Vinny’s Finds Episode 2: Danny Cruz & The Slayer Camaro

We can almost hear ‘Raining Blood’ playing out of the speakers…(photos courtesy of Olivia Scaffidi)

Hey everyone, it’s your faithful editor, back with another episode of Vinny’s Finds. The segment where I get to share something I’m excited about –from cool cars and parts, to people and events, and everything in between. Last month I brought you a wicked 1970 Plymouth Superbird, and this month, I have another car I’d like to spotlight, and for good reason.

Part of my job as Editor is to spend copious amounts of time managing social media content. I come across hundreds, if not thousands of feature-worthy cars. I see countless show cars – cars that are so perfect, you’d feel guilty driving them on the street. (I mean, I wouldn’t . . . I’d do donuts in a Bugatti if I was given the opportunity. Nothing is sacred, and everything should be driven! Let’s get that straight right now.)

I’d just returned to my home base in Southern California from Columbus, Ohio. I was there covering the Goodguys Nationals, and had seen over 6,500 cars, many of which were worth well over $500,000. Suffice to say, I was in the mood for something more . . . well, attainable. Being an F-body owner myself, I always keep an eye out for them, especially if they’re unique. So, This car immediately stood out to me. 

I am lucky to experience many rewards working in automotive journalism. One of them is meeting interesting people, hearing their stories, and relating to them. This is the case with Danny Cruz, and his 1969 Camaro, aptly nicknamed “The Slayer Camaro.” I say – aptly, – because this thing is just as raw and hardcore as the band of the same name. 

Note the “Have a nice day” license plate frame. How thoughtful.

Many muscle car enthusiasts hold the Camaro in high esteem – the ‘69 model year in particular. Which is why I was thrilled to see Dannys Camaro – it was all of the above, and I knew I had to hear the story behind it.

The Slayer Camaro is powered by a turbocharged 2006 Chevy Silverado 5.3 liter LS, filled with Wiseco pistons and Scat H beam rods. Danny used Ls9 head gaskets and ARP head studs to hold the boost.

After reaching out to Danny, I found out, not only did we both own LS powered F-bodies, we also have a love of all things muscle. As a youth, Danny knew he wanted to own a ‘69 Camaro, but couldn’t afford one. With the help of his father, he was able to save enough pennies to purchase a ‘71 Dodge Dart.

With some muscle in the driveway, Danny taught himself how to wrench on cars. Before long he was doing it for a living – starting a refrigeration repair business and classic car repair shop. While he was having fun with his Dart, a ‘69 Camaro was always on his mind.

Soon, it came time to purchase one. Danny knew he had to jump on an opportunity to bring home a first-gen F-body when he had the chance, or he would be kicking himself for the rest of his life. So, he sank everything he had into purchasing the body of the Slayer Camaro.

She may not have a high-dollar paint job, perfect interior, or all the latest parts, but the Slayer Camaro exemplifies what it is to be driven – for Danny, and the car.

The Camaro sat in his driveway while he saved enough money to start modding it. He would sit in the driver seat, imagining himself driving down the road. During that time, he formulates a plan to build the car of his dreams. A car that would help him check off a large item from his bucket-list – drive it cross-country.

When Danny shared his plan with the people he knew, many of them didn’t think he would be able to tackle such a feat in his home built hot rod. But, coast to coast and back again is precisely what Danny built his car to do. If you were to ask me to guess at the origin of the name “Slayer Camaro,” I’d have put money on it being involved with the band ‘Slayer,’ or the fact that his Camaro simply slays miles! Truth is, while Danny is a ‘Slayer’ fan, the name has very little to do with “thrash-metal.” Check out the real story in the photos below.

As if the cars name would have anything less than a tough-as-nails origin, I asked Danny where the "Slayer" name came from. He said, "I found this switchblade knife in the car while I was cleaning it out. It still had blood on it."

One of the pictures on Danny’s Instagram account (@slayer_camaro) showed all the states where he stopped in on his cross country trip. That is what grabbed my attention. “4-21-17 – CA, AZ, TX, LA, MS, AL, GA, FL, TN,” is scribbled in black marker atop the intercooler shoehorned into the engine bay, aside a web of turbo piping.

