Big Red History 2005-2008

In 2003, RJ returned to his native California from the east coast, and his thoughts immediately turned to taking Big Red out for a ride again. To give credit where credit is due, Hot Rod also largely was responsible for the crusade to get Big Red out of mothballs and back on the road tearing up asphalt. The rumors of a return of the beast were confirmed in the June 2004 issue. Then, in the September issue, the first photos of the Camaro’s restoration appeared in the magazine’s “20 Hottest Project Cars.” If nothing else, the photos alone showed how much simpler Pro-Touring racing had been in the 1980s, with one engine and one transmission for one type of racing. Now the car was being fitted with Baer Brakes for a different sort of high-speed run. The article stated that “Joe Pettitt was the Hot Rod staff editor stupid enough to ride shotgun [in the ’89 SSCC].” When asked if he’d do it again, Joe replied, “Nah, I’ve done that.” Regardless, in 2011, RJ managed to change Joe’s mind, and there he was tearing around in the passenger seat againBig Red was restored to a condition that outshone the display at the museum. Standing next to the newly restored Big Red are (from left to right) Larry Mollicone, RJ Gottlieb, Dan Gottlieb, and Dave Ward

Big Red’s Revival: Racing Triumphs And Silver Screen Stardom In The Fast & Furious Franchise. Between 2005 and 2008, Big Red experienced a remarkable resurgence in both racing and pop culture. 

Following its restoration and cover feature in Hot Rod magazine, Big Red raced in the Baer Brakes Z2Z Challenge and the Nevada Open Road Challenge. Moreover, Big Red gained widespread recognition by appearing in the 2009 movie “Fast & Furious,” solidifying its status as a legendary car both on and off the screen.

big red history

There is a secret in the publishing industry about magazine covers. Red cars sell magazines. Camaros sell magazines. Combine the two, and you’ve got a sure thing for a cover that displays well and moves copies. So Big Red’s first magazine cover for Hot Rod in May of 2005 was a roaring success. The photos were taken by veteran photojournalist Wes Allison out at Dave Ward’s old shop at the Rialto airport. Coming off the 2004 restoration, it made a spectacular spread, with RobKinnan writing about Big Red’s return from noble retirement as well as its historic run at the 1989 Silver State Classic Challenge II. In fact, Rob had been following Big Red since the old days, as he’d been sent to cover the race and the car before anyone knew for sure that Joe Pettitt would actually make his ride along, or survive it, for that matter. But he did, and Hot Rod ran with Joe’s story in what is now a near-legendary article. And so Rob’s account of the ’89 Silver State was held in safe keeping, for nearly 15 years, until this 2005 cover story was published. 

The same month as the Hot Rod cover, with Dave Ward’s work complete, and a partnership with Baer Brakes in place, Big Red was ready to hit the road again. Those Baer Brakes were designed for a different sort of race, and Big Red needed to be in top form for a short, high-speed run. It was the inaugural run of the Baer Brakes Z2Z Challenge on May 14 in Ely, Nevada, held in conjunction with its companion event, the Nevada Open Road Challenge.

Big Red Camaro Car
big red old image
big red past events
big red history

It was a novel race since the point wasn’t only to see who could drive the fastest, but also who could stop in the shortest distance. The goal was for drivers to go from zero to 200 mph and back to zero — a dead stop — within a single mile. In the end, none of the cars actually managed to hit the mark at 200 mph. A Viper hit the top speed at 182, and Big Red came in just behind it with a top speed of 179 mph. Since the goal of the race wasn’t strictly top speed, but also to stop quickest, Big Red did just win the challenge with the shortest stopping distance on those Baer brakes. In October, the team loaded up Big Red and took it to the remote desert locale of “Club Ed.” It’s a movie set of a colorful, yet dilapidated desert filling station and diner where thrillers and horror movies like Eye of the Storm and The Devil’s Rejects were filmed. 

It was a visually evocative location that allowed photographer David Blattel and a blonde bombshell named Masha Lund to really bring out the best of the Outlaw Racer spirit in Big Red, and out of this came the Camaro’s first full-sized poster.

2005 Baer Brakes Speed-Stop / Z2Z Challenge

Baer Brakes and Vbox USA Speed-Stop Chart

In 2006, RJ ran the Baer Brakes and Vbox USA Speed-Stop Z2Z Challenge again, this time coming in second to an Ultima GTR, Then RJ and Chris Kaufmann raced the Silver State Classic Challenge to an event-winning 163.9-mph average. Big Red was asked to be a part of the largest car-based movie franchise of all time in 2008. The producers of Fast & Furious contacted RJ and asked if Big Red could be in their movie. Big Red originally had been asked to have a larger part in the movie, but in the end, it only got a few seconds of screen time. In the movie, Big Red wore its numbers and all its decals. The movie was released in 2009, and was a nice feather in Big Red’s hat.