Ron Casadei’s lifelong, “gear driven” dream was to score a trio of Camaro Z/28 rides from the first three years of the muscle car’s production. He already had the hard-to-find ’67 version and a beautiful ’69 was locked away in the garage back at his home in suburban New Jersey. Now it was time to complete the trifecta and hook himself up with a needy ’68 Z to restore and add to his collection.
Not long into his search Ron spotted a Corvette Bronze ’68 Z/28 in the want ads. The car was everything that Ron needed, as it was a perfect candidate for an OEM-styled restoration that he planned to do from the start. Ron spied the project and quickly laid his hard-earned ducats down, and brought the needy Chevy pony car back to his garage to start the teardown and lengthy buildup.
Sadly, soon after the purchase, Ron’s dad got sick. Without hesitation, Ron put the Camaro back up for sale knowing he wouldn’t have the time to do the car’s extensive restoration, as family has always come first with Ron. And then, after concluding that having a trio of Z/28s wasn’t the most important thing in life at the moment, he chose to let his beautiful ’69 pass on to a new owner as well.
But once Ron purged the pair of Z/28s, an interesting thing happened. While surfing the web one night, he came across an attention-rousing ad. It was for a highly optioned ’67 Z/28 … a car that was also blessed with the hallowed RS package. That combination certainly got Ron’s attention, as it’s not every day you spy a car like this for sale. And after some thought and discussion with his good friend and muscle car aficionado Albert Galdi, he decided he needed to take a closer look at the potent pony ride. The only problem here was that the Camaro was 1,200 miles away … in Iowa! But Ron thought the opportunity to own such a rare car was too great to let it slip away. So he took the chance and made this the recon trip of a lifetime.
Once out in Iowa, Ron met up with the car’s owner. The two then headed off to a local storage facility where the car was stashed away from prying eyes. Once the garage door opened, Ron found the Z/28 in pieces, as the current owner had started a restoration that he just couldn’t finish. He had already replaced the ailing quarter-panels, which was something that was badly needed, but the majority of the bodywork still needed to be done. Unfortunately, the original powertrain was long gone, but the owner had sourced a date-correct M21 transmission, included with the deal. Other than that, the upside of this possible purchase was that the Camaro retained many of its other hard-to-find OEM parts, which help make up the rare Camaro’s factory buildsheet.
After giving the project Z/28 a once-over, Ron called and discussed the find with good friend Albert, as he was the one who would probably spearhead the car’s restoration; well, if the Chevy came home with him, that is. The two agreed as to what would be a reasonable price to pay for the Camaro. Taking his good friend’s advice, Ron now felt confident enough to make the owner an offer on the project car. A little haggling ensued, but the two came to an agreement on price and the needy Chevy was prepped for the ride back to New Jersey.
What Ron had bought was a rare car indeed. Only 602 Z/28s were sold in 1967, so finding one can be a chore to say the least. Add to that the RS package and you’ve now got a car as rare as hen’s teeth. This particular ride came from the factory with some choice appointments. It’s built up nicely with a black deluxe interior package, console, and gauges. It also came with the interior chrome package and aux lighting. Finishing off the interior is the deluxe sport wheel with the tilt wheel option. The car was coded RR for the much sought after Bolero Red finish. There is also a dealer installed rear defogger and front bumper guards. This Z/28 was sold new out of Frontier Chevrolet in high and dry Billings, Montana. Sadly, the dealership is no longer in business.
Return to Glory
The car came back as a roller, along with several boxes and two garbage cans full of small parts and pieces. Once home in the Garden State, Ron and Al laid out the remains of the Z/28 and cataloged each part. They then started searching out the needed parts that would bring this rare ride up to gold standards. Ron first located many of the pertinent pieces of this Chevy’s powerplant puzzle. He tracked down correct date-coded parts such as the block, heads, intake and exhaust manifolds, distributor, and carburetor. He also found the small journal steel forged crank and a set of rods and pistons that were original to the feisty Z/28 302ci powerplant. All the engine parts Ron sourced are to factory specs, and he even located a set of original solid lifters for the build.
Once Ron was happy with their supply of parts, Albert started in on the restoration. He was assisted part-time by his good friend Joe Hansen, a retired ASE master tech and Albert’s all-around motorhead guru. Ron also helped out when he could, but his typically seven-day-a-week day job kept him busy for the most part. Albert and Joe assembled the engine to factory specs while digging away a little at a time at the bodywork. They found that the quarters were poorly installed, which led to fitment issues with the doors. They took their time on a restoration that Albert calls “his most intense restoration he’s ever done!” Ron wanted a number 1 car, and that’s what he was going to get.
Another striking problem was the decklid. It had been stored vertically on the driver’s side edge on concrete that saw its share of water. By the time they received it, that section had rotted severely. Instead of buying a repop, Albert took the time to reconstruct the OEM piece with extensive welding and bodywork. Better to save what’s original to the car. Luckily, some things were not as challenging. Ron had scored a complete N.O.S. nose section for the car that fit beautifully with little work needed to bring it up to snuff.
Once the body was put back to better than OEM standards, the new Bolero Red base/clear coat was applied by Albert right there in his makeshift paint booth on his family’s farm. Needless to say, the Camaro’s new red skin was a worthy work of art. The main challenge here for Albert was the striping on the car. He had never laid stripes before, and these add-ons have frustrated even seasoned body guys and paint pros. But miraculously, on his first try he pulled it off without a hitch. He even went so far as to re-create the overspray left on the cowl when the Van Nuys factory applied the stripes on these cars with the hood already on.
With the drivetrain complete, Albert went to work on the interior. It proved to be quite a chore, as it contained many one-off pieces made for only that year. The door panels and pulls were hard parts to obtain. But the real tricky pieces were the anodized aluminum headliner moldings. Unfortunately, they are not reproduced. The pair that came with the car were in fair condition, though one looked like it was stepped on at some point. Al’s friend Dennis Barnett fixed the set of moldings to better than new condition.
Out back, the 12-bolt rear was rebuilt according to spec, receiving new axles and a new Eaton posi and a fresh 3.73 gearset. The crew also had to source a new traction bar as it was missing from the car when they found it. Ron found one N.O.S. in the box, along with the hardware! That’s a true find in and of itself. He did not want to drill through the front valance to put on the front bumper guards so they were left off the final build.
The resulting restoration is certainly a sight to behold, as it even exceeded Ron’s heightened expectations. Three years had passed and the hard work and dedication from the trio had now paid off in spades. The car has consistently won every show it has been entered in across the eastern seaboard. Albert says it’s the most extensive work he’s ever done, and he’s happy to report this beautiful Z/28’s intensive restoration didn’t affect his friendship with Ron at all. The Bolero Red ride now sits next to Ron’s other two Chevys he has in his possession: an Ermine White ’67 Z/28 and a Mulsanne Blue ’71 LS5 Chevelle SS … making this one patriotic looking threesome!