Father-and-son racers, Bruce and Mitchell Laucks, grabbed the collective intrigue of the internet recently when the first images surfaced of their sleek, new, second-generation Camaro destined for 8.50-index competition in the Northeast.
Born in 1988, thirty-three-year-old Mitchell has never seen his father drag race; Bruce, now 67 and enjoying the fruits of his labor in retirement, competed in acceleration contests in the 1980s before stepping away to build and display show cars throughout Mitchell’s youth and young adulthood. Now, the two are partaking in the sport of drag racing together, and they’ve done so the way any father-son project ought to be: building the car together in their own garage.
“My dad raced in the ’80s and hasn’t done anything since; he’s been talking about it for a while and when we found this car I said, ‘let’s do this.’ He raced before I was born, so I didn’t get to do it with him, and I’ve been wanting to,” Mitchell says.
“We used to build show cars, and that got kind of boring. So this is like our new adventure,” he continues.
The Laucks found the car, a 1980 model Chevrolet Camaro, on Craigslist; the previous owner had begun the project and didn’t see it through to completion. Mitchell says the quarter panels were in rough shape, and because the quarters changed so little between 1970 and 1980, a pair of ’70 quarters were hung on it and the entire car was was transformed into a ’70-model split bumper.
The chassis, with unknown origins but well-built nevertheless, retains the factory front framerails and is Chromoly tube from the firewall on back. The Laucks bought the chassis (tacked together at the time) and body and set about final-mounting the body, fabricating the firewall and the floors, and so on. For this, their collective experience as fabricators and painters was invaluable.
The powerplant is a 565 cubic-inch big-block built upon a Dart block with Dart 380 Pro-2 heads, built by Randy Harshman at Harshman Automotive in Maryland. Harshman utilized a Molnar crank and rods and Diamond pistons, along with a Bullet custom-grind cam for the short block, with Jesel keyway lifters and shaft-mount rockers, and Smith Brothers pushrods to finish it out. A Holley Dominator ECU provides directions to the Injector Dynamics injectors downwind from a Wilson throttle body.
“We were originally just going to build a mild 565 with nitrous because we wanted to run 8.50 Index at Cecil County Dragway. But when he got into it, Randy didn’t think we needed nitrous to go 8.50; we thought we were going to make about 1,000 horsepower and it made almost 1,200. We have a fogger for it, but it’s not on there anymore because we’re not going to need it,” Mitchell says.
An Abruzzi 1.80-ratio Powerglide and Greg Slack converter deliver the power to a Mark Williams driveshaft and 9.5-inch rear end with 4.29 gears. The Laucks chose Sander front and rear wheels and stylish TBM brakes for rolling and stopping hardware, and Mickey Thompson 315 drag radials plant it all the ground.
A ’70-model one-piece front end was mounted and outfitted with remanufactured grille and headlight bezels; the tail panel and quarters were changed out, and the entire car was coated in a GM “Rally Green” colorway. “We couldn’t figure out a color and my daughter told my dad that he needed to paint it green. Everybody says green is a bad color on racecars, that it’s bad luck…I don’t know if it’s bad luck or not, the car hasn’t run yet. But hopefully, it’s not.”
With the fiberglass nose, doors, and decklid, the Camaro came in well under the expected 3,000-pound weight mark — ballast has been added just to make the 2,850-pound car and driver minimum.
Mitchell, who fabricated the firewall, the headers, performed the bodywork, and applied the paint, among other things, says he hopes to one day license in the car and take a shot at the 1/4-mile himself, but for now says “I’m looking forward to seeing him do it, and I enjoy the fabrication and the build side of it. And I get to learn how to be a crew chief.” His efforts certainly show, and the response online only cements that fact.
“It caught me off guard how well it was going to be received because I don’t hashtag or do anything like that. Some guy messaged me that runs one of these drag-car Instagram pages and said our car had something like 300,000 views. I was like, ‘are you serious?’ ”