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Inside the Speedway Motors '70 Camaro

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This ’70 Camaro is part race car, part engineering test mule, and has been driven by a few of the most famous names in racing. It’s a race car with a license plate that has seen almost constant updates and evolution since it first hit the track.

The story of this car starts about five years ago. Speedway Motors had just launched the G-Comp suspension and our Nova was already tearing up autocross tracks and road courses across the country. In an effort to expand our product offerings and create an even more competitive track car, the hunt began for a second-gen Camaro. A few months later, a slightly crusty and barely running blue ’70 Camaro arrived on a transport. It had a mystery small block that was only firing on about 6 cylinders, a broken parking pawl that caused us to chase it across the parking lot a few times, and a cobbled together dash with a slew of gauges hanging from their wires. It didn’t take long for the car to be disassembled, blasted, and off to the body shop for some rust repair and fresh paint.

Fresh off the trailer, our Camaro had seen better days. It may just look a little dirty here, but it would take more than a car wash to get where we wanted to go.

Meanwhile, the Speedway Motors R&D team was hard at work designing the second-gen F-body G-Comp front and rear suspension. Measurements were taken, scans were made, and models created to figure out how to make a 50-year-old car handle like a new Corvette. In fact, this car was the first to be fitted with a prototype Unser Edition suspension. Now a regular offering in the Speedway Motors catalog, the more hardcore version of the G-Comp started right here.

Power comes from an all-aluminum 427 LS7 based on an RHS block and heads built by Speedway Motors Racing Engines. We knew this car would pull some serious g’s, so a dry sump oiling system added. In true test mule fashion, the engine has been changed, upgraded, and freshened over the years and has given us experience with multiple engine management systems from FAST and Holley and different profiles from Comp cams. Power is handled by a Tremec TKO 600 that was modified by Dederichs Motorsports with dog rings to shift clutchlessly.

An early version of the LS7. There have been several rebuilds and iterations, all in the 600-700 horsepower range.

There aren’t many creature comforts inside the car, but there are still a few neat tricks. The chromoly cage was built by the crew at Eagle Motorsports. They spend their days building sprint cars from scratch and were more than up to the job of tackling our Camaro. The dash is a fiberglass piece and snaps out with Dzus buttons for easy access to the electronics and Wilwood pedal assembly behind it. Sparco seats secure the driver and anyone brave enough to ride shotgun.

The fiberglass dash is easily removable to access the mechanicals and wiring underneath.

Early pictures of the car show stock front fenders and 305 front tires. After some time on the track, we decided that more rubber in the front was necessary, but we were out of room. The solution presented itself in a coincidence that could only happen in a place that has been selling speed parts for over six decades. Lurking in a dark corner of the Speedway Motors warehouse was a pallet full of 1970’s vintage fiberglass fender flares, including a set for a second gen Camaro. The team at Speedway Motors Fiberglass helped us bond them to a pair of fiberglass front fenders, making plenty of room for 335’s to match the rear.

This Camaro spends most of its time on track at various autocross events across the country.

Why the lightning graphics? This is also a cool story. We knew that 2-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. would be spending some time behind the wheel of the Camaro and wanted the car to reflect its legendary driver. As you may already know, Al Jr’s dad also had a fair amount of success as a driver, and one of the cars that he was driving when this Camaro rolled off the assembly line happens to be in the collection of the Museum of American Speed. The Johnny Lightning Special wears one of the most dramatic and recognizable paint jobs in the history of racing, so it only made sense to paint our Camaro to match.

Al Sr's Johnny Lightning Indy car, the inspiration behind the Camaro's lightning graphics.

Five years on, this car has carried Team Speedway Motors drivers Al and Robby Unser to numerous Goodguys AutoCross wins, including a solid start to the 2021 Goodguys season for Robby with wins at the Spring Nationals in Scottsdale and Salt Lake Nationals. Over the years it's also had a few top ten finishes at Holley’s LS Fest (against hopped up late-model Corvettes) and even an SCCA Pro Solo National Championship for Robby. It’s been constantly updated and tinkered with, serving as a test platform for many of the innovations that have made their way into the Speedway Motors catalog. Autocrossing and road racing can be brutally hard on equipment. We’ve found it to be a great way to put our parts through the wringer before putting them on the shelf. Not only do we know they’ll withstand the abuse, but we know they work, thanks in part to this little Camaro and the dedicated crew of engineers, drivers, and technicians who keep pushing its development.

Feature photos by Tyler Clemmensen courtesy of Goodguys Rod & Custom Association

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