a Hydro-boost reservoir. Those big round things in front of them are 18x8 (4.75-inch b/s) and 18x12 (6.0-inch b/s) Boze Tach wheels capped with 245/40 and 335/30 BFG g-Force KDW2 rubber.
“Not only have I gotten 100 percent of my parts from lateral-g.net and pro-touring.com members, but I had some very late night conversations seven days a week on building techniques, best parts to fit my build, and where to get the best steak when I’m traveling around the country. I’ll be calling you for the late-night talks and, who knows, maybe even stop by,” Mark threatened.