Coping Mechanism: Alan Morgan’s 2000 Chevy Camaro Z28

As human beings, we all have something we struggle to handle. Not always daily, sometimes it’s the memories that get to us the most. Our coping mechanisms vary greatly. While some in pain go down a dangerous path, others like Alan Morgan, find positive ways to deal with the bumpy roads of life.

When I first met Alan, he, his friends, and family just had completed this very 2000 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. He entered a local race that I covered and ended up in the winner’s circle. Alan began to tell me about how important this car was to him. As a car guy myself, I was moved by the touching story of this badass, stick shift, nitrous car, and I’m sure you will be, too.

At the beginning of 2015, Alan and his best friend, Andy Anderson, were in a horrific car accident. Unfortunately, Andy didn’t survive the catastrophe. They had grown up together, tinkering on cars, and Andy’s car happened to be the last one they’d completed together. The final product of Alan’s Z28 is what the pair dreamed about for their next build.

While scrolling through a classifieds page strictly for fourth-gen Trans Ams and Camaros, Alan came across a roller Z28. The chassis was the exact spec they had always talked about building before Andy’s passing, from the Pewter Metallic paint, manual windows and locks, to the hardtop. He had to have it. Alan and some buddies made the trip down to pick it up from the Gulf of Florida and bring it back to their hometown right outside Asheville, NC. Coming from the Floridian coast, the roller was in excellent shape both inside and out. It was already equipped with Race Star wheels and had a Midwest Chassis 9-inch rearend in place of the wimpy factory GM 10-bolt.

Once Alan began collecting pieces for the build, his friends informed him that some parts from Andy’s wrecked car had started to surface. He immediately contacted the seller and realized that his friend’s entire wrecked vehicle was purchased from an auction. Again, Alan had to have it. He purchased Andy’s car and sourced all that he could from it. The hood, roof, dedicated fuel system, Pro 5.0 shifter, and engine from the wreck all made their way into Alan’s Camaro. Many other pieces initially worked their way into Alan’s build but were later upgraded.

Besides finding and using parts from Andy’s car for his own build, my favorite part of the story is when he ran the history on the Camaro’s Vehicle Identification Number. Alan’s new, perfectly-spec’d Camaro had a build date of 10/20/1999, which was Andy’s 14th birthday! If that isn’t fate, I don’t know what is.

Andy’s old motor arrived at Ben Barnes Performance Racing Engines in Asheville, NC, and received a total makeover. It may have started life as a 376ci LS3, but was torn down to the bare block and reworked from scratch. Ben began by machining the block and then assembling with an Eagle Specialty Products crankshaft and rods. Knowing the powerplant would live its life under the torture of nitrous, it was developed into a 416ci stroker motor with 12.7:1 high-compression max-effort Wiseco pistons fitted inside the bored out cylinder walls. A huge lift nitrous offering from Cam Motion — the LLSR, to be exact — was shoved into the block’s camshaft cavity. With the short block complete, it was then balanced and blueprinted.

Airflow is crucial in a nitrous application, and aluminum heads are the only way to go in that respect. So, Ben bolted on a set of Trick Flow 235 heads to help keep the valves from kissing the pistons. Heavy-duty PAC Racing springs along with Jesel rockers were assigned to the top end. Topping off the long block sits an Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold. Large 2-inch Texas Speed headers expel gasses through a custom 3.5-inch exhaust. Keeping the combination temperate involves the use of a Meziere water pump and Be Cool radiator. The fun part rests on top. An Induction Solutions direct port nitrous kit injects 350 horsepower worth of giggle gas into the already impressive 600 wheel horsepower stroker. Holley fuel injection controls the whole system with Jonathan Atkins of Tick Performance, making all of the adjustments behind the keyboard. Holley also backs the entire dedicated fuel system guzzling race gas from a five-gallon fuel cell.

Nitrous can be extremely fun, but tough on components. Because of this, power transitions through a Black Magic slipper clutch paired with a Tick Performance faceplated T56 Magnum — with fifth and sixth deleted for extra shaft strength. Denny’s Nitrous Ready Driveshaft transfers the power to the beefy Midwest Chassis 9-inch rearend.

In the rear, that 9-inch is four linked in, and both front and rear shock setups came from Customs by Bigun. They use Viking shocks in the front and Afcos out back. The rest of the chassis and steering components also came from Midwest Chassis. The front suspension utilizes the stock-style Camaro configuration except attached to a Rock Solid Motorsports tubular front end kit for weight savings and ease of maintenance.

Stopping a car of this caliber is no easy task, but Strange Engineering drag brakes both front and rear are up to the task. A Midwest Chassis manual brake setup controls the lightweight brakes, and a Stroud parachute hanging off the back of the Z28 helps aid in the slowing effort.

The exterior of the car is quite simple yet detailed at the same time. My eyes were immediately drawn to the sizeable VFN Fiberglass cowl hood and smoked head and fog lights. As I got closer, I saw the little details; the front bumper grilles and emblems are all filled in. The windshield and hatch glass look normal but are actually lightweight selections from Optic Amor. What drew my eyes to the center of the car was the clear-coated carbon fiber roof from Midwest Chassis. This lovely addition offsets the factory Pewter paint so nicely. Alan’s fourth-gen sits on Champion Cap 5 wheels sized 15×10-inch in the rear with 15×3.5-inch up front and rides on Mickey Thompson drag radial tires to finish out the clean look of the Z28.

Peering inside, the dash, floor, roof, and door panels remain mostly untouched. However, I couldn’t help but notice the behemoth of a transmission sticking up out of the floor. The 10-point roll cage came from White Racecars, and Alan uses Kirkey seats together with Racequip seat belts to help keep him safe. All of the wiring is neatly tucked away, hidden from view, and a Holley 7-inch digital dash takes up space where the factory cluster once sat. With the hatch open, you can see the nitrous bottle placement and the massive fuel lines supplying the thirsty stroker, which, in my eyes, gives it a more rugged look. Alan’s Chevy is even cooler because it’s still tagged and insured. He even picks up his son from school and goes to dinner in it!

Many friends and contributing companies helped along the way, and Alan is grateful for all of them. Though it’s his dad, Wayne Morgan, who has always been there from day one. It was his dad whom he grew up around, even if it was to hand him tools while wrenching on cars. Alan’s coping mechanism is not just about having something to do but having his dad do it with — as well as with his friends. I’ll never forget the day I met them all, and the story they shared with me in the winner’s circle. Getting a complete car together in two years, practically untested, and then coming to win an event just one day after their fallen friend Andy’s birthday. Fate has a way of showing itself, and I believe this one happened throughout the building and racing of a car.

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