From the real-deal to the composite replicas, the first-generation 1967-69 Chevrolet Camaro is without question drag racing’s most popular make and model of vehicle, and there are shining examples of this fine muscle car to be found all across the vast straight-line landscape. But one of its newest may just be the finest of them all.
Grudge and no-time drag racing star Mario Johnson has illustrated impeccable taste in race cars, as evidenced by some of the machines he has campaigned previously, including the unmistakable “Ghost” Corvette.
For his return, Johnson and his BMF Racing tabbed John Setzer of Setzer Race Cars to build the Camaro brand-new from the ground up, utilizing a factory steel roof and quarter panels. The car, known as “Lucky Luciano,” is powered by a 11.7-inch deck height, 4.840-inch bore space big-block, measuring 765 cubic inches, built by TRE Racing Engines, and gulping a hefty dose of nitrous oxide. Michael Bunton wired the FuelTech FT600 and FTSpark system, which Kevin Mullins and Ziff Hudson at TKM will help to dial-in. The car rides on Menscer Motorsports double adjustable monotube front struts, and four-way adjustable rear shocks with custom valving on the rear, all with Menscer’s spring package. Menscer did the setup and alignment and scaled the car out, and will be assisting in chassis tuning throughout the shakedown process.
“It’s a very interesting car when you see it in person…it’s got a lot of my tricks built into it, things are built the way I wanted,” Johnson says. “It came out beautiful. Kip at City Garage & Body Shop does all our painting for us. I’m proud of it, and I really like it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Corvette, but every new project has something special to it.
“I really honestly do think I have a good eye for a car, especially when you have guys that can take what you’re thinking and bring it out in a product,” Mario continues. “I was involved in this project every step of the way. I try to make it really easy on the builders, because I tell them exactly what I want. I can’t build it, but I can tell them exactly how I want it, and give input and influence it at every step. So I got to see it all come together. It was fun, and it came out great…I just love it. I just hope it’s a top contender in the class, because it would be a shame to look that way and not run.”
Johnson says the car was purpose-built not for grudge racing, but…