The hand-built model of the Big Red ’69 Camaro is a true work of art
Hot-rodding isn’t just about the cars we build, drive, and dream about: it’s a lifestyle. How many of us started out with Hot Wheels and then moved on to die-cast cars and models? Well, big kids (sometimes called adults) always seem to want to collect anything car related, especially if it relates to their own pride and joy. The subject of this article is something like that, but taken to a level that, honestly, is a bit hard to understand. And while we’ve seen some amazing metal fabrications on real hot rods, the reduced detail in this work is a bit mind-blowing. The builder is Jamie Schena, 33, and you should prepare to be blown away by his take on the iconic 1969 Chevy Camaro known as Big Red. To find out more, we decided to ask Jamie about his unique part of hot manual labor.
Whe tackling a project like the Big Red Camaro?
“The Big Red Camaro [@thebigredcamaro] The road race setup was by far my most complicated sculpt build to date. When Big Red’s owner RJ Gottlieb ordered it, my instructions were to build every detail of the exterior and interior, as well as open the doors, hood, and trunk. I was allowed unlimited hours on this build because he wanted this masterpiece to be my biggest sculpture yet.”
What is the artist’s Hot-Rodding background?
“I am an Australian automotive industrial designer who works every day at GM’s Advanced Design studio as a creative clay sculptor. I grew up working for my parents’ mechanical and engineering company where I made custom farm machinery designed by my dad. Repairing trucks, tractors, and cars was also part of the business because my dad and older brother are both mechanics. Dad’s business is the place where I learned my skills, the creativity came from my mother because she is very artistic. I started welding at the age of 8, and at 13 I was building sculptures for customers. 20 years later, it’s still a full-time hobby.”
How Are you starting such a complex metal sculpture?
“Where to start? I took a trip to Victorville [California] visit Big Red in person, study the car and all of its components. Although the car may look original, it is far from it. I was blown away by the craftsmanship of the Big Red team, but at the same time I realized how difficult it was going to be for me to recreate every component and try to capture the character of this American icon. . Nothing is standard on the car, so I had to be careful and take notes. They provided me with a build book of the car, which helped me reference different aspects, but I also needed to take lots of pictures. My artwork is not a die cast model, it really is a piece of art. What I mean by this is that everything is my interpretation and is not built to scale, but rather by eye. I use approximate dimensions such as wheel size and overall length, but that’s it. I construct my sculptures from mild steel sheets and recycled automotive parts.”
What tools were used to construct the sculpture?
“As for tools, I use a MIG welder and two grinders, one for cutting and one for grinding. I use a Dremel for all areas than a 4.5 inch grinder can’t reach.I have a few different hammers,I use a metal lathe to machine the wheels,a drill,some C-clamps and a vise.These are the only tools I use except for a paint gun.
How How long did it take to build?
“I sort of lost count after 400 hours, but somewhere between 400 and 500 hours for the Big Red sculpture. The hardest part of the build was making the hood and trunk hinges, for multiple reasons. Firstly, recreating the geometry was a pain, as it has to get away from the bodywork but also back flush. Secondly, the hinges are small and almost impossible to reach with my hands, so access is almost non-existent. I couldn’t create the hinges until I created the body, but once I created the body, I had no room to access them for the hundreds of times I had to bolt them and unbolt them to adjust the clearance.”
Are All parts formed and shaped by hand?
“My bespoke metal artwork can never be replicated – everything I make is unique and bespoke. I leave the metal grinding marks exposed to celebrate the fact that it is handmade. J uses clear polyurethane paint with an assortment of colorants to generate color to replicate the subject, although the idea is for the paint to be transparent so we can still see the craftsmanship in the metal. The paint job of the Big Red sculpt involved a significant amount of masking and was very time consuming. The entire construction from start to finish was done by me.”
As you scroll through the gallery, you’ll notice how many individual parts have gone into something like the engine. We’ve seen Big Red’s interior and there’s a lot going on there too, but Jamie managed to capture every detail, right down to the fire system and cage-mounted tachometer. To give you an idea, the sculpt is 1/4 scale and tips the scales at 95 pounds! Metal plug wires, metal seats, all metal, and all handmade for hundreds of hours. Damn, most people don’t have 500 hours spent building a real car! And while it’s Jamie’s most ambitious project, he’s built many commissioned cars, including a cute Gulf-colored Porsche race car, a 1967 Camaro and plenty of other rides you can see dotted around in the gallery. RJ was so impressed with the finished product that he commissioned Jamie to build a super-fast version of Big Red next.
And after? Well, in addition to tackling the next Big Red project, Jamie would love to explore larger scale sculpts that will allow him to add even more detail. He will just need a bigger workshop and maybe a forklift. He also plans to add to his own collection of Formula 1 car artwork and display it at a Formula 1 event one day. Email Jamie at [email protected] to order a piece inspired by your favorite hot rod or follow him on social media (below) to see more of his amazing work.
Learn more about Jamie Schena’s work!
Look! Pro Touring 1969 Chevy Camaro
Jamie sends special thanks to:
- Family and friends for their help and support over the years
- Mom and dad, Michael (brother) and Chantelle (sister)
- Melissa, Steve and Marilyn
- Work colleagues at Holden Design Australia and GM Advanced Design California
- All the clients over the years who have pushed me and believed in my ability to create art that they are proud to own.
- RJ, Josh and the crew of the Big Red Camaro
- Powerful engines, Warragul fuel injection for scrap parts to build my artwork.