One “Polished” Camaro, In More Ways Than Just The Paint

Mike Burns’ passion has always been the first-generation Camaro. His first car was a 1969 Camaro when he was 16 years old. Yes, he has created some high-end builds over the years, including Chevelles, GTOs, and a trick 1967 Chevy one-ton dually, but the first-generation Camaro has always had a special place in his heart.

In particular, Burns had his eyes on a friend’s X-22 code Camaro. He continuously bothered his buddy — a bit jokingly — to sell him the car. On one fateful New Year’s Eve, the friend mentioned he would sell him the car, and the Camaro bug bit him once again — hard.

“This Camaro had always been a race car for as long as I remember,” said Burns. “It was a back-half car with a cage and very straight. My friend owned it and allowed it to sit in a pole barn for almost 15 years. It drove me crazy because I thought about what I would do more than once if I could get my hands on it.”

The interior is as slick as the body. Kierkegaard racing seats, Autometer gauges, and a Grant steering wheel are the first things you'll notice, along with a Hurst Quarter Stick shifter set upon panels created from red carbon-fiber. Adding to the look is a headliner created from similar red carbon-fiber material.

Burns didn’t let the New Year’s eve celebration do the talking, as he knew his friend had done too much celebrating, if you know what we mean. Burns recalls, “I gave it a couple of days to make sure he really wanted to sell. We visited again and agreed on a price, and I scored the Camaro I had always wanted.”

Burns was laughing when he told us, “Surprisingly, after sitting for so long, we got the car to fire up, bought five gallons of race gas, and took it to the local track with no issues.” But right after that folly, in Burns’ garage, it was time to undergo a major rebuild, just like he had imagined many times over in his head.

With the intent of placing far more horsepower under the hood, a three-year effort was underway. Burns had an NHRA chassis inspector stop by to tell him what it would take to achieve a 6.0 chassis certification, and then he went to work.

Brodix heads, intake, and valve covers sit on top of a 496 cubic-inch big-block Chevy; a Lunati crankshaft, rods, 14.5:1 pistons, and camshaft make up the main internals. American Racing headers, an Aerospace Components vacuum pump, DaVinci carburetor, and a Hamburger pan round out the powerplant. There is a larger engine in the immediate works, but Burns isn’t revealing how big or nasty it will be.

A Reid Machine case equipped Turbo 400 reverse-pattern transmission is coupled to a Neal Chance bolt-together billet converter. The trans also utilizes a Meziere Enterprises billet flexplate. Following the transmission is a Gears Unlimited carbon-fiber driveshaft with billet yokes. An RJ Race Cars 9-inch chromoly housing has Moser Engineering axles and Yukon and Moser internals.

The suspension includes an RJ Race Cars 4-link and wishbone assembly, with Aerospace Components brakes front and rear, pressurized by a Wllwood master cylinder. Currently, the car has a ladder bar rear suspension with a TRZ Motorsports racing anti-roll bar kit installed.

The color drives photographers crazy. It can look dark gray, or it can appear like chrome. – Mike Burns

With the introduction of a bigger-cube engine, plans are underway for the car to be outfitted with a new 4-link rear suspension. Burns is quick to thank Jake’s Fabrication and Terry Murphy Race Cars for the chassis work performed over time.

Power is put to the ground with Weld Wheel Magnum fronts and Weld Alpha-1 double beadlock rear wheels on Goodyear Eagle fronts and slicks.

The carbon-fiber treatment also includes custom material for the vinyl roofline. The front section of the new chassis has a PA Racing front subframe with matching tubular A-arms and TRZ spindles. There are QA1 double adjustable front shocks and a rack and pinion steering system. Burns also credits Liquid Powder Coat for the chassis deep red finish.

By now, you’re asking, as we did, “but what about that paint?” Well, local standout Kendall Rupert worked with Burns to complete all the bodywork and paint. “I would work on detailing the body for a week, and Rupert would come over and write a list of things for me to correct, and I would go at it again,” Burns chuckles.

The two created a custom recipe based on a Lexus silver plus another half-gallon of additional metallics and toners. “That is all I want to say about that…I want to keep this color all mine,” he says. Once Burns had the body worked to perfection, Rupert laid on the blinding chromish/silver effect paint. Burns has taken home multiple awards at the Kansas City World of Wheels, winning in his category three years in a row, and Best of Show twice.

Dragstrip, car shows, you name it, Mike Burns takes the Camaro anywhere to his liking.

The Camaro sees not only the dragstrip and some car shows, but Burns also gets a little street action in, as well. “The car has gone 6.0 seconds in the 1/8-mile with this current combination, but the torque converter is set up for the new engine and nitrous combination,” Burns shares, “It’s just itching to go faster…I’m hoping for low fives to high fours in the future.”

About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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