First Drive: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro G-Code by Ringbrothers
ORANGE COUNTY, California — The Chevrolet Camaro's original codename — Panther — has never made more sense. Panthers strike their prey with brutal fury, ravaging their dinner's flesh, tearing limbs, and crunching bone. That's how my innards feel today, pulled from my body and laid bare beside me after the onslaught from Ringbrothers' 1,000-horsepower creation, the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro G-Code.
Like other Ringbrothers builds, the Camaro G-Code started as a ratty classic— in this case, a '69 Camaro RS. After Jim and Mike Ring found the car, they brought it to their small shop, which doubles as collision repair business, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. There, where cows outnumber people four to one, the brothers channel their automotive OCD into kinetic works of art like G-Code.
Jim started the collision repair business in 1989, but it wasn't until five years later when he convinced Mike to come aboard that they began building things they thought were cool. They focused on minute details like hood brackets, hand built bumpers, door panels, and small machined pieces — all barely apparent unless pointed out. After seeing the public's response, they began to view customizing cars as a legitimate business idea.
Underneath G-Code Camaro's "Blue Print" BASF paint, the Rings grafted in a Detroit Speed Hydroform front subframe with a rack-and-pinion power-assisted steering unit. Out back, a Quadra-Link rear end with fully independent suspension using AFCO shocks helps keep the ride soft while highway cruising. With great power needs to come great stopping ability and in the case of the G-Code, that comes from a Baer Brakes system featuring 15-inch rotors up front and 14-inch ones at rear.
Powering the G-Code is a Wegner Motorsports-built V-8 which, like the rest of the engines used by the Rings, is the car's pièce de résistance. It started life as a 376 cu-in LS3 V-8 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance, but Wegner bored it out to displace 416 cubic inches and added a 2.9-liter twin-screw Whipple supercharger to deliver the aforementioned 1,000 hp as well as 890 lb-ft of torque.
Rowing through the rigid gears of the Bowler Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, I find that there's barely an inch of travel in the heavy Centerforce Clutch. Even with the supremely gummy 335/30 R-20 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and John's Industries 12-Bolt rear end, the G-Code's tires search constantly for relief from the torque that makes first through third gears almost useless.
Pushing the machined billet-aluminum shifter it into second gear causes the whole chassis to shake with violent energy under a minuscule amount of throttle load. As the brushed gold tachometer needle rushes towards 12 o'clock, the chassis' vibrations ease. At 3,500 rpm, the engine is singing, but 1,000 more rpms later, the car returns to its rancorous character and all hell breaks loose.
A sonic boom and staccato whine ripples through a sea of palm and lemon trees. I wonder if, when Chevrolet first instructed Henry C. Haga, the director of GM Design Center's Chevrolet Studio, to design the company a Mustang-fighter, he could have ever conceived that his project would spawn such a brute?
The bare carbon lattice in the hand-laid two-piece carbon fiber hood is mesmerizing. A shallow depression in the road compresses the stiff 550-pound rear springs, causing the driveshaft to knock against the transmission tunnel and prompting us to decelerate to more prudent speeds.
After finding a curve among the vast lemon orchard's straight roads, I find the power steering to be like limp linguine. A mechanic who works for Ringbrothers tells me the over-boosted setup is still being sorted. "It's just returned from SEMA," he says. "We're still working out some of the kinks." If there are any other kinks besides the numb steering, they're not easily detectable. The car feels amazing in a frightening way.
You're not paying for safe, though; you're paying for a one-of-a-kind experience that keeps you enthralled every time you get behind the wheel. Ringbrothers doesn't do "off the shelf," and the G-Code ringing up at $600,000. The price shouldn't be surprising: almost every part has been touched and molded by either Jim or Mike's own hands.
When I first visited the Rings in Spring Green years ago, I asked Jim and Mike why, after their success, they didn't move to a larger shop so they could build more cars and perhaps raise their status in the industry? Jim leaned in and said, "How can you devote all your attention, all your passion into so many cars at a time? We drive every ounce of our passion into the car we're building at one single moment." That devotion is evident in each machined or carbon-fiber part you touch, and in the experience you have each time you blast down an abandoned street and release the G-Code Camaro into the wild.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro G-Code by Ringbrothers Specifications
|ENGINE||6.2L supercharged OHV 16-valve V-8/1,000 hp @ rpm, 890 lb-ft @ rpm (est)|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||186 x 74 x 81.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.0 sec (est)|