In the realm of classic Chevrolet Camaros, two models always seem to emerge as the most revered: the 1969 Z28 and the 1973 RS, the split-bumper car like the one you see here.
The long hood/short deck design offers perfect proportions for a sport coupe, and the use of round tail lights and an egg crate grille made it look and feel less American and perhaps a bit more Italian.
“I’ve always loved the ‘68 Camaro, but for some reason it was the second–gen car I’d find myself sketching during high school math,” said Ken Parkinson, executive director of design, Chevrolet Trucks and Global Architecture. “It was a radical departure from the first-gen. For the first time, it was built on its own dedicated architecture, which gave the design team the freedom to create a pure expression. What that team created was a powerful expression of American muscle, influenced by a European grand-touring aesthetic. There was simply nothing else like it.”
Like the 1970-1973 Pontiac Firebird, the early models of the second-generation Camaro were the purest expression of the original design. The split bumper was a signature feature of the RS models, and its round signal lamps inboard of the headlamps lend a simultaneous impression of elegance and aggressiveness.
NASA MidAmerica Time Trial driver Robert Burdiss, the owner of the car you see here, also owns two more of the early second-generation cars, a 1971 and another 1973 model. He picked up this one in a nearly finished condition.
“I would say it was 85 percent done. The subframe was on it, all the components were there, the seats weren’t in it. I put in the seats, the hardware on the inside for the safety stuff,” Burdiss said. “It needed to be refined. It was put together, but it hadn’t been really driven.”
The Edelbrock Ram Jet style intake and port injection system is tunable from the cockpit using the iPad forward of the shifter. So when Burdiss goes to High Plains Raceway outside Denver, he can tune for a different altitude than, say, Ozarks International Raceway.
Even with the amount of horsepower it makes and the 4.11:1 rear axle ratio, the car only turns 2,200 rpm at 80 mph in sixth gear. It even gets about 18 mpg on the highway, which is handy because Burdiss often drives it to the track, flogs it all weekend, then drives it home.
The engine is old-school small block architecture, made in the modern aftermarket. It starts with a Dart block, Air Flow Research heads and Edelbrock intake and fueling system. Displacement is a healthy 427 cubic inches. Burdiss typically runs it in the Time Trial Unlimited class.
“I’m not placing. Some of those Audi guys and the Vipers obviously are ahead of me, depending on the driver. But I get a lot of track time with it that way,” Burdiss said. “And I’m looking at my times on there. That’s what I’m watching, whether I’m improving or getting worse.”
Burdiss completed the build and began using it for Time Trial and HPDE instruction. He takes students out in it so he can show them the line rather than trying to express it to them while they’re driving.
“It’s easier to talk to them when I’m driving. They’re not having to concentrate,” Burdiss said. “When I’ve got a student, I’m not going to go 10-tenths in it. Right? I’m going to go to seven tenths and talk to them the whole time. But what it does is, because it’s got the different seats, it holds them in there with the harness and stuff. It gives them a secure feeling and they don’t have to think as much. So when I’m instructing a student, if they’re in the driver’s seat, especially Ozarks International Raceway, they’ve got so much they’re trying to learn, let alone with that crazy track. Right?”
The engine makes about 600 horsepower, which is pretty stout even though it has to push a car that weighs about 3,400 pounds with a driver. Part of the reason it’s a little lighter than a stock F-body is the use of a TCI subframe, which employs revised suspension geometry in addition to weighing less than the factory front subframe. The revised geometry lets him add the negative camber he needs to get the car around a road course.
The car also has revised suspension at the rear. Gone is the C-clip 10-bolt rear end and leaf springs, and in their place is an aftermarket 9-inch Ford with Currie axles and coilover suspension. The rear axle also is fitted with a torque arm and a Panhard bar. Removing the factory fuel tank and putting a fuel cell in the trunk allowed him to install that oh-so-cool center-exit exhaust.
He can adjust the torque arm to maintain a proper driveshaft angle. The Panhard bar ensures the car tracks straight when he unleashes all the horsepower at corner exit.
When Burdiss wants to go racing, he can use his Rush SR, which slots into Super Touring 2, but the Camaro is something that’s allowed him to share the joy of motorsports not only with his HPDE students, but also his two daughters. His girls have helped him rebuild engines and remove and replace a transmission for a clutch job. They also come with him to NASA events where they get to spend quality time together.
“I’ll keep bringing it out. I will keep running it in Time Trial. It’s not fully caged. I don’t think I’ll ever fully cage the car,” Burdiss said. “It is still got all the original interior. So it’s still a heavy car. It’s still a nice street car. I’m not that shiner guy. I want mine to drive and run. That’s what they’re for.”
|Weight:||3,400 lbs. with driver|
|Engine/Horsepower:||Small-block 427/600 horsepower|
|Transmission:||Tremec TR-6060 six-speed|
|Suspension Front:||TCI coilovers, Fox shocks, tubular A-arms|
|Suspension Rear:||TCI coilovers, Fox shocks, Ford 9-inch axle, Curry axles|
|Tires Front:||Toyo Proxes 888R 315-35-18|
|Tires Rear:||Toyo Proxes 888R 315-35-18|
|Brakes Front:||Wilwood six-piston, manual disc brakes|
|Brakes Rear:||Wilwood four-piston calipers|
|Data system:||Garmin Catalyst, iPad controlled EFI|