CAM (Classic American Muscle) has been one of the hottest new additions to the SCCA Autocross new class. Introduced for the for first time in 2014 as a “c’mon over” invite to the Good Guys builders and participants, we’ve seen an influx of beautifully built American cars hit the local autocross scenes since inception. From modded Chevy C10’s, Plymouth Valiant’s, a variety of Mustangs, to Hemi Cuda’s, we’ve seen a lot of diverse builds, and drivers of all skill level show up.
One car and driver the stood out and gave the San Diego Region CAM-T hot shoes of Tom Kamman and Richard Trujillo a run for their money is Chad Ryker. Ryker’s beautifully built Classic Camaro is a testament of what precision engineering, dedication, and proper craftsmanship can create. Welcome to the December 2015 Domestic Edition of the apexjunky Garage Files!
What type of car do you have?
1968 Chevrolet Camaro
A lot of people give their cars nicknames/actual names. Do you have one for your Camaro?
Not really. To myself I sometimes think of it as “Just Another Red Camaro” as there are many red first gen Camaros out there. For me it has a bit of a double meaning, because while there are a lot of Camaros that look like mine out there, not very many get driven as hard and as frequently as mine does.
Is this car your daily driver? If not what is your everyday car?
I don’t rely on it as daily driver transportation but it very much is a streetable car. My goal has always been to have a track capable vehicle that can still drive itself to not only the race track but the grocery store and everything in-between. In fact, this past weekend I put over 400 miles on the car driving it to Buttonwillow and tracking it hard and driving home. Just one week before that I put over 1,000 miles on the car driving it to Laguna Seca and tracking it hard and driving it home. In just over a year I have put over 9,000 miles on the car.
Oh and my “daily driver” is a 2001 Harley Davidson FXST.
Mod List! Let’s have it!
Chassis / suspension related:
- TCI Engineering pro-touring front subframe
- TCI Engineering rear torque arm with a Currie 12 bolt rear end
- RideTech triple adjustable coil overs on all 4 corners
- Wilwood Disc Brakes 13” brakes with Superlight 6 piston calipers up front and 4 piston in back matched to a Wilwood 1” manual master cylinder
- Forgeline DS3 wheels. Front 9×18” and rear 11×18”
- Falken Azenis RT615K tires. Front 275/35/18 and Rear 315/30/18
- All aluminum Mast Motorsports LS3 based 427 cubic inch crate motor.
- Vintage Air Frontrunner accessory drive
- Fully rebuilt and lightly modified GM F-body T56 6 speed Transmission
- Hedman Hustler Hedders connected to a 3” mandrel bent Mangalfow exhaust system and mufflers
- Inland Empire aluminum driveshaft
- A Vaporworx fuel deliver system using a 5th gen Camaro fuel pump module retrofitted to a Rockvalley stainless steel gas tank
- Detroit speed mini tubs in back
- Inner front fenders modified by Best of Show Coachworks for wider tire clearance
- Spectre Performance front spoiler
- Full Painless wiring kit
- Vintage Air A/C & Heater
- 650 watt 2 amp and 4 speaker plus sub stereo system
- Autometer Phantom gauges
- Sparco Evo II driver seat
- Morris Classic Concepts seat belts
What was the biggest “surprise” obstacle you faced when you worked on the car (as in what was maybe supposed to have been an easy task but ended up being a pretty huge undertaking)?
Since I’ve owned this car I’ve gone through what I like to think of as three versions. V1.0 was a nice driver with some simple bolt on mods (springs, swaybars, shocks 4 wheel disc brakes) and an EFI SBC (Electronically Fuel Injected Small Block Chevy). It was a fantastic street cruiser but then I went and did my first road course “track day” with it and that got me instantly hooked. This led to V2.0 which added bigger disc brakes, Corvette based AFX tall spindles, tubular control arms, different sway bars, better wheels and tires etc.
Two years of consistently tracking V2.0 on road courses around SoCal and occasional autocross events led me to the current V3.0 to add the TCI Engineering suspension which snowballed into also adding the Mast Motorsports motor, tubing the car to run 275 and 315 wide tires and all the other little mods that came along with those things.
