Story by Ben Lorentz, Photos by Lance James
From the very beginning when the first modified Fords found their way out to a dry lake, it has all been about going fast. Snag a stock from the factory car and make it perform. Better yet, make it perform far beyond the dreams of the engineer that designed it. That is hot rodding in its purest form.
Lawrence Wight contracted Steve Borja to build him this ’69 Camaro with one thing in mind: going faster. No major body mods, no extreme paint job. He wanted it to be really fast, a lot faster than GM ever imagined. Actually, he wanted more than just fast. He also wanted it to stop on a dime and corner like it ran on rails. Well he didn’t want much, did he?
He ended up with this: a 381-inch blown Bowtie, built by three-time NHRA Pro-Stock champ Bobby Panella Jr. of Panella Motorsports. Now, in case any doubt exists that Bobby does not have a line on it, consider 500 hp at the rear wheels with the blower under driven, then jump that to 700 hp with a 15 percent overdriven blower, and add alcohol to the equation for a whopping 1,000 hp.
In order to keep it streetable — yes, the car is a streeter — it uses a TPI-prepped TH400, driven by a Hughes 9” torque converter with an anti-balloon plate. But bear in mind, this is not your basic dragster, so add to that a Gear-Venders overdrive. That makes six forward gears for those days when getting out and flying become a desirable choice.
Lawrence calls the suspension “road race-inspired,” but didn’t give details. But look at the photos to confirm that as fact. The car rides as well as anything on the road and corners like it’s on rails. With the Willwood Dynalite 4 piston disc brakes, it should land as well as it takes off, which is to say that when applying the binders, they do a good job stopping it.
The race theme carries over to the interior, with a full set of Autometer gauges, Corbeau seats and Simpson harness. The designers and builders of the car, Performance Dyno-Tuning, with safety in mind, had Future Customs of Oakdale, Calif. install an 8-point harness.
All said and done, what Lawrence has here comes a lot closer to a flying machine than a Camaro. So that’s hot rodding, my friend. Take a stock from the factory car and build it way beyond what the factory had ever envisioned.