When building a car to drive comfortably on the street, and beat the hell out of at the track, the interior is one of the most important aspects of the build. Not only does it need to be comfortable, it needs to be safe and ergonomic.
Project Lucky 13 will, without a doubt, hit the track quite a bit after it is complete. While the car is still in the beginning stages of the build, we decided to tackle the interior instead of leaving it for last. And, as we touched on in Lucky 13’s introduction, the car is not going to be an exact Camaro Z/28 replica, but some parts will carry over from the Z/28. This car isn’t a dedicated track rat, so we chose to not go with fixed-back seats. Chevrolet Performance’s Camaro Z/28 Recaro seats are the perfect seats for what we’re going to use Lucky 13 for. They still have plenty of cushion, great thigh and side bolstering, and they look great. Plus, they’re specifically manufactured for the Camaro!
An Autopower bolt-in roll cage finished in gloss black with a removable harness bar and cross bar. Schroth supplied us with four-point harnesses to mount on the harness bar to keep us planted in the Z/28 Recaro seats.
We talked to Brad White of Autopower to get the inside scoop on their bolt-in roll cage applications and the benefits of using one. We also sat down and talked with Mark Brogan of HMS Motorsport to talk about the Schroth Profi II ASM four-point harnesses we were supplied with. Enough with the chit-chat; let’s get to the install!
We wanted to improve the overall safety of Lucky 13, as well as improve its structural rigidity. Autopower supplied a sweet roll cage that bolts right behind the driver’s seat. It has diagonal bars that run through the plastic panels on each side of the rear seats, that bolt to the rear wheelwell. Autopower’s Race Roll Bar was designed for solo, autocross, and high-speed time trials, so it will be perfect for our build. The four-point Race Roll Bar Autopower supplied us with has the optional removable cross bar and harness bar, which provides accessibility to the rear seats when the car is driven on the street; the standard Race Roll bar has the diagonal cross bar and harness bar welded in. It’s nice to have options, that’s for sure.
Autopower selects the right size and type of tubing for the intended application. All of their Race Roll Bars are made with 1.750 x .120 DOM steel, but for cars weighing more than 3,500 pounds, they are made of 2 x .120 ERW steel for improved rigidity. Since this is a direct bolt-in kit, all of the hardware needed to install the Race Roll Bar is included. No making trips to the hardware store to choose the correct grade bolts.
Autopower also offers a handful of different cages that are guaranteed to suit your build. Some other roll cage and roll bar kits offered include the Bolt-in Roll Cage, U-Weld Front Cage Kit, Rally Cage Kit, and the U-Weld Full Cage Kit. You can check out all of their roll bar and roll cage options here.
“Our standard U-Weld Roll Cage Kit and our Bolt-In Roll Cage Kit are basically the same platform. The Bolt-In Kit is designed to fit with 100 percent stock interior, and our U-Weld Kit is up to the discretion of the installer,” White explained. “We make everything a little bit bigger and taller, so that way if the interior is stripped out, you can fit it tighter to the inside of the vehicle. If a bolt-in setup was in a vehicle where everything is stripped out, it might look a little lost just because it doesn’t fit as tight as it would against factory interior panels.”
Z/28 Recaro Seats
Recaro is synonymous with performance seating, and it was only fitting that they produced a seat in conjunction with Chevrolet for the almighty Camaro Z/28. Both companies wanted owners of the Camaro Z/28 to be planted in their seat out on the racetrack and comfortable on the streets, and these seats accomplish this goal. Designed with racers in mind, there are two slots below the headrest portion of the seat for a harness to thread through.
Another reason these seats are great for our build is the fact that they have no seat heaters or power adjustments. That’s right, these badass, supportive Recaro seats are only adjustable manually, which saves a significant amount of weight. Through Chevrolet Performance, these same seats can be purchased with the ZL1 or SS logo stitched in along with power adjustability and seat heaters. You’ll have to locate a dealer to purchase them through, as Chevrolet Performance doesn’t sell them directly on their website.
One other aspect of the seats we really like are the materials used. Black leather always looks great, the microfiber inserts will keep our butts from sliding around during high-speed cornering, and the cushioning isn’t overly too firm. We like to think of them as luxury seats with a bite.
Staying safe and in place with Schroth
The last pieces to our interior puzzle are Schroth’s Profi II ASM four-point harnesses, which will fit perfectly through the slots on our Z/28 Recaro seats. One cool part about Schroth’s Profi II ASM harnesses is the fact that they incorporated their ASM (Anti-SubMarining) technology, an extra fold of material sewn into the inboard shoulder belt that elongates at a different rate than the outboard belt, allowing the upper torso to twist slightly. During the rebound phase, the torso is planted back in the seat rather than sliding around under the lap belt – impressive!
“The ASM technology is the overstitched elongated portion of the shoulder, and what it does is allow a function similar to a factory three-point style seatbelt in the case of an accident where your torso would be allowed to rotate slightly, whereas with a regular fixed four-point style harness your torso is retained, so you’re not able to quench any of that inertia and run the risk of submarining out the base of the seatbelt as you would load the lapbelt,” Brogan explained. “The ASM feature is designed to tear relative to the load of the impact and therefore plant your body into the seat, and then allows the rest of the incident to follow through.”
Schroth’s four-point Profi II ASM harnesses are modular, meaning at any time you can add a single or dual sub strap to the harness to make it a five or six-point harness at any time. The Profi II ASM four-point harnesses are also compatible with a HANS device. Another neat feature on the Profi II ASM harnesses is the “Flexi Belt.” The end fittings and cam latches are wrapped into the harness, allowing the harness to be changed from a pull-up configuration to a pull-down with ease.
