IT TOOK Jonny Wadsworth a few years to build this ’67 SS Camaro, but we reckon it was worth the wait. Packing a stroked LS3, generous suspension upgrades, a six-speed stick-shift, big brakes, and smooth Trans Am circuit styling pointers, this is one absolutely killer street car that can do it all and look damn good doing it.
This article on Jonny's Camaro was originally published in Street Machine's LSX Tuner #8 magazine
Jonny’s path here actually started when he built a tough VR ute back in his early 20s but became disillusioned with the iron lion as cam, intake, tuned LS1s were making the same grunt while his stout 355 was a chore to drive on the road. Following the ownership of a few HSVs, including a mint, low-kay SV300 limited edition, WA-based Jonny had a four-year break from cars as life took over. But this gave him four calendar’s worth of thinking time about what he’d have in his ultimate car.
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Jonny got rid of the front bumper and had a billet grille made then powder-coated black. He also binned the turn signals and upgraded all the lighting to LEDs
“I knew it had to be a classic muscle car with an individual look, be drivable in any conditions, utilise new technology, plus it had to handle, stop and go,” says Jonny, perfectly describing the Pro Touring style of cars. “I had set my mind on an HK-HQ Holden coupe, but I felt a bit uneasy about what I had planned and the amount of custom and fabrication work involved. It was by chance I came across the USmuscle.com forum and my eyes were opened to the world of American muscle cars.
The massive Pro Touring movement in the USA represented exactly what Jonny wanted to do.
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Building cars brings people together, and Jonny counts himself fortunate to know a local expert who could help him. “Chris Spaulding, the WA Godfather of Camaros, was always a phone call away when I was ready to give up,” says Jonny. “He has forgotten more than most people know about these cars, and has built multiple award-winning Camaros in WA. He was a great help with getting my brakes sorted and the four-link installed”
“I quickly changed my mind to a first-gen Camaro,” he says. “It was perfect for a DIYer like myself as everything you can dream up has already been thought of, engineered, track-tested and packaged up as an off-the-shelf part, ready to go!”
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A signature look for Pro Touring cars is to ditch factory brightwork, which Jonny opted to do. “All chrome has been removed or powder-coated black, with black anodised billet door handles and strikers, bonnet hinges, fuel filler, tail-lights and bonnet pins all from the Ringbrothers catalogue.” The custom-designed three-piece Forge wheels carry on the theme with gloss black outers, matte black centres and exposed stainless steel hardware
He spent a year scouring the internet for a good project starter before coming across a ’67 SS roller for sale.
“It had a full rotisserie rebuild that was fully documented by its owner who had a panel shop, and it was a bare shell so I could fill with whatever I wanted,” Jonny says. “It was in a colour scheme I would have picked, even down to the Trans Am stripes, and the owner had already installed Detroit Speed Engineering mini-tubs and weld-in subframe connectors.”
One area many LS swappers trip up on is the wiring, but Jonny researched this and found an interesting way around this hurdle. “I chose the MSD Atomic EFI system as it allowed me to fully complete the engine conversion at home because it is self-tuning, and it can also handle boost or nitrous upgrades in the future,” he says
Jonny then got in touch with Don Hardy Race Cars from Texas and purchased an engine from him based upon the ubiquitous Gen IV 6.2-litre LS3, and stomping out an impressive 612hp on the engine dyno.
It now swings 418ci thanks to a 4340-steel crank, 4340-steel H-beam rods and DHRC flat-top pistons, with a Comp Cams 232/242/114 bumpstick pushing LS7 lifters. GM CNC-ported Gen IV head castings are filled with 2.165-inch intake valves, and 1.590 exhaust valves, DHRC pushrods and PAC 1518 springs.
The Holley oil pan on the bottom of the big-inch LS3 is a lower-profile item designed to bolt straight into the F-body Camaro and Firebird chassis. One major benefit of choosing these popular American models is the plethora of upgrades available!
A narrowed stainless steel fuel tank is stuffed with an Aeromotive 340 Stealth pump and Dakota Digital sender, while 50lb MSD Atomic injectors deliver the 98 PULP via a FAST LSXR 102 intake.
