Back on the Street and Bader Than Ever: The Hardcore Pandemic ’70 Camaro

When a car has a good history attached to it, it really gives it some character. Not that a 1970 Chevy Camaro with a Pandem kit really needs any help in that department.

Its owner and main favorite of Hardcore Tokyo, Junichi Takahashi (better known as Jun) also exudes character. Camaro is Jun-san’s personal project, influenced by Japanese and American punk culture, which he has absorbed throughout his life. It’s about as far from his R33 drift car as you can get, but both are embodiments of Jun-san’s eclectic tastes and appreciation of all car culture.


Jun-san spent his 30s in New York, returning to Japan every three months to renew his passport. While based in the States, he is heavily influenced by the US drag racing scene and is particularly excited about the 1/8 mile Outlaw class for muscle cars that are limited to small 26×8.5 rear tires.


This was in the mid-2000s when drag racing was still big in Japan, so when Jun-san finally returned to his homeland, he wasted no time looking for a 3rd generation 1990 Camaro Z28 and after it headed to the nearest drag strip.

After a 10-year run, the Z28 was scrapped, and Jun-san took the second-generation ’70 Camaro you see here. But here the story takes a twist. Call it fate if you will, but there’s every possibility that if things had turned out differently, the car might not have materialized into the beast it is today.


It all got worse the moment June bought the Camaro. As in most countries, the transfer of ownership must be completed when a sale is made, but unbeknownst to Jun-san at the time, the Camaro didn’t come with any official documentation – it was lost. He and the salesman had an immediate side-view drift and subsequently lost all line of communication, essentially leaving Jun-san with a giant muscle car-shaped paperweight.


In order for Jun-san to register the Camaro in his name, he now had to him to trace the last registered owner of the car and reissue him new documents. It eventually happened – it just took 10 long years!

All this time, however, Jun-san never lost faith and started rebuilding the car anyway – something that his good friend Kei Miura of TRA Kyoto – the company behind Rocket Bunny/Pandem – ended up playing a big part in.


Both Jun-san and Miura-san have spent considerable time outside of Japan, gathering experiences, perspectives, and ideas from around the world. The Camaro is just as well-traveled, and having lived in Japan for almost half its life now, it’s safe to say it’s probably more Japanese than American.


As the pair lounged around TRA Kyoto thinking about what to build for the 2023 Tokyo Auto Show, Jun-san admitted to hiding the Camaro. Miura-san also had a confession: he had long admired Trans Am and NASCAR racers, and had always wanted to design and manufacture Pandem body kits for select muscle cars. The two agreed on the subject, and Miura-san bought a Pontiac Firebird the very next day.


The following year, fenders, spoilers and lips were designed for no fewer than four American muscle cars – Miura-san’s Firebird, Jun-san’s Camaro, plus the Mustang and Corvette, all of which made their TAS 2023 debut.


Both the Firebird and Camaro feature swept-back fenders, something a little different from the bolt-on style we’re all familiar with. Jun-san says they wanted to pay homage to the wide and flowing style of 70s muscle racing cars that is timeless, and I think we can all agree that it works very well.


The ‘Pandem 70 Camaro’ went under the knife at J.Beat Custom Shop in Saitama, who carefully blended Pandem FRP over the bodywork before spraying the entire car in pure white.


Under the hood, the old-school drag-spec muscle vibes are strong. The 402ci big block V8 is mated to a Muncie 4-speed transmission and 12-bolt differential with LSD and 3.97 final drive. Custom valve covers are finished with laser-etched logos, just in case you forget what you’re looking at.


When I first saw pictures of the car, I wondered why the roll cage was so tight to the steering wheel. ‘Surely this must be a pain? Thought. It turns out that this is another nod to muscle car history, as the roll cages in the old Trans Am race cars were built this way. Gotta love authenticity.


The Camaro looks nothing short of menacing. An updated Heidts 4-link suspension kit and classic, insanely wide RS Watanabe Eight Spoke wheels – measuring 15×10.5 inches and 15×12 inches front and rear, respectively, and wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber – enhance the looks and handling of the vehicle significantly.


Everything about Jun-san’s Camaro is perfect – its new proportions, stance, wheels and tires and sound.

It’s a modified American muscle car with a custom Japanese twist, and after 15 years of ownership – but only two years of registration – Jun-san is finally making up for lost time – behind the wheel, of course.

Toby Thayer
Instagram _tobinsta_

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