Many people who perform LS swaps quickly change out the stock intake manifold from the donor truck engines, but Danny chose to keep his. Instead he spent the money on a more stout transmission for the high-horsepower numbers he planned to make. The LS is backed by a T56 Magnum transmission, with a Monster LT1-S Twin-Disc clutch. This also gave him the added benefit of increased fuel mileage for his cross-country trip.

When Danny started formulating his plan to build this cross-country cruiser, he had a few stipulations he would not budge on – among them was a turbo. The Slayer Camaro had to have boost. Danny had done his research on turbos and he knew the “Godfather of boost” lived in his own backyard, so he reached out to Kenny Duttweiler.

With his shop just down the road, Danny sought out Duttweiler’s knowledge of turbos, and ended up helping around the shop in exchange for advice. Danny told me, “I think Kenny could see my passion for cars and was happy to help. I gave him the build breakdown of the “semi-budget” 5.3-liter truck engine I had in mind. He gladly helped make some changes to the parts combination. In fact he was even nice enough to donate an extra camshaft and valve springs he had laying around.”

Developing relationships, like the one Danny and Kenny have, is one of  the things I love most about the hot rod and muscle car community. It is much like Danny’s willingness to offer information about his own journey to a complete stranger. It’s all about sharing a passion for these street machines.

A willingness to help out another gear-head with no motivation, other than a passion for the hobby, is the hallmark of a true car guy. Danny told me, “Kenny Duttweiler was kind enough to donate a turbo camshaft and some Z06 valve springs, from a Corvette he had laying around – in exchange, I helped him around his shop.” That’s what it’s all about! When I asked Danny about his turbo setup, he had this to say, “I’m using a Turbonetics 78mm Hurricane Benita. It’s a big turbo in a small package – it is reasonably priced at 700 bucks and it’s light weight. I figured there would be less chance of the ebay headers cracking on me with a light turbo.

As I mentioned before, Danny had a plan for his build, and he had some requirements. The others were:  reliability, drivability, good fuel-mileage, and the ability to “haul-ass” – hence the LS powerplant. According to Danny, “Everything else I installed on this car has been carefully selected for reliability. I saved money where I could – For example, the stock truck intake manifold. Sure, it’s really ugly, but it makes good torque and flows very well. It was free and came with the engine, so, why not use it? I saved at least 600 bucks using the stock intake. I took that $600 I saved on the intake and invested in a stronger transmission. Instead of using a factory T56 that only handles around 400 lb-ft of torque, I opted for the stronger T56 Magnum that’s capable of over 700 lb-ft of torque.”

To cool off the Camaro, and free up some much needed room in the engine bay, Danny made the decision to move the cooling system to the rear of the car. In doing so, he also moved about 60 pounds behind the rear end for better weight transfer. Danny is running dual Delta PAG 16-inch brushless fans, -16 AN cooling lines, and a stock water pump. He says the only issue with the setup is having to mount an overflow tank at the highest point in the engine bay for bleeding purposes.

The Slayer Camaro was so reliable and easy to drive, that Danny actually used it to teach 4 different people how to drive a stick. This is one of the things I love most about this car – the fact that it is used. His cross country trip is what caught my eye initially, because I have grown so accustomed to seeing flashy, “perfect” cars, treated like wall art. When he gave me the full story, I knew I had to share it with all of you. The paint is far from perfect, and the interior has tears and signs of use, but that is part of it’s charm.

Danny is using an EFI Source LSX Gold Box because its cheap, simple and easy, which is convenient because it works seamlessly with Dannys “gauge” setup. He explained, “I didn’t have the money for expensive gauges but I had an LG tablet that was connected to my cell phone plan. The cool thing about the Gold box is you can plug your tablet right into it and display all your information in real time. Data logging and tuning can also be done straight from the tablet, which I have bluetoothed to my stereo. Pandora Radio and Google Navigation can be played through the speakers. It’s like a smart car, you just tell it where to take you!” (Check out the custom 6-speed gear selector plate)

Danny even took the purpose-built attitude a step further with the interior, and opted to use a dash mounted tablet instead of spending his money on an expensive digital gauge-cluster. It serves the important function of offering real-time information that normal gauges would, but also allows him to tune on the fly – or watch Slayer music videos if the mood strikes.

