The Gambler 500 is a race that encourages insanity. With pretty much no safety standards, a $500 price cap, and a free-wheeling attitude, you see some wild stuff out on trail. Often things more absurd than a cheap, chopped Camaro. But dig under the skin of the "Camerico" and you'll find it's one of the most hilarious patchwork vehicles to ever hit pavement.
According to Tommy Calabro, who built the Camerico with his brother Joe, the project started with a $100 1994 Camaro with with a misfiring V-6 and a vacuum leak. The goal was to get the thing running with whatever the brothers had lying around.
That led to some MacGyver-like solutions, like a Big Gulp cup that functions as a coolant reservoir with an overflow hose running through the straw hole. The massive RV tires were free, balanced with a handful of golf balls. The car's bodywork came courtesy of Sawzall. Calabro also borrowed a welder, learning as he went, scorching the Camaro bodywork in the process. Detailing work was completed with the business end of a sledge hammer.
Weather sealing for the de-bodied F-body's mechanical bits came in the form of expanding foam, dielectric grease, and some melted plastic ammunition boxes. Chevy Blazer wheels from a pick-and-pull lot were used and the big-rig exhaust is made up of some spare flex pipe, a Cherry Bomb Glasspack, and a flapper top.
After getting it on the road, the brothers realized that the stock suspension couldn't cope with the massive tires and the added weight of toolboxes, coolers, and spare parts. The Camerico was bottoming out constantly. But ordering a lift kit wouldn't be in the spirit of the mission. So they stuffed 10 tennis balls into each rear spring, raising the back end by about two inches and significantly reducing how often the frame bottoms out.
Of course, they still ended up destroying the bump stops over the course of the 2019 Florida Gambler 500. Gearing was also a problem: the massive tires, matched with stock gearing, meant the car never got out of second. Still, Tommy and Joe got two days of off-roading and trail cleanup done in the Camerico before the clutch on it went.
Joe replaced the clutch shortly after the Gambler, then burnt another one up in a weekend. He's hoping to get the car sorted with better gearing, all-terrain tires, and another new clutch for the next Gambler event. Tommy plans to compete too, this time in a 2007 Volvo Xc90. It's not done yet, but expect it to have some insane jerry-rigged engineering, too.
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