I foolishly thought V3.0 would be a 6 month upgrade but due to moving to a new home and several vendor and shop related “hot rodding” issues it was just over 2 years before the car was sorted well enough to get back to the race track. It was a much longer and far more frustrating process that almost killed my desire to be in the car hobby but I’m thankful that I persevered and more importantly for the outstanding support I received along the way that allowed me to get the car back in action and quite literally better than ever.
Have you always wanted to build this generation Camaro? If not what other cars have you built/modified?
In high school I was aware of the first gen Camaro but instead had my sight set on what would be my first car, a ’64 Chevrolet C10 Pickup. I lowered the truck, put wide rubber on it, a fuel injected motor and overdrive transmission in it while breaking A LOT of parts. I learned a lot from that truck.
Tires are always a challenge for these muscle cars. What is your tire of choice for autocross? For Track?
Since getting V3.0 of the Camaro sorted and regularly attending both autocross and track events the Falken Azenis RT615K has been my tire of choice. I get a balance of grip and longevity out of this tire and with the 200 TW rating it meets the requirements of events like SCCA CAM-T and Optima Ultimate Street Car (USCA) series.
A lot of people build their muscle cars for a power goal. When you set out building this car, was this one of your primary objectives or was it more to make a balanced chassis?
Originally, I wanted a well-balanced car overall. I didn’t know it at the time but I wanted what many consider to be a Pro-Touring muscle car. This is why V1.0 included an EFI motor, 6 speed double overdrive transmission, 4 wheel disc brakes, mild suspension mods, and creature comforts like A/C, comfy seats, sound deadened interior, sweet stereo, etc. Since my first track day in 2009, my focus has been building a better *handling* car. Both V2.0 and 3.0 the focus was on improving the handling. I would still be running my 280 rwhp small block chevy if within a month of ordering the TCI parts the Mast crate motor didn’t fall into my lap for a screaming deal.
Let’s talk suspension. Given the geometry what do you think is one thing the car could do better (i.e. sweepers, hairpins, transients)?
Specific to just handling the top of my current to do list is to try and get more rear traction on corner exit. A big part of this is the level of power I’m running but I also feel it in fast transitions (like slaloms). I’d like to experiment with the class maximum (per CAM-T and USCA rules) 8” rear spoiler to see if it will do the trick or not.
I also want to use this question to describe just how much improvement and transformation I gained in my car when I went from the V2.0 with a suite of the most popular bolt on mods to the stock subframe and rear leaf springs to V3.0 with TCI subframe and torque arm plus RideTech shocks. It completely transformed the car.
With my old setup all driving technique boiled down to was try to minimize the unavoidable understeer of the plow monster that my car felt like.
The new suspension parts gave me the ability to truly place the car into and out of corners as I wanted. I could induce both understeer and oversteer through driver inputs. It literally opened my eyes to the world of performance driving. Since I started with the geometry of a 60’s muscle car I really didn’t know what a good car felt like. I could read and listen to all the driving tips in the world but they offered marginal benefit until I was driving a much more capable chassis.
Also, having triple adjustable shocks and more importantly experimenting with them has taught me a lot about tuning suspension and just how powerful good shocks are to handling.
What would you say the car’s primary strength is?
I’m really happy with the current state of the car. To me it’s strength is that I can do anything I want in it and be successful and have fun. It doesn’t matter if I want to hit a race track, autocross, cruise down California’s Pacific Coast Highway, the car does it all.
Recently you went to Laguna Seca. Did you trailer the car there? Did you have any issues doing your sessions?
Oops, I kind of let the cat out of the bag in my answers above (before I saw this question), but yes, I did attend Laguna Seca (amazing track BTW), and no I did not trailer the car. If you talked to me a few years ago when I had a much more mild build I held a critical view of folks that trailer their cars for any reason. My goal is still to drive to events and I take pride in successfully doing so.
