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This weeks interview is with James Shipka, builder, driver and owner of the One Lap Camaro. Together with he and Mary Pozzi at the wheel the Camaro became the 2013 winner in the vintage class of One Lap of America!
James’ history with muscle cars is not your typical story any way you look at it. His girl friend Debbie (now wife) actually got him into cars (with ’77 Ford Mustang II of all things) and together they modified it, drag raced it, and James and generally got hooked on muscle cars. Eventually they got rid of the Ford, picked up a 1968 Camaro, and never looked back.
The One Lap Camaro started as an intention to make a fast Pro Street car cheap. James said he bought a “roller” almost sight unseen and when it showed up it was pretty depressing. When he started digging into the car it got even more depressing. In the end the car was going to need massive amounts of work and money, no matter how he sliced it.
With that all established, James decided to change his focus to building a car that could successfully compete in the One Lap of America competition. He had absolutely no experience in Pro-Touring or autocross, which meant that he not only had to build a pro-touring car, but also had to build a pro-touring driver!
He signed up for a two day driving school at Racing Adventures. David Zubick, chief instructor at the school, gave him an unexpected insight and taught him to keep an open mind at driving school as you never know what you may learn. Since then he has taken multiple other driving schools including Skip Barber Racing School and Mario Andretti Driving School. He even attended Dirt Fish Rally School to learn how to handle a car that’s unstable at all times (on purpose).
When I asked James about the best benefits of getting the most from a driving school he shared that as long as you believe you are learning something, you ARE learning something. It may seem like you are not getting better but as long as you continue learning and continue practicing those skill, you will get faster.
There have been three or four versions of the One Lap Camaro. The first version felt to James like the best first gen Camaro he had ever driven. The next thing he had to do was to fix it. The flying Pozzi’s (David and Mary) worked with him to help sort the car out into something that could get around the track faster. Many of the parts he used at the time were cutting edge but the industry had not grown into the sport yet and left a lot to be desired. The car as it is now is light years ahead of that first build and he still has many plans for it in the works.
One thing James told us to remember when building a car is to build it for yourself, not worry about the re-sale value of the car, and to do things that interest you. As James shared in his interview, when he placed a functional wing on the trunk of his car he received massive internet backlash. People criticized him greatly for putting a wing on a muscle car. Some of the complaints even came from muscle car owners who’s own car had a wing on it. James posted a video of the wing in testing showing how it changes for cornering, braking, and high speed situations. Check the video out on the Facebook page or on You Tube.
This interview was so interesting to me and so in depth that I only scratched the surface in this article, I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.
Thanks for the interview James!
– Rob Kibbe
This interview sponsored by our pals at National Parts Depot – your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!