Cars are a lot like people: Some are easily identified and categorized. One look and you can tell if it is fast or slow, cheap or ultra-expensive, or it if it's all looks and no substance. Other cars aren't so transparent, and some are downright deceptive. Beware of those cars-you'll never know what hit you till it's all over.
Mike Knopp's Camaro is a good example of the latter. At first glance, it's a rather typical, clean Camaro rolling on Torq-Thrust wheels. The one thing that really stood out was the stellar black paintjob. But when Mike popped the hood, we nearly had to pick ourselves up off the floor. A supercharged, fuel-injected Merlin 502 was the last thing we expected to see in the engine compartment. This car is way more than just a pretty face.
We were tipped off to Mike's car by its painter, Russ Stevenson of Gold Coast Customs. And don't think of this as shameless self-promotion on Russ' part-the car was just a shell when he painted it nearly 10 years ago. Actually, he was reminded of the car when Mike brought it back to him last year to have the firewall smoothed and repainted. Russ must have had the same reaction when he saw it, because he immediately phoned us up to tell us about this Camaro we just had to check out.
It's good that we did, too. Mike's Camaro is so full of surprises, you'd have to scrutinize it to take everything in. The aluminum big-block is certainly one of the highlights, but there is so much more to see. For example, check out the custom brackets Mike made to mount his supercharger and engine-driven accessories or the fuel blocks he machined out of chunks of aluminum. Everything was built with an artist's eye and strict attention to detail.
Best of all, though, is that Mike built the car because he's passionate about it. He didn't build it as an investment but instead because he loves first-gen Camaros and had always wanted one. He didn't drop it off at a shop and hand over his credit card. He built it mostly at home in his garage. Yes, it's full of top-shelf stuff, but he has a good job as an aerospace engineer. Don't blame him for being smart. Respect him for building a car that is easily underestimated until he mats the gas and blows you away.