After much time and effort spent making the ‘69 road-worthy, the time came for Danny to embark on his quest. Danny decided to make the trip sans company. He had always envisioned himself traveling through the open country without another soul in sight – just him and his Camaro.

The stance on the Slayer Camaro is just as epic as its name would imply. Low slung and ready to launch. I know I’d have a hard time staying out of trouble with it, but Danny says that even with the fender-exit exhaust being on there for more than 2 years, he still hasn’t been busted for noise. (If you look closely, right above the exhaust outlet it says, “Yes it’s cool, No I’m not going to paint it.”)This car has no shortage of attitude.

Danny packed his bags and left the California coast on April 21, 2017, in his home-built mile-maker. Oh, I should mention that the Slayer Camaro made the entire trip and back outfitted with skinny front tires and a fender-exit exhaust. Danny expressed his trepidation at the thought of hitting the road like that, but it clearly turned out well for him, as he recounted his trip. 

The rear-end is a completely stock, factory 12-bolt – down to the original rear leaf springs and worn out bushings. Danny said, “With the factory 3.31 gears I can do 125 MPH in 3rd gear ‘ask me how I know.’ The car easily cruises 80mph at only 2,000 RPM.”

“I really had no route picked out, but I had some friends in the south, so that’s where I headed first.I think I hit every bug when I crossed through Texas – they got grasshoppers the size of birds in Texas. The car loved the 85mph speed limit. In fact, at one point we hit 140mph thanks to a brand new Lexus RC F. I stopped in Houston to visit a friend I haven’t seen in more than 8 years. I kept moving, and when I got to New Orleans I met up with a childhood buddy for some of the best Cajun food ever!

“I really had no plan set or destination in mind for where I was going next – I just kept driving east. The car seemed to love every minute of it. I met a girl in Mississippi that told me Destin, Florida, was a beautiful  place, so I went there next. Boy, was she was right, the sand was like sugar and the water was as blue as anything you’d see in Hawaii. I didn’t want to leave the beach life, so I just stayed there for a few days at a resort.

If anyone ever thinks of questioning how Danny drives the Slayer Camaro, they can find his answer here – likely buried somewhere inside a large billow of smoke.

“Eventually a storm came into Florida, so I had to make moves up to Savannah, Georgia. That rain caught up to me and I quickly found out my front windshield leaked really bad. I stopped by the auto parts store and sealed it with RTV – I had to run a bead across the top of the entire windshield.

“I was hoping for a nice beach day when I got to the East Coast, but the storm got so bad in Georgia, I had to keep driving through. The next morning I had the most beautiful drive through Atlanta and into Chattanooga, Tennessee – lots of green trees and lakes, something I’m not used to seeing in Southern California.  

As for front suspension Danny uses Ebay upper and lower tubular control arms with a Moog ball joint swap, and Q1A adjustable shocks. He also says the rebuilt factory disc brakes work surprisingly well.

“I spent 2 days in Nashville because it was awesome there. Then I stopped in Memphis to visit Elvis’ home in Graceland. After filling up on some BBQ, I made my way through Arkansas towards Oklahoma. I made a pit-stop in the 405 to see the Street Outlaws, and the car never skipped a beat. Finally, on my way back, I stopped in Las Vegas for a few days before returning home.

“In total, I spent 18 days exploring this country and, without a doubt, it was the coolest thing I had ever done! I couldn’t be happier with the way this car turned out – it never left me stranded on the side of the road. Not once. I still drive the car every day.”

Skinnies up front, and big meat out back look right at home on any ’69 Camaro, but to drive cross-country on them. . . Now that’s impressive.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I fell in love with the Slayer Camaro, and I have no doubt all of you will as well. Sometimes there are naysayers in our lives that can deter us from tackling goals, but like Danny’s story, it is the supporters and those who offer a helping hand that we should listen to. Imagine if Danny’s parents told him to buy something more reliable for his first car, or if Kenny Duttweiler had brushed him off – he may never have checked this item off his bucket list, and we wouldn’t be able to share the Slayer Camaro’s journey.

Thanks Danny.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share the Slayer Camaro on the second installment of “Vinny’s Finds.” Stay tuned for more badass cars, cool parts, and interesting people. If you have a killer ride you think should be featured in Street Muscle Magazine, email me at [email protected] Rest assured I will have something great for you on the next episode, and until then, keep the hammer down.

 

About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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