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1969 Camaro Street-Driven Dominator ...And Other Divorceable Acts

We couldn't resist Rick Lantz's 1969 Camaro with a bonafide 746hp on the dyno.

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"Here is one for your horsepower page." Rick Lantz wasn't kidding when he flashed us a view of the Dominator and the 746hp dyno squiggles related to his '69 Camaro. We really couldn't resist when he threatened to drive the car on the freeway from its hiding place in Yorba Linda, California, to a scuzzy L.A. ghetto to show us the goods: four-speed, four-link, and giant Brodix 14-degree heads and all.

What would you do? He had a '95 Z28 with a Vortech supercharger, some Torq-Thrust IIs, and lots of aftermarket stuff, but he needed a cam to make any real power and reality bites. In California, you just can't do it, so Rick looked for some old iron. His first score was the promise of a '63 Nova with a mildly built 383, but when it showed up, it didn't have the 10.5:1 compression or the 383 that was promised. It turned out to be a stock 350 with cast pistons, but it did have the Demon carb, Edelbrock heads, and some other sundry items.

"I would have had to put a lot of work into the car to get it to go, which was what I was trying to avoid from the Z28 episode," Rick admits. He found another car on the Internet that looked more like a driver with a 700-horse small-block that was allegedly already dialed. The previous owner had become obsessed with the trinket and succumbed to its demands, spending night and day shuttling it to different shops and working on it endlessly at the price of his family. He got the car; she got everything else. Snapped from the spell, he put the car up for sale. Rick drove the car once and bought it.

"That's where my nightmare began," Rick remembers. On Easter Sunday, it just died after chewing the distributor gear clean off. It had been nibbling for a while and depositing chunks into the oil. After that was fixed, it all of a sudden made a hell of a racket and destroyed a lifter, rocker arm, and pushrod, likely due to a slurry of oil chunks floating through the valvetrain. Then and there, Rick decided it should be able to live on the street.

He called his boat-engine-building buddy, who is accustomed to building big small-blocks that live idling around on the river all day. He had some good ideas to stabilize the drivetrain with larger lifters, cam bearings, and a rebuilt shaft-rocker system. They also noticed it had pistons with vertical gas ports, which tend to clog when there is no rpm to clear the carbon. That required a complete teardown and rebuild. Soon, the engine was on the Westech dyno where Steve Brule and crew messed with cam timing and oil levels to hit a peak horsepower number. We pressured Rick to admit it is tuned for bragging rights. It's kind of peaky, but he doesn't think it is too big a deal with such a big engine in a relatively light car.

Rick put the whole car together in his garage on his back with the car on jackstands. "Fortunately, the Jeffco is light, so I just bench-pressed it in," he said. With his wife's help, it took him about three unhurried days to put it together. His experience comes from a job at TRD Racing, where he was required to dabble with fuel injection back when they were into open-wheel racing. These days, Toyota is into NASCAR, forcing Rick to fall back to the rudimentary world of carbs. And what better way to learn than to drive a car with a Dominator? "I used to tinker with my Typhoon and the Camaro with LT-1 Edit to customize the curves until Toyota got out of IRL and got into the Craftsman Truck Series in 2004. Now they are headed for Busch and Cup cars in 2007." Rick is going to need the big carb skills as the Busch series program manager.

Look for Rick near the big ovals or near his home in Concord, North Carolina, in his Camaro. "I'd like to get it on the track as soon as I finish the 'cage. In the meantime, I'm going to take it out and terrorize the streets of North Carolina once in a while."

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