Steve's Camaro Parts - The Bill Thomas - Chevrolet Connection

By: Wayne D. Guinn
Most every Camaro enthusiast knows about the Nickey/Thomas Combine and the 427 "Super Camaros" they produced. But, how many know the man behind the movement, and... what was it was all about...?

"Insider"-"Outsider"- What's the difference???

Over the years, Chevrolet has drawn on the talents of a few select individuals outside Engineering to improve and promote Chevrolet products. Bill Thomas was one of those "elite" individuals who helped Chevrolet achieve racing superiority and gain a predominant high performance image.

Based on the theory, "the winning image sells", Chevrolet set out to capture the youth market with the '67 Camaro and the race track was the platform by which they would accomplish it.
The problem was Chevrolet wasn't able to go racing because of an agreement made between the "Big Three" manufacturers to not directly sponsor or participate in racing. As a result, all efforts to gain a winning image using racing were carried out covertly- through secret channels, using "insider"-"outsider" liaisons/consultants and engineers, better know as "independents".
A racing "network" of independents was established through Chevrolet Engineering's Product Performance Group (Chevrolet's "Racing Central") headed by Vince Piggins. Product Performance would give support to the independents, many of which coincidentally were Chevrolet dealers as well as race enthusiasts. Among these was Bill Thomas who had a solid reputation as a Chevrolet racing authority and because of previous successful Chevrolet racing endeavors was already "in the fold".

A Master Plan... How to make the Image come together...

Bill had his work cut out...He realized in order to help Chevrolet gain the high performance image they were looking for, they would have to overcome two major obstacles:
  1. The Camaro would have to be competitive against the large displacement Shelby Mustangs.
  2. They would have to offer a large displacement Camaro since the factory wasn't at that time.
The answer was simple, but genus... Bill Thomas Race Cars in Anaheim, Ca. and Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago conceived the idea to combine and offer the ultimate F-Body by "transplanting" the 427-425 HP engine into the Camaro Chassis two years in advance of Chevrolet's COPO 427 Camaro. The idea of course was a legendary success... The Nickey/Thomas Camaros went on to wreck havoc on the drag strips and gain dominance on the streets... Hence, the image was created!!
Initially the Super Camaros were based on the SS350 (above) which required several modifications for the transplant. Two of them being, grinding the steering box and the stock exhaust manifolds for engine clearance.

Mid-way through the '67 year, the 396 was set into production and then became the basis for the transplants. From this point on, SS cars were ordered with the 396-375 HP engine, which in itself was quite a rarity! It simplified the transplant since the engine chassis mounts were now the big block type having the correct offset for engine clearance.
If you see this decal R-U-N!!! The big 427-425 HP was the basis for the transplants. From this point, Bill would heat it up to your preference.

In addition, the suspension and drivetrain was upgraded by the factory to match the higher output of the 396 engine. As a result the later '67 models were better suited overall for the transplant and serious performance work.

Featured above is one of the finest surviving examples
of Bill Thomas's work, currently owned by
Kenneth Hamilton.

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