Any hot rodding parent knows many things in life are done "for the children." Sometimes—well, most of the time—it's in the form of sacrifice, like forgoing that new stroker in favor of private-school tuition, or any number of other things. But Mike Benge figured out a way to turn the tables and end up with a cool Camaro in the garage. You see, his son James has a killer '91 Camaro Z28 and Mike theorized that getting one of his own would provide many hours of quality bonding time. "I wanted to be able to attend Camaro events with my son and my wife, Lori. I needed something to take on events like the Hot Rod Power Tour," remarked Mike. Once the idea was solidified, the family started hunting around for a suitable candidate. Eventually they found a '92 Camaro a couple of hours from home and took a drive to check it out. As Mike told us, "On the testdrive, it wouldn't idle below 1,300 rpm, and it was way down on power, but my son thought it could be easily repaired so we bought the car anyway. We drove it home from Chicago to Lebanon, Indiana, and on the way my wife commented that it reminded her of the car from Mad Max, so that's what we called it. The name stuck."
On the trip home, the '92 Camaro shut off a few times but eventually restarted. The next day, on the way back from getting some shop estimates, it shut off again but this time it had to be towed home. They found that the fuel system was shot and the tank needed to be pulled. That's when the snowball effect cut in, and soon everything under the Camaro, all the way up to the front wheels, was getting rebuilt, replaced, or repainted.
Once back together, the shutting down problem persisted. The issue was eventually traced to a bad fuel injector. In the troubleshooting process, the pair discovered some other "issues," so the decision was made to pull the 305 and give it the once-over.
Tri Star Engines did the rebuild and started by boring out the block 0.030-inch and dropping in a set of Keith Black hypereutectic pistons. The long block was topped with a set of Dart Iron Eagle heads and a healthy COMP bumpstick was slid into place. The GM TPI system was retained and they sourced fresh fuel parts from South Bay Injectors. The rest of the fuel system was updated with a Walbro pump and Holley fuel pressure regulator. For a more reliable ignition system, Mike picked up an MSD distributor and coil, while Hooker 1 5⁄8-inch headers expel the spent gasses. They had trouble getting the engine to run right with the new camshaft but a custom-burnt ECM chip from Scott Hansen at Tuned Port Induction Programming Services got it purring like the proverbial ticked-off kitten.
Behind the new small-block sits the original T5 five-speed transmission paired up with a GM clutch. The '92 Camaro also fields a 10-bolt rearend with a limited-slip and 3.73 gears.
So far the handling mods are minor and consist of Founders Performance Panhard bar, Edelbrock torque arm, BMR strut tower brace, and Jegs subframe connectors. For rolling stock, Mike went with Billet Specialties Street Lite 17-inch wheels wrapped in 245/45-17 BFG g-Force Sport Comp-2 rubber. The paint and body, including the ghost heritage stripes, is much as it was when the '92 Camaro was bought, but the interior was freshened up with new GM parts where needed.
So far the project has worked out just as Mike envisioned. He and his son have done most of the work on the '92 Camaro, and his wife, Lori, was put in charge of parts procurement. They even got the Camaro done and on the road in time for the 2013 all-Camaro event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana.
As for Mike, this was one sacrifice for his child that he was more than happy to make.