Hugger Orange Will Always be ... Hugger Orange.
TEXT: Ro McGonegal
PHOTO: Robert McGaffin
ONE quick scan of Ric Pinola’s tight coupe tells you that he’s a man of means, possibly of many means. He didn’t take part in the actual build but he did plenty of research prior to the commencement. Here’s the setup. “I’d driven the car as a stocker for most of the 20 years I’ve had it,” Ric says. “When I discovered Pro Touring, I wanted to bring the car into the 21st century with a modern drivetrain and suspension.”
Ric laid down cash for his prize in 1987, just prior to earning his driver’s permit. He’d wanted a Camaro, though not one in Hugger Orange. He would have rather had it in red or black. The plan was to tool it around for a year, you know, to see how he liked driving a 20-year-old car, and then he’d have it repainted in a shade more to his liking. After the tenure was up he was convinced of his love for driving it. Then he did an about-face. “I had the car repainted Hugger Orange with white Rallye stripes. I had the interior redone in the original white. It was my daily transportation through high school and college. I was ‘the guy with the orange car’.”
When school was out forever, he parked his flame-colored raggie and got behind a series of BMWs for daily driving duty. Do you think that (compared to agrarian set of the original Camaro) a well-balanced chassis and the impressive handling indigenous to the German cars could have influenced him in the least?
“My Camaro still saw regular duty on sunny days and on the weekends, but more than 20 years had passed since I bought it, and the time for freshening was at hand. Initially, I wanted to have the interior redone and during my search for capable help, I came across websites, Pro-touring.com and Lateral-g.net among them.” Then he got socked with a juicy double whammy, and Ric was enlightened beyond expectation.
“The idea of my car with the handling of a modern car was a dream come true. I had read about cars like Big Red [the iconic 220-mph Pro Touring poster child] but thought them too extreme to be a ‘regular car.’” If there was any part of Ric that hadn’t been converted to the new life, then following the build of [the] “Fuel” [Camaro] convinced him that G-Force Design Concepts [Chambersburg, Pennsylvania] could turn his dream into a four-wheeled tangibility. Accordingly, Ric got with illustrator Ben Hermance (Design) for a titillating preview of what was to eventually roll out the front of the G-Force barn.
Sure, the revamping gobbled up more than three years of toil, but Ric got exactly what he’d wished for: “There isn’t anything terribly unique about my car and I wanted it that way. At first glance, it should look like a nice Hugger Orange Camaro with big wheels. At closer inspection, you will notice the upgraded suspension, subtle trim mods, and custom interior.”
Yes, and much more than that, Ric. It’ll give ’em a head full of spiders.
A simple, surefire formula applied here: instill the basically frame-less body with everything on the Detroit Speed wish list. For the back half, G-Force laid up the QuadraLink four-bar system, antisway bar, and DSE coilover shocks. Rear ride height is 2 inches lower than standard. DSE spindles adopt tubular upper and lower control arms, antisway bar and adjustable coilovers bookend the hydroformed stub. Total body drop is 2 inches. Steering is a power-assisted rack assembly.
FLASH AND SMOKE
These days, you can find an LS orphan just about everywhere. Most fans adhere to the larger displacement variants such as the LQ9, L92, LS2, or LS3. Since the 6.0L LQ9 in Ric’s car wasn’t going to be stressed to the max, it retained the original cast/nodular rotating assembly and was poked with a proprietary-spec camshaft from Bret Bauer, but undoubtedly a hydraulic roller-tappet assembly. COMP pushrods bump OE 1.7:1 ratio rocker arms. The top end was capped with efficient LS6 cylinder heads and a sexy FAST intake manifold fitted with a 90mm throttle body. The motor operates with a street-gas–friendly 10.5:1 compression ratio and is fed by a Bosch 044 fuel pump. Five quarts of lube circulate throughout and coalesce in an OE-cast sump for redistribution. Coolant is traced via a Stewart water pump and travels through a custom-built G-Force aluminum core. Ancillaries (Powermaster alternator, Sanden A/C compressor, and OE power steering pump) are captured by a Vintage Air front runner. On the exhaust side of the equation, Lemons Headers with 13/4-inch primaries (HPC-coated) feed into a G-Force designed stainless tract (with X-pipe), thence to a pair of fully packed MagnaFlow muffs. Output from this spicy hors d’oeuvre is estimated to be 427 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. Moving that torque to a palpable application is the business of a Spec Stage 3+ clutch assembly, the Tremec T56 Magnum transmission, and the custom-length Dynotech Engineering propeller shaft. Terminus is a Moser 9-inch that’s stocked with a 3.73:1 ratio and a Truetrac limited-slip differential.
PAINT AND BODY
When the rough stuff was happening, G-Force nailed the big back tire dilemma with DSE deep wheeltubs and the attendant “frame” modifications. Since Ric had cared for and respected the Camaro in its prior lives, and because there were no subtle metal modifications to attend, body prep was minimal — but finishing it could have been infinite. G-Force’s Brad the Painter sprayed the Hugger Orange and corresponding stripes.
As might be expected in a super crate like this, the brakes are blue-plate big — Wilwood front and rear, featuring 14- and 13-inch rotors and six- and four-piston calipers. Wheel size is typical, too. HRE C21 rims are 18 inches in diameter, and 10 and 12 inches wide. Omnipotent rubber (for slalom, braking, straight-line acceleration, and road course) is 275/35 and 335/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 2.
Before things began to move along too quickly, G-Force made lots of room for the custom stereo install and center console installations. An Alpine iPod head is accompanied by an Alpine amp, front and rear speakers, and a JL Audio subwoofer. Moving along, Auto Meter Sport-Comp II gauges are socked in a clean, straight custom dash panel. Helman’s Upholstery in Chambersburg dressed out the power-assisted Recaro-style Top Line seats and the backbench in a likely leather and suede combination to coincide with the Marquez door and side panels.