Al Holbert has been immersed in auto racing when he was in his early twenties. He began his racing career working at Roger Penske's shop. He was part of Mark Donohue's crew in 1971. He learnt what he could and was involved in the car's development. He would move up into the racing scene, following his father's steps as a race driver. In 1971, he began driving a Porsche 914 in SCCA racing. He then drove a Porsche 911 in IMSA racing, then Porsche Carreras and 934s. In 1974, John Bishop, who could oversee the German domination ahead, was devising a new class, based on American GTs and poney cars : the AAGT class was born. The 1975 season was launched with new cars that would fight over with the dominating Porsche Carreras : the Chevrolet Monzas were the challengers. They would soon become the cars to beat. Al Holbert was not hard to convince when he saw the car's potential. By the end of the 1975 season, he had ordered a brand new car, prepared by Dekon Engineering. Chassis #1008 would be used all over the 1976 season. The car would be built by Lee Dykstra. He was not long to get used to it. In 1976 and 1977, he was the IMSA Camel GT Champion, beating everyone, from Hans Stuck to Brian Redman or Peter Gregg. The AAGT class was designed to allow such cars to compete with the best GT cars in the world. A very liberal set of rules allowed every car builder to do everything they had in mind. The original car was stripped from everything, and the final rendering was far away from any GM production. You just had some body panels left, the windshield, the rear window and the roof. Everything else was built from scratch. And it was a heck of a result! The car looked gorgeous, and was looking wild. It was powerful and really looked stuck to the ground, eager to fight and swallow the opposition! A tubular chassis was used, and it seemed to make the car react as required. The inside of the car was stripped from every useless device, and the driver's position,was somewhat perfect. The car seemed to be as easy to drive as it was fast. Claude Ballot Léna was the test driver for a very special session held at Daytona. Having run Le Mans and many Endurance races all around the world, he was renowned for his very smooth driving as well as being able to nurse any car to the finish.
Copyright Martin Spetz
Climbing into the car brought him a surge of easiness. He never drove such a car, but it seemed to drive him easy. While buckling up, he asked every mechanic if there was anything special with the car. They were somewhat surprised at this request. Turning on the ignition, the noise was awful, but it was impressive. Running smoothly, the car was like any other car, but as soon as you would push on the accelerator, it went like a bullet. With a very huge torque, it produced a lot of horsepower, even at 2000rpm. Steering the car was very hard at slow speeds, but when you hit the right pedal, you were pushed by the 600hp engine. Getting 6000 rpm is an easy task, and it was equivalent to 260 km/h. Racing on BBS wheels, 24.5-15 at the front and 25.0x13-15 at the rear. Running such a car was no easy task, and the left driver window was replaced by a safety net, which was required for every Camel GT car. Big air flows gushed into the car, along with dust in the fast portions of the track. Very unsafe for driving. Drivers with integral helmets had to lower their eyeshade. However, when you entered the slower portion of the track, heat would become unbearable, and you had to lift your eyeshade up. Very uncomfortable, but it brought an explanation to the fact that many American drivers wore jet helmets, along with racing goggles. Much more comfortable! After a few laps, you could feel easy with the car which you can drive easily. The engine was so fantastic that you could rely on the 4speed gearbox. Handling was perhaps the sole negative point, with a propensity to oversteering. You had to wait for the end of the curve to frankly accelerate. Not doing so forced your driving into counterbalancing this effect. In fact, this negative side-effect encountered in such a car, which kind of hampered its efficiency, was needed to balance the car on the banking. It was better to have an oversteering car in the infield, rather than on the banking! The engine was mounted in the Monza in an ingenious fashion, using aluminium plates that attach to to the front and rear of the block. The plates acted as structural members, stiffening the chassis and also allowing the engine to be mounted closer to the ground than is possible with the usual side engine mounts. A high performance clutch was feeding power to the Muncie 4speed transmission, which was known as the rock crusher in racing circles. 8-piston 4-pad Lockheed front calipers were used to stop the 1200kg car. with 12inch vented discs to the front and 11.9inch vented discs to the rear. The body was made out of a tubular space frame and steel monocoque with steel and fiberglass body panels. The front suspension used unequal length A-arms with coil springs, Monroe adjustable tube shocks and an anti-roll bar. The rear suspension was a live axle on upper and lower parallel trailing arms and Watt linkage, coil springs and Monroe adjustable tube shocks and an anti-roll bar. As it was used during this track test, the car was to be run in the 1977 24 Hour of Daytona race. Still in the 1976 configuration, the car would last only a few hours before retiring. Al Holbert was the 1976 IMSA Camel GT Champion with this car. The 1977 season was ahead and a new car would be entered. It was chassis #1014. A huge rear wing was the most spectacular evolution of the car, as well as a new front spoiler, plus some extra aerodynamical components.
Copyright Mark Windecker
The new season would be a bit more tough, with the arrival of the Porsche 934s and the new BMW 320 Turbo. Yet, Al Holbert had a wonderful 1977 campaign and managed to capture another Camel GT crown. Unfortunately, it would be the last title for an American car. The Porsche 935s were becoming unbeatable right from the beginning of the 1978 season. However, the Dekon built Chevrolet Monza left its footprint on the IMSA Camel GT from 1975 to 1977. They were quite unbeatable in 1976-1977, then it was over. Chevrolet Monzas were to be seen until 1986 in IMSA, but they were already history.