Muscle car: Noblesville father/son duo build custom Pontiac Firebird

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Two years ago, Cavan Cameron, a 20-year-old Noblesville High School graduate, and his dad Russell Cameron, set out to build a Pontiac Firebird for Cavan’s NHS internship in his dad’s shop at home.

But what started as an internship project and was supposed to take six months took two years because of custom-designed parts, the design of the car and complex wiring. The journey led to Russell and Cavan attracting 28 sponsors that supplied products or services for the car and the creation of an Instagram account with approximately 93,000 followers.

Cavan and Russell finished the car in November and presented it in a sponsor booth at a trade show called the 2023 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Although Cavan began the project for a high school internship, he continued working on the car when he attended IUPUI. The car is a combo racecar, show car and street legal car with a license plate.

Cavan wanted to do something related to engineering for his internship and said he “got bit by the car bug really early.” Russell had a career in IndyCar racing, including being a mechanic, chief mechanic, team manager, general manager and briefly a racing team owner. Cavan learned some of his skills from some of his dad’s former IndyCar connections.

Apart from parts like the engine and shocks, Cavan and his dad did the fabrication and body modifications.

Cavan and his dad began building the car, which they christened “Hammerhead,” in November 2021. They aren’t sure exactly how much money went into building the car.

“I’m fortunate enough to be sort of kind of retired and fortunate that we have a very well-equipped shop at our house where we can have our hobby,” Russell said. “And so having all of those stars aligned, the time and the resources, the knowledge and Cavan’s age and his interest, all sort of combining in a way to sort of start building a car of what I believe would be sort of a masterpiece of what I had learned in my IndyCar career.”

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From left, circa 2007 Cavan Cameron with his dad Russell Cameron in his 1969 Corvette with a racing engine.

Cavan said building the car was time-consuming, since he was a member of the boys varsity swimming team in high school.

Russell estimates he and Cavan put 12,000 hours of labor into the car. One night, Russell said he and Cavan worked until nearly 4 a.m. Cavan said he only got two hours of sleep that night and had to drive back to school.

Cavan said the biggest lesson he learned during the process was patience.

“It’s kind of funny because most of the things we (wanted) to get done (on a specific) day, and to be honest, most of the time they are unrealistic,” Cavan said.

Russell and Cavan entered “Hammerhead” into a competition called Battle of the Builders at the 2023 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. However, they had to withdraw from the competition because of a delay in being able to start the car. They still attended SEMA because they were in a booth for one of their sponsors.

Larry Chen, a custom car influencer, said his favorite car at the 2023 SEMA Show was Russell and Cavan’s car.

“It was kind of crazy because a year ago we actually went to SEMA, but I was basically kind of that guy where I was waiting in the line to talk to people,” Cavan said. “And it’s just kind of crazy to be on the other end where there’s a lot of people waiting to talk to you, and it happens to be that some of those people in the line are other influencers.”

Russell said Cavan might build a car for a future competition. “Hammerhead” was recently displayed at the Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis.

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Russell Cameron, standing in front of car, and Cavan Cameron, standing behind it at the 2023 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. (Photos courtesy of Molli Elliott Cameron)

THE INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT

Cavan Cameron created an Instagram account for “Hammerhead.” He said he made the account because when he would show family members the car, they said it was a shame the car wasn’t being shared with the world.

Cavan said it took him approximately 50 posts on social media to figure out what he was doing, but he found out how to gain traction on his posts and said people were enjoying following the build.

Over a year, Cavan said the account went from 3,000 followers to approximately 93,000 followers in more than a year. The Instagram account is horizon_motorsports_llc. For more, visit instagram.com/horizon_motorsports_llc/reels/.


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