PRIME TIME – 2012 Camaro

Over that last few years, I can safely say that I have seen it all and heard it all before at car shows. Nothing surprises me, and I love to watch people’s reactions to the new cars. At the WA Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular a few years ago, Brandon Mitchell debuted his insane 2012 Camaro. It stopped people in their tracks, quite literally. His wild machine screams attitude from front to back and is the epitome of tough. Punters were absolutely floored when they discovered it was ‘just’ a burnout car. Some of them got it, some of them were frustrated that Brandon wanted to ‘destroy’ such an amazing car and others were just overwhelmed by its presence. I heard so many different reactions it made me laugh. One thing though; even with opinions divided, everyone loved the Camaro and were full of praise for Brandon and his extensive, three-year build.

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I am a firm believer in doing the best you can, reaching for goals and doing your best to excel and thankfully, Brandon thinks along those exact same lines; hence why his Camaro is so incredibly well built. He didn’t want second best, he didn’t want to fit in with the crowd, and he didn’t want to have to do things twice. “I wanted to create a refined package that had a higher build quality than my previous one tonner. A car that could be at home on display at a show like MotorEx or out on a burnout pad destroying tyres” explained Brandon. Well, rest assured mate, I think you have done both with the ‘GRUDGE’.

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The Camaro, as good as it is, was never really meant to be, it was actually just a ‘right time at the right place’ situation for Brandon. Good mate George Separovich was over in the States looking at some tough cars when he found something of real interest – this car.  “I really like the old school stuff, and that was what I was originally on the hunt for – something like a Nova, to turn in to a skid car, but that plan went out the window when George found the Camaro on the East Coast of America. It was a 7 or 8-second car with a 427ci nitrous motor in it and was built for grudge racing. George reckoned it was so good, he was going to buy it,” said Brandon.

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The quality of the work that had gone into the car was unlike anything he had seen before and to recreate such a build would take some serious moolah. So it was a given that the car had to be sent back to Perth ASAP, but the boys missed the boat and then it was nervous six month wait for Brandon until it reached our shores. Truth be told, I saw the car myself before even Brandon did. I teased him with a heap of photos of the bright yellow, Yenko striped Camaro shell and it was a few days later when he could finally collect it from my mate’s yard.

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That nitrous assisted, big block no longer resided in the car but that was no drama at all, Brandon still had his blown and injected 377ci Chev left over from his old tonner ‘BIG RIG’. All that was left to do was let George give the motor a freshen-up and then slot that bad boy in.

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All the good gear was there from the first build too – the Crower crank, Oliver rods and CP pistons. The CNC ported Dart heads were still perfect, and there was no need to alter the 8/71 Littlefield blower and a carbon fibre Pro Mod injector hat either. The whole combo is good for a deafening 1000-plus hp roar. Peter Veersma from Welshpool Automatics gave the Reid case Powerglide a once over, and a Fremantle Torque Converters custom torque converter fills the void. A Final Drive tailshaft sends the power back to a full floating sheet metal 9-inch with 35 spline axles.

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Greg from Ducker Race Cars was given the go-ahead to perform some of the necessary modifications to convert an ex-strip weapon into a tyre killer. “Greg shortened the diff to suit the deep dish KWC billets in the rear, and because the car only ever had front runners on it, a custom k-frame had to be made to fit the 8” wide billets on the front. I got the 22×8 and 22×12 KWC billet wheels from Adam Spiteri at Cronic Customs,” explained Brandon.

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The Strange Engineering manual steering rack didn’t have enough steering lock to satisfy his requirements, so that was tossed in the bin and a BA Falcon unit found its way under the front of the Camaro, along with Wilwood brakes, front and rear. Greg also built an engine plate, a set of headers and the full 4-inch exhaust system too. “The car still runs the original floor, but the tube chassis has been notched into the original framework. Inside the car, the roll cage is notched into the pillars, so with the trim fitted you don’t even know it’s there. It is a lot of work to do that,” said Brandon.  Aiden Stampalia fabricated the new flat firewall to suit the engine, and Todd at Blizzard Customs whipped up the aluminium tanks that take pride of place at the front of the ‘bay.

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As the build progressed, Brandon was still coming up with ideas on how the car should look. The guys at Kustom Panel and Paint are well known in WA for painting most of the ‘big name’ skid cars, so Brandon let them have a crack at transforming the car. The holes in the front guards (where the exhaust originally exited) were filled, the side mirrors were given the flick, the engine bay was massaged, and the fibreglass bonnet was modified to suit the Camaro’s new engine combo.

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After much debate on colour selection, the final choice of Lamborghini Orange with some extra PPG Vibrance pearl over the top hit the top of the list. With the car painted and back together, it seemed to be missing something. Brandon reckoned some sort of graphics was the go. “I bought a factory stripe kit, but I just didn’t like how it looked, so I asked Jemahl from Current Trendz to design me a set of custom stripes. I think it looks awesome now, and it breaks up the colour nicely.”

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The inside of the car is impressive with just how basic and neat it is. It was always Brandon’s plan to keep it purposeful but comfortable. The trim has been kept as true as possible to the original interior, albeit for the addition of the Kirkey race seats trimmed in leather. The centre console is also trimmed in leather, as are the carbon fibre tubs and the modified rear seats. A Racepak dash has been moulded into the original dash and allows Brandon to keep an eye on all of the engine’s vitals.

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With the car finished now and recently returning home from its trip to MotorEx in Melbourne, Brandon was finally able to enjoy a few quick laps around a carpark at the Meguiars Cruise for Charity at the Perth Motorplex. “It was a pretty special moment to be able to jump in, fire it up and take it for a quick spin. Now it’s just a matter of getting some testing under my belt, and then it’s time to kill some tyres at some big events across the country. It feels like an eternity since I have been out on a pad. I am nervous but a good type of nervous,” said Brandon.

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I have no doubt that our main man will take it all in his stride. He deserves to be successful too, he is one of the guys who is working extra hard behind the scenes to make his dreams come true – 430am alarms set for work, long hours on the weekend and with the responsibility of a young family to boot – he has a lot on his plate. His humble and relaxed demeanour is something that sets him apart from a lot of people in the scene and I for one, can’t wait to see him out there enjoying the fruits of his labour.

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