When you’ve been fully immersed in the automotive industry for some time, your perception of what’s cool tends to change a bit. While custom paint jobs, chrome details and flashy exhaust tips used to catch my attention, I’ve come to realize that these elements are only skin deep. Anyone can drive a nice looking ride, or even a built one for that matter, but if you’re looking for the true gems in the automotive world, you have to seek out the cars built with true dedication and passion. Brian Hobaugh’s ‘73 Camaro is the perfect example.
From a young age, Hobaugh was exposed to second-gen Camaros, with his dad owning and autocrossing a standard ‘74 and then a ‘72 Z/28. So when life presented itself in a way where a project car was feasible, Hobaugh jumped at the opportunity to build his dream car- a Sports Car Club of America Solo II C-prepared second-gen. But Hobaugh didn’t just want a track car.
“I thought, I hate to spend all this time and money and not be able to drive it on the street,” Hobaugh told us. “I figured, I’m going to enjoy this thing on the street and open it up to all kinds of other events.”
So, after purchasing a ‘73 Camaro donor car from long-time friend Mary Pozzi, the journey of turning a rust-bucket of a car into a street-legal autocross beast began. Autocrossing with his father in a ‘65 Corvette for 24 years, Hobaugh had the right combination of knowledge and ideas to plan out his own autocross beast. With the help of his father Steve, multinational autocross champion Frank Stagnaro, and noted chassis designer and fabricator Mike Maier of Maier Racing, the Camaro started coming together almost immediately.
With the cage and suspension system hand built by Maier to give Hobaugh everything he wanted in a car, custom sheet metal laid down by Hobaugh and his crew at Car West Elite in Fremont, California where he is the manager, and numerous problem-solving modifications done along the way, the amount of fabrication that went into this car is just downright amazing.
With years of fabrication experience, Maier took care of all the chassis work. In the rear, you’ll find a full floater Ford 9-inch rearend with Detroit Locker differential and Competition Gears 3rd member, as well as a custom 3-link suspension system. Due to SCCA Solo II C-class regulations, only sections of the frame rails could be removed for suspension modifications, so Maier expertly worked around the stock rail piece to give the Camaro the best suspension possible within C-class limitations.
C-class rules also regulate the front end suspension modifications of competing vehicles, so the stock front sub frame was used and modified in order to avoid a weight penalty, while custom spindles, and upper and lower control arms were fabricated by Maier. Hobaugh chose to go with Speedway Engineering hubs in the front, as well as JRI shocks all around. Steering for the Camaro is taken care of by a stock-style steering box paired with a modified Howe centerlink.
Body work and paneling for the Camaro were also custom done. In order to fit two different sets of wheels and up to 20 inches of rubber under the car, the Car West Elite crew hashed out custom quarter panel flares more than once to get just the right look.
“I don’t know how many times I redid those fenders, and they’re still not perfect,” Hobaugh told us. “If I could do them again, I would, but everything in a build is a compromise, EVERYTHING, or else you’ll never be done.”
The car also received many customized fiberglass components. In addition to the removable fiberglass front end, so too are the molded front and rear bumpers, doors, hood, and deck lid. Weight reduction was a consideration but not too much, considering that C-class regulations require Hobaugh’s car to be at least 3,100 pounds to compete. In order to achieve this weight, about 200 pounds of lead has been added to the car.
Obviously, if you’re going to build a car to be a tough competitor on the autocross circuit, you have to have some serious power behind it and the goods to tie it all together. That’s why Hobaugh went with a Mast Motorsports/GForce combination.
Powering the ‘73 is a fuel cell-fed Mast Motorsports 416ci. LS3 SS motor with a custom K&N air intake that puts out about 605hp and 538ft-lbs of torque. This is matted to a GForce 4-speed GF4A transmission with long linkage that sits in a custom fabricated transmission tunnel with removable cover. Tilton pedals make handling the drivetrain combination a breeze while putting Wilwood stopping power on hand.
