Kelly Fromm’s Military Tribute ZL1 – “Project Freedom Fighter”

Kelly Fromm’s ZL1 has the distinction of holding several labels all at once. For starters, this is probably the most heavily modified ZL1 currently in existence. From the extensive body modifications to the 850 horsepower LSA tuned by Livernois Motorsports, Fromm has taken a leave-no-wrench-unturned approach with his ZL1 that few Camaros, if any could match. But it’s more than that. Beyond the power and looks, Fromm’s ZL1 stands as a rolling tribute to the men and women of our armed forces and all the sacrifices they make to keep our country safe. It’s our pleasure to introduce you to the “Project Freedom Fighter” Camaro ZL1.

If there is in fact a more heavily modified ZL1 than Kelly Fromm’s Project Freedom Fighter, we’ve yet to hear about it…

The Cause

If you’re familiar with the 5th Gen Camaro scene at all, you might already be acquainted with Fromm’s work. Project Freedom Fighter is the second 5th Gen tribute car that Fromm has built, with his first one being Veteran 1.

The inspiration for both of these cars stems from Fromm’s personal experience serving in the U.S. Army. Fromm served in the Army for 15 years before retiring as a Staff Sargent with the 82nd Airborne Division in 2001. “I didn’t really get in patriotic themed vehicles until a friend of mine was killed in Iraq – Sargent Joseph Tutten,” Fromm tells us. “We served together in the 82nd Airborne, and he was killed on Christmas day of 2007. That is how Veteran 1 came about. It was a way to honor him, and it just became its own phenomenon after that.”

Project Freedom fighter is the continuation of the work of Fromm’s first tribute Camaro, “Veteran 1”.

Fromm eventually auctioned off the Veteran 1 Camaro and donated all the proceeds to the Active Dogs Academy Service Dog Foundation (ADASDF), a non-profit that provides service dogs to wounded veterans as part of their program. It’s a cause near and dear to Fromm, because he has a service dog himself. “I got my service dog, Catherine from ADASDF in 2009 and I was on the waiting list for almost four years,” says Fromm. “They provide the dogs for free, but it costs them $30,000 to train each one. Catherine has made a huge difference for me, and I wanted to help ADASDF so they could serve more Veterans.”

Enter the ZL1 – Project Freedom Fighter…Wide-Body…  

Veteran 1 may have been gone, but the cause was still very much alive. Fromm turned his attention to planning an even bolder tribute car that would make an even bigger statement. Those plans started with a fresh 2012 Camaro ZL1 that would become Project Freedom Fighter.

Freedom Fighter started as a brand new, stock, automatic equipped ZL1 – but it didn’t stay that way for long…

Fromm took delivery of the stock white ZL1 in June of 2012 from Roger’s Chevrolet, and wasted no time getting down to business. Fromm enlisted the services of Stingray Garage, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start the process of transforming the stock Camaro into the very first wide-body ZL1. The conversion process was directed by the renowned wide-body expert Topo from TS Designs.

This car is really just a way to honor all those that have served, and those that will serve in the armed forces. –Kelly Fromm, Owner

Topo and Stingray Garage cut up the new ZL1 and added 3.5-inches to each rear quarter panel.

Over the course of two and a half months and 300 man-hours of work, Topo and the guys from Stingray Garage added just over 7-inches of total width to the rear of the ZL1. They did it by painstakingly cutting, reshaping, and rewelding the car’s original quarter panels and doors instead of taking the easy way out with fiberglass. When the wide-body was completed the Camaro was fitted with a set of custom, one-off wheels from USW Forged measuring 22 x 11 in the front and 22 x 13 in the rear, wearing 265/30/ZR22 and 335/25/ZR22 Pirelli rubber respectively.

The wide-body ZL1 was a truly remarkable car when Topo and Stingray Garage were done with it, but this was just the first phase in becoming “Freedom Fighter”.

