Fifty-one-year-old Scott Maki had envisioned doing a body-off resto on his latest Camaro, one of several second-gen cars he's had over the years. Maki's like most of us: got the tools and the savvy but definitely not able to throw every living dollar at a wanton, insatiable desire. He has five kids to look after. No, he'd be doing it the way real hot rodders take ownership, just him, a few close friends, and the skin off their bones.
A rotisserie was out of the question, so the shell was on jack stands and Scott was on his back with scrapers, the ubiquitous hot wrench, solvent, and skeins of steel wool, rubbing away 35 years of undercoat and grunge. He'd got the face of a coal miner at day's end, raccoon eyes, hands notched with small, bloody histories. But he was happy. He hadn't discovered a trace of scale or the presence of oxidation anywhere in the nether regions.
There was good reason for his good fortune. The Camaro was no vagrant. It came from a small muscle car lot in Beaver Falls, PA, in 2006, and was documented with the original window sticker, maintenance receipts, the Chevy brochure, and yes, even the original title. The car had worn but 63,000 miles and had rarely been sullied by inclement weather. The base Camaro coupe had no air conditioning, the factory paint, and all the original equipment. Scott claims that 95 percent of the metal on the finished car is as it was birthed.
Maki's concept was simple: couple a classic look with a modern drivetrain and the latest in chassis and braking technology. "Part of my vision of the car in its finished state was what a 1973 Camaro might look like if you were able to add today's technology as options when it was new." And it was a family jump from the outset. Maki's 19-year-old daughter Lauren and a pal of hers helped him pull the engine and transmission. And so it went. Scott suffered the usual setbacks but had planned wisely for the disposition of the build, allowing time for paint jail and the completion of just one of sub-assembly at a time. Until the fire.
Rather than incorporate a four-link suspension or create a sensation with adjustable coilover shock absorbers, Scott remained true to the leaf-spring concept. His ace is the product of one of the world's most savvy leaf-spring proponents, Herb Adams, a suspension and handling expert at Pontiac back in the day. Herb raced F-bodies often and with great success, hence, the storied Herb Adams Mod. With the help of friend John Wright, Scott had modified the front spring pockets (to accept Hotchkis bundles) as per Adams formula, a change that helps the rear of the car squat better and place more weight on the back tires so that you can pedal it faster coming out of a turn.
There were other variables certainly, not the least of which was that small setback when he was bringing the finished car back from its 26-month gestation. "I'd made an appointment for a wheel alignment," chortled Scott. "And on the way back I looked in the rearview and saw smoke coming up between the seats and the package tray and the defroster vent. By the time I'd gotten to the car with a fire extinguisher, the flames on the back seat were a foot high! My newly restored interior was trash, but I saved the car."
Though his car managed to steal every spare moment, his personal life was whirlwind. "In March of '08 I began dating Cindy. In June I started a new job, put my house up for sale, and in September bought a new one, and the Camaro came back from the restoration shop. In October Cindy and I got married. She really had no idea what was in store being married to a car guy," he gasped.
"I had lots of assistance along the way," said Scott. "But I don't know how people did this back in the day. The Internet was invaluable, as was nastyz28.com, pro-touring.com, and lateral-g.net, George Morris (tech and moral support), Doug, Rick, Mike, and Guy. I'm very fortunate to have this car but even more to have met new friends."