The Camaro is also fitted with a custom exhaust system that starts with modified Edelbrock LS headers, and empties into stainless steel piping with a custom cross over. Two Magnaflow mufflers and a Borla muffler are then used for noise control, with the system exiting out the driver-side quarter panel to avoid clearance issues over the rear axel of the car.
With a set-up like this, Hobaugh’s Camaro is far different from the ever-popular pro-touring cars you see everywhere now. This thing is literally a race car that can be driven on the street. Although the Camaro is street legal, you’ll find nothing but bare-bones race car digs in the interior.
A couple of five-point harnesses attached to Kirkey road race seats, a full cage tucked up tight to the roofline and body contours, a VFN fiberglass dash customized by Maier Racing, some Speedhut gauges and a Hurst shifter are all you need to see to know that this Camaro means business.
If you’re looking for creature comforts, you won’t find them in Hobaugh’s creation, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see him driving it to a show now and again.
Just because it’s a full-fledged race car doesn’t mean that Hobaugh’s Camaro isn’t reminiscent of the classic muscle car era, however. As a tribute to his dad’s old Z/28, Hobaugh decided to fit the Camaro with its own hood and roof stripe.
Unlike the brown and gold paint scheme of his dad’s Z, however, Hobaugh decided on an orange and black combination. The PPG Envirobase Waterborne orange that covers the main body is a bit brighter than the Hugger variety, but definitely gives the car a noticeable pop, while the satin black Elite Auto Films stripe brings in that classic American muscle flavor we all know and love.
Wheels and Tires
Depending on what type of competition Hobaugh is competing in determines what wheels and tires are on the Camaro. For Solo II races, the Camaro is equipped with 17 x 12-inch front and 18 by 12-inch rear wheels from Complete Custom Wheel with P345/35/R18 and P335/35/R18 race rubber respectfully. For pro-touring events, Hobaugh runs 19 x 11.5-inch front and 20 x 13-inch rear wheels from Dynamic Performance Engineering with Michelin Pilot Super Sport shoes.
In total, the build project took Hobaugh and his team a little over three years to complete, but the wrench time was well worth it. When the car hit the pavement for the first time last May, the suspension was almost perfectly tuned in. “Sometimes when you put a car together, it’s just a disaster,” Hobaugh told us. “So we were super happy at how close it was.”
Since the car has been on the road, it has been upgraded to the latest JRI ST/08 shocks with remote canisters. Wilwood has also played a big part in where the car is, providing 6-piston Radial mount front and 4-piston rear calipers, matched with their Spec 37 Rotors for the Camaro.
While Hobaugh couldn’t have asked for his second-gen to turn out any better, there is constant adjustment to the car to make sure it performs as best as possible. “If you’re going to be at the top, there’s constant adjustment,” said Hobaugh. “Every single event there has been a change.”
We’re not talking about major modifications. SinceHobaugh had the best guys help him out on the build, the Camaro has only seen adjustments to the spring rate, front sway bar and shock settings. Pretty impressive considering Hobaugh is among one of the top autocross competitors.
In the last year, Hobaugh has competed with the Camaro in Goodguys Autocross events, the American Autocross Series, U.F.O. Series, the Run to the Coast, and even the 2011 Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge after the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Although Danny Popp and his ‘06 Z06 took the victory at Optima, Hobaugh finished a respectable third in his freshly built Camaro.
Hobaugh plans to take his car to the SCCA Solo National Championships in Nebraska this September, but doesn’t have any other plans to take the car cross-country to compete. “The best drivers in my class are right here,” Hobaugh told us. “So I don’t have to drive anywhere when the best are right in my backyard.”
Hobaugh’s Camaro is absolutely amazing and definitely an inspiration to those enthusiasts looking to have a legit race car that can be enjoyed other than on the track “I’m pretty much pushing the envelope of is it a street car or is it a race car,” Hobaugh told us. Call it crazy, but we think Hobaugh has tapped into the best of all worlds.