When building a classic car — be it a bone-stock restoration or a full-blown restomod — the work can be both rewarding and troublesome. Sometimes things go as planned and sometimes they don’t. That especially holds true if you are a do-it-yourselfer and face those troublesome situations head-on. Nick Relampagos is one such person. In Nicks’ case, troubles were minimal and the rewards are extensive.
The ’70 Camaro you are looking at was a true labor of love that he built in his home garage over the span of 18 months. Sure, he got some help with paint and interior, but we don’t all have a paint booth or industrial sewing machine in our shop. There was no dropping it off at a shop and picking it up when it was completed. But before any work could actually begin, the car needed to be in Nick’s possession.
A ’70 Camaro project Awakens
“I have a friend that owns a body shop, and he bought the shell years before I saw it,” Nick relays. “I already had a 1970 Chevy Chevelle that I restored but I wanted a car that I could autocross and road race.” One would think that building a race car means that a lot of the factory parts would not be necessary.
Carbon-fiber body panels from Anvil Auto helped shed roughly 200 pounds from the car. Those massive 18×12 Forgeline rear hoops with 335/30-series tires and front 18×11.25s with 315/30s ensure grip is not an issue. “When I bought the car, it was just a shell and came with alot of boxes that were full of parts,” Nick quips. “I didn’t know what I had or what was missing, but I also didn’t think I would need much because I was planning to upgrade almost everything in the car.”
Metal Repairs And Weight Loss
When the 18-month build began, Nick says the only metal that needed to be replaced with new, was a small section of the lower driver’s side quarter. Nick even states the car still has its original floors. Speaking of the body, you’re looking at a 2012 Chevy Camaro color, Inferno Orange. Grand Collision Center in Hayward, California gets the credit for the smooth application.
Building Cornering Capabilities
As Nick previously alluded, this car was going to a be corner-carving powerhouse and that means the OE suspension was not going to cut it. For that reason, he reached out to the corner-taming folks at Speedtech Performance. Chassis upgrades began when Speedtech’s Extreme subframe connectors were attached to the Speedtech Extreme front frame section and OE rear rails.
The Extreme subframe delivers a system that is designed to deliver a smooth and comfortable ride on the street yet, carve through any corner with authority. The fully welded box-style subframe supports upper and lower tubular control arms with taller than OE forged-aluminum spindles supporting heavy-duty C7 Corvette hubs. Steering is handled by a rack-and-pinion unit and an adjustable, splined sway bar controls lean. Finally, single-adjustable coilovers with Draco springs dampen the bumps and keep the tires planted.
From the factory, second-gen Camaros utilized a parallel leaf spring rear suspension. This ’70 Camaro has seen a major upgrade in the form of a rear torque arm suspension. A leaf spring suspension is expected to support the weight of the chassis, limit axle wrap, and maintain a consistent wheelbase under acceleration and braking. That’s a lot to ask of a single part and frankly, is too much to expect out of a single component in a racing application.
Adding the Speedtech torque arm, which attaches to the differential, and a custom crossmember that attaches to the rear of the front subframe takes some of the work away from the rear springs. The torque arm keeps the rear in place while the springs only need to support the car. Instead of leaf springs, Nick’s car uses coilovers on the rear. By using a torque arm suspension, Nick benefits from drastically improved performance handling and great everyday drive quality without the bind and other problems that come with other types of suspensions. Another benefit of the adjustable front and rear coilovers is that ride height can be set to nearly any preference. If Nick is racing, he can lower the car a little, lowering his center of gravity. When it’s time to drive home, he can simply crank up the coilover springs to raise the car.
’70 Camaro Meets 2019
Since the car was an experiment in upgrades, a traditional small-block would not be getting the nod. Modernization is the keyword, and under the hood, we find a 6.2-liter LSA that’s been massaged with some go-fast goodies to the tune of around 670 hp. Behind that is a Bowler Performance Transmissions-modified T56 TREMEC. Not only is this a stout combination, but it is also as reliable as all get out.
Typically, a dedicated race car doesn’t need much of an interior. Let’s face it, you want it light and functional and that is all. However, this “race car” was also going to spend a lot of time hitting the road, so, a sparsely outfitted cockpit was not part of the plan. However, it did need to be comfortable during those drives. The race-inspired interior is augmented by a pair of Recaro seats and Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges, while the rest is near factory stock (sans the safety equipment required for racing). DJ Designs in Hayward, California, gets the credit for the interior work.
Taking classic cars to the next level and building a true Pro-Touring standout is something the original engineers would have never thought possible when this ’70 Camaro was originally constructed. And while at first glance you might just think this is just another run-of-the-mill second-gen, under all of that stunning orange paint is a tire-melting monster that can drive to town, corner like a supercar, and run the quarter-mile in 10.93 seconds.
Built to be competitive, Nick has entered several of the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge Series’. During those competitions, this ‘70 Camaro goes up against — and holds its own — against some of the best street cars on the planet. Talk about a triple threat hot rod, Nick’s ’70 Camaro epitomizes that premise.