In fact, I dream of competing in the One Lap of America, which to me is the ultimate test of street and track endurance! I had no issues at all during my trip to Laguna Seca. I literally drove 1,039 miles round trip and the only “tool” used was a tire pressure gauge and that is the norm I find.
Twice, I’ve had incidents that jeopardized my ability to drive home. One, I was able to find a relatively easy way to fix it to get me home, and the second, I was offered the use of a trailer and I took it. If I’m attending a local autocross I don’t usually pack any tools. For track days I pack a trunk full. I stocked tool box with typical basic hand tools, floor jack, 2 jack stands, multi meter, tire iron, torque wrench etc. It all still fits in my trunk along with my sub-woofer. (Continued after Video Break)
Take a ride with Chad at Laguna Seca in his LS3 Powered Camaro
You’ve autocrossed a lot this year and are definitely one of the contenders in CAM-T. The age old debate is ever on going as to who/what is better track or autox. Do you personally feel as though autocross made you more aware track driver?
Absolutely. I have a lot more respect for the sport of autocross today than I did about 14 months ago when I started attending events again with the car. Now that I have a more drivable car autocross has really helped me learn car control faster and in a safer manner than I could have ever learned on the track. It has only been in the last few months that I have come to appreciate how much I have learned. Being able to better enter a corner with the car weighted where and how I want it as well as use and control over steer on exit has been a huge help on the track. This past weekend I went two wheels off on the bustop corner at Buttonwillow and the oversteer reflexes I learned in autocross is the difference between the totally minor event that is was for me than something much more serious. A year ago I would have completely gone off track in the same situation.
I’d like to also say that my appreciation for autocross has grown significantly due to attending SCCA Solo events. The track design of these LA and San Diego regions is so much bigger and more complex/interesting than anything I attended previously that I don’t feel like any opinion I had about autocross before attending an SCCA designed course was fair.
Given your performance at El Toro and San Diego events, it’s pretty clear that you are one of the better drivers in CAM-T. Do you see yourself trying the SCCA National Level Circuit?
First of all, thank you for the kind words about my performance! At this point I don’t really see myself going but that could change. It was really inspiring to see several of my friends and local competitors from San Diego compete at nationals in the CAM class this year. I have a competitive streak and want to win events and compete against the best (like many others I’m sure) but competition still takes a back seat for me to having fun driving my car. I have no doubt that attending nationals in Nebraska would be fun but it is a matter of the fun per dollar at an event like that where the distance adds considerable cost versus the local venues. I haven’t ruled it out and if the circumstances were right I would go. (Continued after video break)
Take a ride with Chad at one of the autocross events
Are there any sponsors you would like to acknowledge for their assistance in getting your car to the way that it is?
I have to give a very big and heartfelt thank you to TCI Engineering for the amazing post-sales support. From day 1 they provided awesome setup advice and told me they would share every bit of knowledge they had about setup. Not only knowledge but since they are a local manufacturer (in SoCal) we attend some of the same events and they have offered everything from a shady spot, bench racing, to physically wrenching on the car in support of my competition efforts. They are a great group of guys and it was one of my proudest moments when I could show my appreciation for the amazing support by finally beating the TCI test Camaro on the track ha ha!
While not what I would consider a formal Sponsor I would also like to thank Wilwood Disc Brakes for their track-side support at both Optima USCA events I attended this year. I would also like to thank Falken Tires for some last minute tire shipments.
As most of raced cars undergo continuous changes, what are the next plans for the car?
Oh man, for me no car is ever truly “done.” On the safety front I’ve been researching roll cage design and various rules bodies for a while as well as talking to some shops in SoCal to get at least a roll bar put in the car. I also want to get 5 point harnesses and a fire suppression system. The previously mentioned rear spoiler is on the list and some brake upgrades (cooling for the front brakes and trying to eliminate pad knock back). Oh and hood vents and possibly a larger oil cooler. This list actually quite long so I will stop here…
Check out Chad’s website – autocrossandtrack.com to follow along with his racing endeavors and check out other cool builds and cars.