Project BlownZ28 – Part 3: Final Details And Assembly

Project BlownZ28 has been a big undertaking encompassing more than a year of work, and now it’s almost time for the fun part: to see what the Camaro can do at the track. Keith Engling and his crew at Skinny Kid Race Cars have done a marvelous job finishing the car and now we can finally bask in its glory. Today, we’ll put the finishing touches on the car up and get a general overview of Project BlownZ28.

The last time we saw Project BlownZ28 it was being final-assembled by Skinny Kid Race Cars after an appointment with the paint and body shop. All of the car’s major systems were being addressed, such as the plumbing and wiring, as components were being bolted back on the chassis. With all of that work complete, now it’s time to see what the finished product looks like.

Final Assembly Fun

You have to think of a car like BlownZ28 when it returns from paint as a giant jigsaw puzzle of horsepower. What that means is all of the work that was done to build and assemble the car the first time will need to be done again, but this time very carefully so the new paint isn’t damaged. Skinny Kid Race Cars will spend an enormous number of man-hours painstakingly reassembling a car like BlownZ28 to make sure it’s ready for the track.

“It’s really pretty simple: we just have to put the car back together and make sure there aren’t any issues. There’s really no special order we put it back together in outside of putting the brake lines and fire suppression system in first. The tubs and tinwork will get put in before the rear end housing gets bolted up just so it’s not in the way, but outside of that we just put it back together in the order that makes the most sense. There’s a lot of prep we have to do before we start to make sure everything is ready, though. You have to go and ream out and re-tap holes to make sure they are clear of any paint or powdercoat,” Engling explains.

Years of experience have taught Engling that planning ahead makes the final assembly process go much smoother. The builders at Skinny Kid Race Cars will do their homework before a build to create an all-encompassing plan that looks at how the car will be designed and assembled. The pre-planning and full assembly of the car before it goes to paint helps the builders find any potential issues before it goes through final assembly. Engling considers this a smart insurance policy to prevent problems that could be costly to fix, or would create any delays at the end of the build.

I’m excited to see this car hit the track and see what it will do based on this new combo on radials. – Keith Engling, Skinny Kid

This proven process earned its keep with BlownZ28 — Engling was able to catch an issue before the car was sent to paint that could have been a big problem.

“With this build, the thing that we had to address before paint was how much it weighed. The car was a lot lighter than we thought it would be, and we didn’t have enough ballast tabs added for proper weight distribution. It was a good problem to have, but it still needed to be addressed so the car could be balanced right for chassis setup,” Engling explains.

Over his career as a chassis builder, Engling has built a substantial number of cars, many of them 1969 Camaros. Engling has perfected the program that he uses to create these cars, but each one still has its own unique features. BlownZ28 presented a new set of challenges and allowed Engling and the team at Skinny Kid to build a one-of-a-kind machine.

“I’ve built a lot of 1969 Camaros, but on this one how the firewall came out was really nice. We sectioned it off to make sure the zoomies fit properly and it turned out great. Every car is a little different, and this one was designed for a 275 radial so it had other small things that needed to be done. It’s got a lot of steel in it and that just makes it a cool build. I’m excited to see this car hit the track and see what it will do based on this new combo on radials,” Engling states.

The Final Details And A Finished Hot Rod

Project BlownZ28 is a very complex build and there are a lot of things that go into finishing the car — one of the biggest being the fire suppression system. The NHRA requires an onboard fire system for a car of this caliber and we wanted to ensure the Camaro had the right system in place. To combat any potential thermal events, a full Safecraft system has been installed on BlownZ28.

The pull cable and pneumatic system from Safecraft come with a pair of 10-pound bottles that are pressurized to 200-pounds and dispense a large dose of 3M Novec 1230 to fight a possible fire. Safecraft uses the Novec 1230 because it’s a waterless agent that won’t conduct electricity and is fairly clean. To activate the system, the driver just needs to pull the fire cable in the car, this will trigger the release of the Novec 1230 and send it through the lines plumbed by Skinny Kid Race Cars.

A race car, like BlownZ28, requires a certain level of power to bring the electrical system to life and to put fire in the pipes every time the ignition button is pressed. To ensure we had enough juice to power the Camaro, an Altronics Powerlite Pro Series 2000 Lithium battery with a BMS (battery management) system was added to the car. This particular battery not only fit the power requirements, but it also brought a host of other features to the table that will benefit BlownZ28.

When you’re trying to keep a race car’s weight in check, using a lithium battery is a requirement. The Powerlite battery is seven times lighter than your typical lead-acid battery. A lithium battery like the Powerlite will also charge quicker, plus the voltage and current output will have a higher level of stability than a lead-acid battery.

The Pro Line big-block Chevy is a beast of an engine, so the 16-volts of power are going to be needed to crank the engine quickly and run the car’s other electronics. Altronic’s Battery Management System (BMS) that’s included with the Powerlite Pro Series will protect the battery from being short-circuited, getting too warm, undercharging, overcharging, and it will balance the battery’s cells.

A high-quality switch panel is another one of the details that had to be added to BlownZ28 — for this, we opted to use a product from Speedwire Systems. Since BlownZ28 will have a massive supercharger hanging off the front of the engine, the switch panel we selected would need to be robust; Speedwire makes its panels out of billet aluminum so they are very stout. Each panel is made of CNC-machined material for maximum strength. The switches that SpeedWire uses are made of high-quality materials to ensure the work every time you press them.

The 1-5/8-inch bracket that the switch panel comes on from Speedwire was a perfect fit for the roll cage of BlownZ28. Speedwire can make custom switch panels that have the exact amount of buttons you need for your application. BlownZ28 only needed switches for ignition, EFI, start/prime for the fuel pump, and lights so it was a simple build. To make everything easier to find for the driver at night, Speedwire added a slick LED light bar.

BlownZ28 has a stunning paint job and a killer stance, so that meant we had to make sure the car had the right trim pieces to make it look perfect. These kinds of parts can be difficult to track down if you’re trying to do a full OEM type of restoration, but thankfully Classic Industries made the process easier with its large selection of body trim parts.

Classic Industries put a lot of effort into the design and production of its products, and this means when you go to install them there are really no modifications needed. Each kit came with everything Skinny Kid Race Cars needed to install the parts on BlownZ28 so that saved a lot of time. We dug deep into the Classic Industries catalog to use a ton of parts like a grille, lights and light assemblies, sill plate parts, tail lamp parts, door jamb vents, and a full set of Z28 emblems to make the car really stand out.

There was a substantial amount of work put into Project BlownZ28 from start to finish. If you want to check out the full build, click here and you’ll get to see the chassis built from start to finish, including all of the parts that make up the car, learn about the transmission and torque converter, the wheels, and much more. And be sure you stay tuned to Dragzine to see what BlownZ28 can do when we take it to the track.

Article Sources

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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