There are many great tales in the world where a single owner holds onto their beloved car with the hopes of creating their ultimate hot rod. This story is a prime example as Kathy Hoover faithfully held on to her 1969 Z28 Camaro for over three decades, ultimately transforming it into a show-stopping driver combined with a performance pedigree worthy of Dragweek competition.
Kathy began her love of performance cars as an employee at the legendary US30 Dragstrip in Hobart, Indiana. She met her future husband, Don Hoover, at the track and enjoyed seeing him at US 30 through the time they were married.
“On our honeymoon, we went to Byron Dragway during their annual $10,000-to-win Bracket Nationals,” Kathy remembers. “That was a huge payout in those early days of bracket racing. We had so much fun racing together back then.”
The story takes a big twist when the Z28, tucked away for the winter in a large storage facility, was burned in a massive fire. Luckily, the Chevrolet sheet metal did not suffer too severely from the fire and heat. Don quickly had the Camaro sandblasted and sealed while salvaging all that was savable from the rubble.
Back in storage, Kathy began to envision the car again on the dragstrip, then as a street/strip car. Then, the popularity of the Pro/Street era caught her eye. Unfortunately, as the story of life goes for so many gearheads, life, family, and careers got in the way.
Don and Kathy held onto the Camaro for 32-years until one day, Kathy had made up her mind that it was time to resurrect her Camaro. “I told Don, I’m getting older, not younger,” she says. “My bucket list is getting longer, not shorter, and I wanted to either sell that body or we build my dream car.”
With the advent of Dragweek events becoming popular, the couple had both taken an interest in building their ultimate street car. But, they wanted the Camaro to have the “bones” of a drag car that the Camaro had once been for them. This competition fulfilled everything they wanted to accomplish with the Camaro renovation.
When we finished the car, we competed in Dragweek for two years in a row. I am so ecstatic with the car. My goal was to break into the 10-second zone, and it consistently ran 10.90s. – Kathy Hoover
The tubular chassis is constructed and certified to NHRA 25.1E specifications by US 12 Speed & Custom. A Fab-9 rear end housing is outfitted with Moser Engineering components such as aluminum thru-bolt center section with Detroit Locker differential and 35-spline axles. Wilwood Engineering brakes and master cylinder provide stopping power at each corner.
The suspension created to handle significant power on the track, yet add durability for the street, includes a reliable 4-link rear and control arm front suspension, both custom fabricated by US 12 Speed & Custom. Strange Engineering shocks are incorporated within both front and rear suspensions.
A GM Performance 6.2 Liter Chevy LS3 “connect and cruise” engine provides power for both track and highway. The 525-horsepower crate engine uses an “ASA” cam with .525-inch lift on both intake and exhaust sides and 1.7-ratio rocker arms.
The crate powertrain system bolts a performance 4L70E transmission together with a 3000- 3400-stall torque converter. A Dynotech Engineering aluminum driveshaft solidifies the overall drivetrain.
A blend of hardcore racing and original styling make up the interior. Kirkey aluminum seats hold the husband and wife with safety equipment in place, such as DJ Safety harnesses. The factory appearing dash is filled with a wealth of Autometer gauges. Shifting for the overdrive transmission is put into the driver’s hand with a Holley Performance/B&M Pro Ratchet shifter.
“When we are either at Dragweek or driving to a car show, we had to create some extra seat pads to make the drive tolerable,” Kathy jokes. “I’m not sure which makes the ride tolerable now; the padding or the pure fun of taking the Camaro down the road.”
One of the attention-getting visuals on the Camaro is the rolling stock. On the street, one-off custom 5-spoke wheels were designed and machined by Hot Rods by Boyd. The 15- by 4-inch fronts use Mickey Thompson Tires Sportsman S/R 26×8.00R/8 while the rear wheel tubs contain massive Nitto 420 305/50R20 tires.
“I told Rocky at US 12 that there were two non-negotiable things during the Camaro’s build,” Kathy recalls. “The General Motors “Fantom Green,” paint color and absolutely no chrome. Not only did the brushed nickel plating work come out the way we wanted it, but the anodized black aluminum work they pulled off is excellent.”
The body shell features a wealth of subtle modifications. The drip rails have been shaved along the roof line. The front and rear bumpers were cut, narrowed, and tucked to the body. The side markers have been shaved, and the overall look is finished out with absolutely no major chrome-plated hardware existing on the general Camaro.
The body also catches your eyes with the windshield and back glass areas modified to hold custom flush-mounted glass. Gone is the factory GM window trim. Kathy expands, “We had many of the parts, including the bumpers nickel-plated. Combined with the green paint, I wouldn’t change a thing. Brett Miller, also at US 12, did a great job of laying on the paint.”
The pair have put approximately 6,000-miles on the Camaro odometer since completion. That includes two-rounds of Dragweek in 2016 and 2017, and a wealth of car shows where they have gone home with many awards over the years.
When we first saw the green beauty at the Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield, Illinois, we were impressed with the car’s crowd appeal. Combined with the fact that for this particular show, it was a 420-mile round trip for the pair and that made it special. The word trailer is never spoken with the Hoovers.
The Hoovers have received two major awards at the Mother Road Festival in as many years. One of Kathy’s most prized trophies is the Bob Daniels award presented to her at the NHRA US Nationals last year. Not only is she the first female to win the award, it resulted in her invitation to show in a featured display during the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, KY.
The Camaro is not the only mechanical accomplishment for the couple. Don also has his own equally show-stopping 1955 Chevy that serves the similar dual purpose of the dragstrip and show circuits. Look for a similar feature in Rod Authority magazine very soon.
The ultimate reconstruction of their race car of the ’80s into a fantastic street/strip car was an exercise in “keeping the faith.” Not only can the pair hold their own at the dragstrip, but they also walk away with car show awards on the weekends in between.