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NZV8 picks their top 10 Camaros

25 October 2016

The year 2016 marks 50 years since the first Chevrolet Camaro rolled off the production line, and while you can read all about the evolution of the iconic model in the November 2016 issue of NZV8 (Issue No. 138), the milestone has given us a good excuse to dig into our archives and highlight our top 10 feature Camaros. 

Over the years we’ve featured no less than 57 of them all up, ranging from early first-gens, right up to the latest and greatest, so picking our favourite 10 was no small task, but here goes … 

Ben Morris — 1969 Chev Camaro (October 2011, Issue No. 77)

Ben Morris’s small-tyre Camaro proves that running eight-second quarter-miles on pump gas isn’t out of reach

Wanting to build a fast street car, Ben Morris soon found it’d be easier to sell his existing Camaro and replace it with a car already more suited to the task. What he found was a 1969 Camaro, well known to the pages of NZV8, which had already run as quick as 9.5 seconds at 146mph.

After winning both the Whanganui street drags and Port Road drags he soon tired of spending $600 on nitrous for a weekend of racing.

The solution was to rebuild the car’s 580ci big block to accept boost from a massive crank-driven F3 Procharger. The blow-through carb setup that he opted to run would be good for just over 1100hp at the treads — a massive jump from the 672hp that the car previously raced with.

The car’s best ET to date is an impressive 8.76 at 160.46mph, but the car’s been off the road being rebuilt yet again, and we can assure you that time hasn’t been spent making the car any slower!

Brent Early — 1970 Chev Camaro (July 2009, Issue No. 50)

With a 502ci big block, airbag suspension, and immaculately detailed undercarriage, this second-gen Camaro was the ultimate father-and-son bonding project

Brent Early is a self-confessed petrolhead from way back, so when his son Sam moved back to New Zealand to live with him, they couldn’t think of a better way to spend time than to build a car together. 

The 1970 Camaro that they purchased was soon filled with a 502ci big block crate engine, as well as plenty of other parts from Classic Industries. 

As the boys got into the build they decided that they didn’t like the chrome on the car, so the decision was made to try and get rid of as much chrome as they could, which meant flush fitting the windscreens. 

Air ride suspension wasn’t initially in the plan, but three-quarters of the way through the project Sam convinced his dad that it was the way to go. Brent now admits that it was worth the hassle, and the Camaro handles fantastically. 

While built to give a father and son some much needed catch-up time, the result is a flawless car that’s given muscle car lovers throughout New Zealand another piece of street-driven automotive art to drool over.

Pat Croul — 1969 Chev Camaro (July 2010, Issue No. 62)

Originally purchased with no plans for modification, Pat Croul’s Camaro somehow became the toughest-looking in the land

“I still have no idea what I was thinking,” says Pat Croul about what happened to his once-tidy stock-as-a-rock Camaro. “I purchased the car to just drive, and then I thought I would just tidy it up a little over the winter.”

Somehow that tidy-up turned into one of the toughest pro-street–style cars in the land. Even after the car’s blown motor cried enough, and Pat swapped it out for a naturally aspirated 454ci big block borrowed from his wife’s El Camino, the car is still as tough as nails. 

The car’s interior is one that we love. The swaged dash features a plethora of Auto Meter gauges, which were fitted in the days of the blown motor. Besides the sheer number of gauges, what grabs people’s attention the most is the twin nitrous bottles sitting between the massive rear tubs.

After spotting them, it’s pretty obvious that the car isn’t just designed to look fast — but even with the ‘borrowed’ motor it still has more than enough power to fry those big Mickey Thompson tyres. 

Greg Pepper — 1969 Chev Camaro (December 2006, Issue No. 19)

It looks like a show car, but performs like a dedicated drag weapon. Meet Greg Pepper’s tubbed ’69 Camaro streeter

Cast your mind back to 2006, when the fastest street cars in the country were pumping out nine-second passes. Along came Greg Pepper with a car that wouldn’t just shake the quick-street-car scene up, but do so in show-winning quality.

With a highly strung naturally aspirated 540-cube big block, the car would dip into the eight-second zone in the hands of its next owner, before being detuned to become a bit more street friendly. Even now, a full decade after it was built, the car still looks immaculate and turns heads exactly as it did when debuting ahead of its time all those years ago. 

David Morris — 1968 Chevrolet Camaro (August 2012, Issue No. 87)

Pro Touring meets subtle perfection!

David Morris’s car is far more than first meets the eye. Sure, at first glance, the car is clearly immaculate, but there’s far more to it than that. The car was completed back in 2012, before pro touring had really hit the New Zealand scene. What it lacks in terms of the big dish and impractical ride height that internet groupies love, it more than makes up for in terms of the quality of components used. 

