The legend of the Big Red Camaro stretches back to 1987 when the father and son team of Dan and R.J. Gottlieb set out to build the ultimate muscle car.
The recipe was simple: Take a stock 1969 Z/28, weld in a roll cage, and stuff an 800 hp Lingenfelter 540ci big block under the hood. Unsurprisingly, the car dominated at top speed and road racing events until a wicked 150 mph crash at the Mexican La Carrera Classica. Fortunately, R.J. and his co-driver walked away, but the Camaro came home in pieces
It was quite a roadblock, but by no means the end of the road for Big Red.
Dan and R.J. got to work piecing the car back together—but this time it was no holds barred. Motivated by the same 540ci mill as before, Big Red returned sporting a NASCAR-style chassis built to better handle the tremendous power of the high compression big block. In this guise, the Camaro became a common sight in the winner’s circle, including the 1989 Silver State Classic Challenge, where it devoured the 94 mile open road course in a blistering 27 minutes and 54 seconds, posting a top speed of 222 mph.
In 1996, following years of continued success, Big Red was parked in a museum for the public to enjoy. But the story doesn’t end there. These days, The Original Outlaw Racer has busted out of retirement and is back to defending its title as the ultimate Camaro.
In 2004, Big Red was upgraded yet again, this time with a new dual-quad-fed 598ci Brodix engine that put out nearly 1,100 horsepower. This mill powered Big Red through countless top speed contests, including the NORC Speed Stop Z2Z competition, where it posted a 30 second mile-long sprint to 178.83 mph before dropping anchor and coming to a dead stop in just 1,340 feet. At the 2006 running of the Silver State Classic, the Camaro topped 215 mph despite fuel system issues early in the race. And in 2009, Big Red even made a cameo appearance in the fourth “Fast and Furious” movie.
Not keen to bask in Big Red’s newfound stardom, it was back to the track for R.J. and his team. With their sights turned toward land speed racing, the Camaro received yet another round of upgrades, including a supercharged 555ci Brodix big block (boosting power to 1,600 hp), along with some aero-trickery in the form of a wind tunnel tested hood scoop, wing, and deep chin spoiler. These upgrades allowed Big Red to barrel down the Mojave Mile at 266 mph and set an AA/CBFALT class record at Bonneville of 258 mph.
But Big Red’s steering wheel isn’t just for show. R.J. has also managed to fling Big Red (in road racing form, see full specs below) around various road courses, including a vintage showcase at Road Atlanta, Vintage Auto Racing’s Big Bore Bash at Willow Springs, and even the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, where Big Red summited the 12.4 mile, 156 turn course in 11:08.857.
The original Pro Touring Camaro has seemingly done it all and crushed the competition wherever it goes. What else is there to conquer? As it turns out, future plans involve a possible visit to the Goodwood Estate for the annual Festival of Speed and even a trip to the Rhineland to turn some laps around Germany’s famous “Green Hell,” the Nurburgring Nordschliefe.
If you want the real nuts and bolts of Big Red’s journey, check out the Driving Fast and Taking Chances docuseries on Amazon Prime Video. You can also follow Big Red’s antics on your preferred social media network as it continues to conquer any racing discipline it encounters.
We can’t wait to see where it excels next!
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 “Big Red” Road Race Trim Fast Specs
- Frame: Custom stock car tube chassis and cage by Bill Osbourne
- Body: Original steel body and floor pan
- Rear End: 9″ rear end with 31 spline axles, Strange 4.30 ring and pinion, Strange spool
- Suspension: Double wishbone with 3-way adjustable coilovers and Eibach springs (front), three-link with coilovers and Panhard rod (rear), 14:1 manual steering rack
- Brakes: Baer 6-piston monoblock calipers, Baer 14″ rotors
- Wheels and Tires: 18″ BBS E88 wheels, Hoosier R7 315-30/R18 tires
Engine and Transmission
- Engine: Brodix 555ci big block Chevy, Carillo connecting rods, CP pistons, Isky lifters, Brodix cylinder heads, T&D roller rocker arms, Comp Cams timing belt drive system, custom AN braided lines by G&J Aircraft, 15 qt. dry sump oil system, built by Larry Mollicone
- Induction and Fuel System: Holley Dominator EFI, dual Aeromotive A1000 fuel pumps, Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold, Accufab throttle body, 55 gal. fuel cell, K&N air cleaner
- Exhaust: Custom headers by Greg Holman, REF Unlimited tailpipes and mufflers by Dave Ward
- Cooling: Edelbrock water pump, Perma-Cool fans, C&R radiator
- Transmission: G-Force GSR “H-Pattern” 4-speed manual, Tilton 7.25″ clutch and pressure plate, Tilton bellhousing, Long shifter
- Ignition and Electrical: RacePak data system, MSD Pro Billet Distributor, MSD Flying Magnet crank trigger wheel, MSD Power Grid 7 ignition control, MSD HVC-2 coil, Moroso ignition wires, Tilton starter, Powermaster alternator
- Paint and Bodywork: Rounsville Auto Body/Mike Dorman
- Graphics: Kasch Graphics