GMP18951 – Big Red 1969 Chevrolet Camaro – 2017 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
The story of Big Red began in 1987 when RJ and his father Dan set out to build one badass Camaro to compete in the toughest Mexican road race the La Carrera Classica.
Dan and RJ assembled what they hoped would be a winning build based on an original ’69 Camaro powered by an all-aluminium, dry-sump Donovan built by the legendary John Lingenfelter.
With 540 cubic inches, Big Red was a 200 mph contender but while the 18-year-old RJ was leading the race he pushed it a little too hard.
Big Red went off-roading at 140 mph and was destroyed—the stock uni-body frame was just not up to the task.
Thankfully, RJ, his co-pilot Chris Kaufman and the Lingenfelter engine were unscathed.
Even before RJ got home from Mexico, Dan had located another ’69 and made plans for Bill Osborne to fab a new tubular stock car-style chassis.
As before, they wanted the Camaro to appear stock so it retained its steel body, glass windshield and even its roll-up windows.
Dan went so far as to have the rare, expensive aluminium block and heads painted Chevy orange to look like a stock, iron block.
Dan revealed in opening the hood and saying, “Look it’s just a warmed over 427.” Yeah right, a 427 that runs run consistently over 200 mph.
“That’s the magic of Big Red,” said RJ.
Engine builder Larry Mollicone overhauled the 504 and his dyno indicated 850 hp and 750 lb-ft of torque.
Backing up the naturally aspirated engine was a Jerrico four-speed and a 9-inch Detroit Locker rear end with Koni coil-overs and twin-calliper vented discs.
Big Red was entered into in a wide spectrum of events including The Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, The Texas Mile, Vintage Auto Racing’s “Big Bore Bash” at Willow Springs, the Mojave Mile, the Mojave Magnum and the Virginia City Hill Climb.
RJ took top honours at nearly every event while Red was featured in the 2009 movie the ‘Fast and the Furious 4’.
The secret to Big Red’s success in so many varied venues is the ability of the team to switch it from road race trim to hill climb mode to balls out, high-speed runs.
For example, the set up employed for the Mojave Mile would not be the same set up used for Pikes Peak where specific tuning resulted in a very competitive 11:08.357-second run placing them fourth in the Open Class.
ETA: May 2024
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