Even if you aren't into muscle cars, chances are you're familiar with the '69 Camaro. It's one of the most popular American cars of all time – right up there with legends the '55 Chevy and the '32 Ford. The machine you are looking at here is the famous "Big Red" Camaro – a car that many people have called the greatest Camaro ever. Besides being an all around badass car, Big Red also happens to fit right into this month's Speed theme. Unlike a lot of '69 Camaros, Big Red was never designed with quarter mile ET's in mind.
Nope, from the start Big Red was built for high speed dominance in open road races like the Silver State Challenge and the La Carrera Road Race.
These days it's rather common to find '69 Camaros packing wide rubber and high tech suspension set-ups, but Big Red got started in this game way back in 1987. Father and son duo Dan and RJ Gottleib had the idea to build a Camaro that could embarrass big dollar super cars on high speed courses and they got to work on the original Big Red. At that time the term "pro touring" didn't exist and the '69 Camaro wasn't even 20 years old. The first car was sadly destroyed during the 1988 La Carrera Road Race in Mexico, so Dan and RJ got to work on building a bigger and better "Big Red". The car you see in these photos is the second version of Big Red, which uses a beefy stock car chassis mated with an original steel Camaro body.
The under-hood shot gives a nice view of the heavy duty race chassis underneath the classic body. Big Red is powered by a fully built naturally aspirated big block Chevy displacing 540 cubic inches. No fancy fuel injection or twin turbo setups here. The engine produces a solid 875hp with 655 ft lbs of torque and can be wound to 7000RPM for long periods at a time.
Helping to keep Big Red planted at speeds well past 200mph are 335/30/18 Goodyears on all four corners, wrapped around 18" 3-peice BBS mesh wheels. Baer brakes with six-piston calipers and 14" rotors help slow her down from those ridiculous speeds. Again this stuff is common on modern pro touring cars, but was groundbreaking back in the late '80s.
The cockpit remains surprisingly original for a car of this type. The dash is an original '69 Camaro piece, and the seats are old school leather Recaros. Naturally there's a heavy duty roll cage as crashes above 200mph tend to be rather violent spectacles.
Over the years Big Red won a number of open road race events including the Silver State Challenge – an event the car's builders helped to create. During the inagural Silver State event, Big Red ran the 94-mile course in a record breaking 27:54 with an avergage speed of 198 mph and a top speed of 222 mph. After sitting in a museum for a while, Big Red was brought out of retirement to get back into the habit of outrunning supercars on the open road. Besides it's on-track record, Big Red is also a pioneer when it comes to style and many credit this car as starting the pro touring movement.
With groundbreaking performance and style, it's hard to argue with those who say Big Red is the best Camaro ever.
Check out more on the Big Red story at the official site.
Photos from Hot Rod Magazine.