Freedom Fighter’s Power Play

Freedom Fighter – Livernois Stage III Mods

  • Livernois CNC LSA Cylinder Heads
  • Livernois Stage 2C High Lift Camshaft
  • Livernois LSA Head Studs
  • Livernois Exclusive Heat Exchanger
  • Livernois Solid Supercharger Coupler
  • Livernois Supercharger Pulley
  • Livernois Idler Relocation Bracket
  • Livernois Spec’d Injectors
  • Livernois Dual Fuel Pump Upgrade
  • Metco Oversize Crank Pulley Ring
  • Innovators West Oversize Balancer
  • Rotofab/Livernois Cold Air Intake
  • American Racing Longtube Headers
  • Corsa “Black” Exhaust
  • Hardened Pushrods
  • Livernois Dyno Tune

With the first phase of visual enhancements completed, it was time to give the wide-body ZL1 the power to match its looks. Fromm handed Freedom Fighter off to our friends at Livernois Motorsports to let them work their magic on the LSA powerplant. They upgraded the already stout engine with one of their Stage III packages which includes CNC’ed heads, a big cam, blower pulleys, and all the supporting components to make it work.  (See sidebar for full list.)

The sum of Livernois work was 715 horsepower and 675 pound feet of torque at Freedom Fighter’s massive rear wheels. “When you push the engine past about 4,000 RPM, it literally sounds like the gates of hell are opening up,” says Fromm. “Veteran 1 was 650 horsepower and honestly it wasn’t half as nasty as this thing is when you run it wide open.”

Airbrushing and Paint Work

The last and most important phase of the project was to perform the final paint and body work, and airbrush on the tribute murals. Fromm selected Jason Oberly, owner of Oberly Airbrush Studios for this critical task. Freedom Fighter’s final paint job was truly a collaborative effort.  The car was shipped to Subiworx in Tempe, Arizona, where Fromm and Oberly met up with the guys from Demented Customs out of west Texas.

Airbrush artist Jason Oberly and the guys from Demented Customs painted the incredible murals that cover Project Freedom Fighter.

Oberly and his team worked for a total of 10 days painting and airbrushing the meticulously detailed murals on just about every useable square inch on the ZL1. The murals depict scenes honoring every branch of the U.S. military, and pay special tribute to those that have paid the ultimate price. “Jason is a veteran himself,” says Fromm. “I pretty much let him have artistic freedom when it came to the murals on the car.”

As you can see, the work clearly speaks for itself.

“The number one question people ask me is about the service dog on the drivers’ side door,” says Fromm. “Some assume it’s my service dog Catherine, but it is actually Lex, a retired Marine Working Dog. Lex and his handler, Corporal Dustin Lee, were hit by an RPG in while working in Falluga, Iraq in March of 2007, and Dustin died from his injuries. The picture is of Lex resting on Lee’s grave.” Click here for more info on Lex and Dustin’s story.

Project Freedom Fighter’s Mission

Project Freedom Fighter’s was already shown at SEMA 2012, but its first real mission will be the “Rev It Up For Wounded Warriors Tour”. Fromm started the tour to show Project Freedom Fighter at national events to help raise funds for non-profits that help our service men and women, such as Homes for Our Troops, Military Working Dog Adoptions, and the ADASDF.   

Thus far the Project Freedom Fighter has been very well received. “The response to the car has been incredible,” says Fromm. “When you see peoples’ emotional response to the car, that’s when you know you’ve done it correctly.”

The next major show for Project Freedom Fighter will be the upcoming Camaro5 Fest in Indianapolis, where you can expect to see the ZL1 doing a whole lot more than just sitting in the show area. “People expect that I would never drive a car with so much work done to it, but I really enjoy drag racing it,” says Fromm. “I run it at the strip just as you see it, 22-inch wheels and all. So far my best E.T. is 11.2 at 130 MPH – with very limited traction.”   


Kelly Fromm’s Freedom Fighter ZL1 is more than just a 700 horsepower rolling work of art – it’s a statement. After all – how do you thank someone for paying the sacrifice for your freedom? Are there any words that would really be enough? It would take a bold statement – a statement exactly like Project Freedom fighter

About the author

Clifton Klaverweiden

Clifton has been a car fanatic since his late teens, when he started the restoration of his '67 Camaro. He considers himself a student of automotive science and technology, and particularly loves all things LSX. And, although he has an appreciation for everything, from imports to exotics, his true passion will always be for GM musclecars.
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