“I decided on the 418ci stroker as it is impossible to license a blown LSX in Western Australia, and I knew a cam-only LS3 would not keep the power demons at bay,” explains Jonny. “With the mild cam I requested, mated up to the Tremec Magnum six-speed manual, it is a very nice package. Plus the DSE QUADRAlink four-link set-up with 315mm-wide tyres out back really puts the power to the ground, especially as the car weighs only 1420kg!”
Joining the Tremec ‘box and White Lightning short-shifter is an APT ceramic twin-plate clutch, while Jonny binned the old cable clutch actuation in favour of a modern hydraulic set-up. Out back is a heavy duty GM 12-bolt diff stuffed with Moser billet axles and a Detroit Truetrac LSD centre, with a 3.7 final drive.
“Everything in the driveline has been selected to handle well above the current power level as there is no point putting all your money into the engine if you worry about what will break every time you give it a boot-full,” offers Jonny.
The cabin is an exercise in restraint, as Jonny explains: “I love the classic look and wanted to retain that. I kept the changes minimal, replacing factory gauges with digital and not going too wild with the seats. I still wanted things to look like they belong there with a modern touch.” To keep everyone comfy, he fitted a Vintage Air a/c system with Dakota Digital climate controller
On top of the DSE subframe connectors, four-link and mini-tubs, the Camaro also benefits from their billet solid body mounts, while a Flaming River collapsible steering column, quick-ratio steering box, Speedtech control arms and sway bar, to give the F-body far higher grip levels than GM released it with. On top of this there are Viking double-adjustable coil-overs up front and JRI coil-over struts out back, with braking handled by 13-inch Wilwood rotors with four-piston Wilwood calipers.
Don’t bother looking for those 18x8in and 18x11in three-piece wheels in any catalogue as they’re custom items from Forge Wheels Australia, wrapped in sticky 235/40 and 315/30 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber.
“The point of this build was to have a go and not rely on any shops as money I saved on labour left more for other parts, so I did everything myself,” says Jonny. “It was hard work as most people pull a car apart first then put it back together, but I had to work out what I needed… which ended up being everything from the Classic Industries catalogue!
“The build was a massive learning curve for me, and I made some great friends along the way. I have had the car on the road for around four years now, and it has been a great ride ticking all the boxes I set out to.”
We can’t wait to see how the ’69 Camaro Jonny is planning on building will turn out!
'67 CHEVROLET CAMARO SS
DuPont Pepper Grey/Black
Brand: GM Gen IV LS3
Intake: FAST LSXR 102, billet 95mm throttlebody
Pistons: DHRC flat-top
Rods: 4340 H-beam
Crank: 4340 4in
Heads: GM L92 CNC-ported
Cam: Comp 232/242/114
ECU: MSD Atomic
Fuel system: MSD Atomic 50lb, Aeromotive 340 Stealth pump, custom tank
Oil system: Holley LS
Cooling: Brown’s Radiator Servicer radiator, twin thermo fans
Exhaust: Ultimate 1 7/8in headers, twin 3in system, Magnaflow mufflers
Gearbox: Tremec Magnum 6-speed manual, White Lightning shifter
Clutch: APT ceramic twin-plate, hydraulic actuation conversion
Diff: GM 12-bolt diff, Moser billet axles, Detroit Truetrac centre, 3.7:1 final drive
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Viking double-adjustable coil-overs
Rear: JRI coil-overs
Chassis: Flaming River column, quick-ratio steering box, DSE subframe connectors, DSE mini-tubs, DSE billet solid body mounts, DSE QUADRAlink four-link rear-end, Speedtech control arms, Speedtech sway bar
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers and discs (f & r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Forge Wheels Australia custom 3pc; 18x8in (f), 18x11in (r)
Rubber: Michelin Pilot Sport; 235/40 (f), 315/30 (r)
My lovely wife Alycia and kids Zara and Tyler; Chris Spauling from Banjup Customs; the Camaro family in WA who are a great group of people; Don Hardy from DHRC; Phil Purser from Final Drive Engineering; Ty Isaak from Forge Wheels Australia; and Bling Custom Coatings