The engine is equally as impressive, being a 427ci Mast Motorsports–built LS7 that’s rated at 662hp and 564lb·ft. Of course, being built to be driven hard, this isn’t backed with a slushbox either — David’s done it right by opting to fit a Tremec six-speed manual. If ever a Camaro has been built to handle, this is it! 

Aaron Costello — 1969 Chev Camaro (July 2013, Issue No. 98)

The original plan was never to build a nine-second street car, but sometimes you can’t argue with fate

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, chances are you would have heard of the names ‘UNIT’ and Aaron Costello. The car has become one of the better-known Camaros around, and at a time when it seems like every second car is a Camaro, that’s pretty tough work.

Of course, Aaron never intended for it to be that way. After the car arrived into the country damaged in transit, he decided to sell the damaged motor and replace it with a GM ZZ572 crate engine. 

His love of the car’s newfound performance soon saw him testing it down the drag strip. Despite a best time of 11 seconds, he eventually became used to the power and it was no longer enough to keep him excited. Forced induction was what it needed, in the form of an F2 Procharger.

Once the ProCharger was fitted, the excitement was back, and Aaron’s love for racing was ever-increasing. After running a PB of 9.6 seconds at 148mph, the car became well regarded as one of the toughest street cars in the land. And it still is.

International Performance Classics — 1969 Chev Camaro (March 2016, Issue No. 130

International Performance Classics set out to produce the best Camaro ever imaginable, and they achieved it!

If you had an unlimited budget to build what may arguably be one of the best Camaros in the world, what would you do? For most, they’d likely do what International Performance Classics did for a customer, and that’s build something out of this world. 

Starting with a brand-new Dynacorn body shell, there are literally zero old parts on the car at all. Built right-hand drive for ease of drivability, and utilizing only the very best of components available, the car is, without doubt, one of the most impressive builds ever to have been undertaken in New Zealand. 

An LSX 454 was originally planned for the build, however that was changed out for an LS9 part way through, and the blown motor is enough to give the car more than enough power to back its tough looks. Speaking of which, don’t let the subtle paint scheme fool you, as there are countless body modifications and carbon-fibre parts galore here — a lesson in quality and understatement that few of us could ever hope to come close to. 

Ken Hopper — 1969 Chev Camaro (July 2015, Issue No. 122)

The ultimate mix of modern Nascar know-how and classic cool!

Ken Hopper knows a thing or two about building race cars, as you’d expect, having built them for a living for most of his life. Included in that knowledge is just how expensive purchasing the required components can be, which is why he set about building an experiment for himself that combined all the componentry of a second-hand Nascar with a classic Camaro shell. The result is an amazingly quick and highly spec’d race car built on a comparatively low budget. 

The 358ci SB2 engine, Emco four-speed gearbox, electronics, and almost every other component that could be removed from the Nascar has been utilized, right down to the wiring and fuel systems. Carrying that theme over, the graphics on the car also replicate the vehicle that the gear was pulled from. This might just be the perfect cocktail of new and old, in a functional, cohesive, and seriously quick package. 

Parry Hunt — 1969 Chev Camaro (February 2010, Issue No. 57)

Built with the single-minded purpose of running a five-second quarter-mile pass, Parry Hunt’s Top Doorslammer took things to another dimension

You don’t need to know anything about cars to know that Parry Hunt’s Top Doorslammer was built with nothing but speed in mind. The exaggerated proportions and that massive tower of power sticking out well above roof height just scream speed.

That tower of power was made up of a 527ci Alan Johnson block filled with the best of everything and topped with a PSI D-rotor supercharger. The whole car was a work of art put together by a hard-working crew of family and friends, with the goal being to run the country’s first five-second doorslammer pass.

Sadly, the car was involved in a major accident before being able to start showing its full potential, but we’ve recently seen some pics of the rebuild, and it looks like it won’t be long before it’s back on track.

Dave Sturrock — 1967 Chev Camaro (May 2015, Issue No. 120)

Retro track rocket packing a killer small block punch!

Sometimes less is more, and it’s the simple things that make a car great. Case and point: Dave Sturrock’s Historic Muscle Car–class ’67 Camaro. The class is based on period rules, meaning no billet blocks, no wild aero, and, to top it off, old-style tyres. 

Those tight rules didn’t stop Dave from piecing together a very cool package. Utilizing a Crower manifold topped with a Kinsler mechanical injection setup, the angry 406ci small block was housed within an immaculate engine bay. 

While the class is more about having fun than taking home trophies, and Dave’s out there to have as much fun as he can, he’s well aware it’s more fun when you’re up front smoking the tyres than being at the back of the pack, and as such, the car gets driven at nothing less than 110 per cent any time it hits the track.