“The Profi II ASM four-point is the same as the Profi II ASM six-point harnesses that we offer, which has a lap belt that can be converted from a pull-up or pull-down style adjustment within the same component, so there’s a flexibility as far as which configuration to utilize with the belt,” explained Brogan. “The ‘Flexi Belt’ technology also allows for the snap-style mounting to the eyebolts, which helps to make it more quick-release off of the eyebolt, rather than a bolt-in fixture.”
Since there isn’t a pass through for a crotch strap in the Recaro seats, we only needed a four-point harness. A cam lock system makes unbuckling a breeze.
The shoulder belts of the harnesses come ready to be installed around a roll bar, but Schroth sells snap-in or bolt-in attachments separately for those who are not going to be attaching them. One more note to make is that the cam locks can be switched out as well. If you’re primarily using the harnesses on the street, Schroth offers a FE cam lock with a push-button, which can also be purchased separately.
We mentioned in Project Lucky 13’s introduction that we picked it up as a theft recovery from an auction, meaning it had no engine, transmission, brakes, or interior. Since the interior was already completely stripped, we took the opportunity to tackle the roll cage install without any obstructions.
We started by mocking up the B-pillar hoop in the exact location we wanted it mounted, and then installed the diagonal bars that attach to the rear wheelwell to see how those lined up. With a little bit of maneuvering, the roll cage was sitting perfect, so we made the marks to drill in the rear wheelwell. We removed the roll cage from the car and began drilling all 16 of the mounting holes. With the holes drilled, we set the roll cage back in the car and loosely installed the hardware.
“Bolt-in roll cages are made to be installed with a 100-percent stock interior, so you don’t have to completely gut your car to turn it into a racecar,” White explained. “The four-point roll bar adds structural rigidity to the chassis as well.”
The tricky part about the rear diagonal bars is that they need to run through the plastic panels on each side of the rear seat. Since the actual diagonal bar was too long for us to get a good idea of where to drill the holes, we got a shorter, smaller-diameter piece of tubing and ran it from the B-pillar hoop to the plastic panel. We then drew a circle around the piece of tubing we used and drilled it out with a holesaw the same size as the roll cage’s tubing.
That method worked out really well for us and the diagonal bars fit perfectly through the plastic panels. With the hard part out of the way, we secured the diagonal bars to the B-pillar hoop and fastened down the cage with the supplied hardware. The cage doesn’t just secure to the footwell, though; the kit comes with footplates that secure to the wheelwells and under the floorpan, essentially to sandwich the cage to the areas of the car it mounts to. The footplates also ensure that the washers and nuts have a flat, solid mounting surface.
“The four-point roll bar, like the one you are installing, is meant for SCCA and NASA time trial and solo events, as well as the typical track day,” said White. “They’re good for everything except door-to-door racing, which would require a six-point roll cage.”
After tightening all of the hardware one last time, we secured the plastic panels back in place and started to reassemble the rest of the interior. How are we reassembling the rest of the interior if the car came with no interior, you ask? Professional Formula Drift driver and owner of Essa Autosport, Michael Essa, was very generous and provided all of the discarded interior out of his Camaro drift car, which was pretty much everything; plastic panels, rear seats, carpet, etc.
The last steps to finishing up the roll cage were to get the carpet to fit around the B-pillar tube that comes up from the floor, and to notch the plastic door sill piece. To do this, we simply laid the carpet around the tube and cut the carpet to fit around it. For the plastic doorsill pieces, we simply notched them to fit around the tubes.
Our favorite features of Autopower’s Race Roll Bar are the removable cross and harness bars. With those removed, the rear seat is completely accessible and functional as if nothing was there in the first place. We were also pleased with the fact that the cross bar and harness bar can be removed within five minutes.
Two torx bolts are all that is needed to install these seats because there are two little hooks on each side of the seat that latch into the floorpan.
With the roll cage install wrapped up, it was time to set up the seats. These Z/28 Recaro seats are light, and surprisingly only needed one person to put it in the car. We had our shop tech, Tim, maneuver the seats into the car. The seats come with the rails pre-installed, so all we had to do was bolt them down, then install the Schroth Profi II ASM harnesses.
Surprisingly enough, installing Schroth’s Profi II ASM harnesses was a cake walk. After examining the slots in our Z/28 Recaro seats, we came to the conclusion that the shoulder belts needed to be disassembled prior to pulling them through the slots. If you try to put the shoulder belt link through the slot, it simply won’t fit. We removed the slide adjuster at the ends of each of the shoulder straps and pulled the belts through the seat back, toward the harness bar.
Left to right: Removing the slide adjuster, pulling the shoulder belt through the slot, looping the shoulder belt back through the slide adjuster into a loop, and the completed shoulder belt install.
Once the belts were pulled through the slots, we reinstalled the slide adjusters to the end of the shoulder belts. This step is important because the belts have to be threaded through the slide adjusters to create a loop that wraps around the harness bar. Since the shoulder belt loops are adjustable and not pre-stitched, any driver can adjust the belts to fit.
What we didn’t mention earlier, to avoid confusion, was that we installed the lap belt pieces on each side of the seats where factory seatbelt lock mechanisms were before we put them in. There really isn’t a lot of room in the Camaro’s interior in the first place, so it would be best to remove your seats for installing these harnesses.
This install went really smooth and overall we’re really happy with the outcome of the interior. We didn’t need to get some crazy fixed-back seats or complicated roll cage; instead, we kept it simple, and straight to the point. Project Lucky 13 now has a fully-functional, safe interior that complies with DOT standards. Now, all we have to do is install the engine, transmission, and other essentials to get the car up and running. We can’t wait to get this car out to the track!