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."
Twist & Shout
Scott didn't feel pressured to build a 1,000-horsepower motor, no. His desire was superior braking and handling systems in a vehicle with moderate power, thereby being able to use said systems to their fullest extent, power parity if you will. An M&H Electrical Fabricator harness tends the power module and ancillaries. A GMPP aluminum-head ZZ4 crate provides modest impetus, albeit enhanced by an LT1 Hot Cam and 1.6:1 roller rockers. An Edelbrock Air Gap intake manifold hosts a Holley 770-cfm Street Avenger carburetor that's been decked with a Proform carbon-fiber lid and stuffed with a K&N element. Spark jumps vibrant from an MSD E-Curve billet distributor and a Blaster 2 coil through Taylor Thundervolt 50 primary leads. The engine's deadly gasses are voided through Jet-Hot-coated Hooker Super Comps with 13/4-inch primaries and a 3-inch collector that merge with a Pypes Performance 21/2-inch stainless system that is interrupted slightly by a cross-pipe and Race Pro mufflers. Support systems include Scooter's Performance carbon-fiber rocker covers, a Holley 110-gph fuel pump pulling from a Spectra Premium fuel tank, a very cool Black Mountain Precision billet cogged pulley system, and a SPAL 16-inch puller fan behind an aluminum Spectra Premium four-row coolant core. For this practical conglomerate, let's figure about 430 lb-ft of torque and 425 horsepower, more than enough zing to make the chassis work really stand out. To absorb and disperse the 350's guff, Scott put a McLeod billet steel flywheel and Street Comp 11-inch pressure plate assembly on the crank and bolted a Tremec TKO 600 five-gear behind them. Inland Empire connects transmission to third member with a steel prop shaft. The Moser 12-bolt is equipped with an Eaton Truetrac differential holding 3.73:1 cogs (combined with the 0.64:1 OD, Scott cruises cool with a 2.38:1 final). The 33-spline Moser axles plug into the housing with big Ford bearings and the C-clips are history.
No glitz, no useless geegaws here. Succinct understatement is the theme, as is Scott's serious carbon-fiber fetish. Riggs Brothers Top & Interior in Naperville, IL, applied a marine-grade faux carbon-fiber headliner and descended into the cockpit with new GM Comfort Weave seat covers from PUI Interiors. Scott's body is held beneath Morris Classic Concepts three-point belts. The dashboard/instrument panel ensemble comes from the carbon-fiber wizards at Dragon Plate and features carbon-fiber inserts and delete plates. Accents include Auto Meter Carbon Fiber series gauges and a Tenzo Turismo steering wheel atop an NRC Innovations quick-disconnect hub. Not only very cool, it tends to kick car thievery in the rear.
Fixing the body rigid was the first step towards controlling torsional bending and adding the stiffness necessary to maintain correct wheel geometry. Step one was to insert Pro Touring aluminum biscuits between the powdercoated subframe and the body. Starting with the stock spindles, Scott progressed up and to the rear with a Hotchkis hollow 13/8-inch anti-sway bar and coils and Bilstein inserts between Global West tubular control arms. The aforementioned Hotchkis leaf bundles work with the Herb Mod raised spring eye cups, billet anti-sway bar links, and a 1-inch Addco solid bar. All four wheels stay firmly planted and the geometry infused in the Global control arms keep the front wheels as straight up and down as possible. The hood latches are Fesler billet and the fender strut bars are a product of Twist Machine. An AGR Billet Series 12:1 steering box directs a Spicer idler arm, tie-rod ends (with Baer adjustable bump vsteer links), and the ever-critical centerlink.
Though undeterred about doing the grunt work, Scott didn't feel confident in taking the sheetmetal to the nth degree or applying the pigment. Enter Don Francesco of NOS Restoration in Schaumburg, IL. Don and his number one crew threw themselves on the F-Body maniac like. His guys took it away for some minor massaging (the absolute beauty of beginning with a straight, shrapnel-free piece on the outset), a Goodmark steel hood humping a modest 2-inch cowl, and laying on the Sikkens 2001 Viper Yellow basecoat/clearcoat. As frosting, Scott had NOS apply Marquez Design billet engine displacement numbers on the fenders; soon, a Detroit Speed billet aluminum hood latch pin and spring collars found their places. To contrast the nuclear yellow paint, the bumpers, headlight bezels, and taillight trim were powercoated black.
Rollers & Energy Burners
Scott, unlike most, went conservative on the wheel/tire combination, posting just enough to minimize unsprung weight yet avail high traction. Eight-inch-wide by 17-inch diameter Hot Wheels Sixty-Eights with a 4.5-inch offset hold 255/40 Sumitomo HTR-2 II gummies on the leading edge; the back half is held by 9-inch Sixty-Eights and Sumi 275/40s. He burns off speed quickly with a Wilwood dual-pot master cylinder feeding compression to four-piston, 12.19-inch Wilwood Dynalites all around. Inline Tube stainless lines maintain the critical connection.