Like any truly devoted enthusiast, regardless of where he is or what he’s doing, Jeff Miller is always on the lookout for interesting cars. While on a job site in 1992 he spotted a remarkably clean 1968 Camaro Z/28 in a Wisconsin barn. “It was fresh from Texas and rust free,” he recalls. “The original engine was gone because it supposedly blew up at a dragstrip, but the odometer read around 24,000 miles and the car was super clean.”
The Z/28 was not the only treasure in the barn—sitting right next to it was a 1967 Camaro RS in the same condition. Miller found the owner and asked the logical question, but was disappointed to learn they weren’t for sale. Without any better options, he decided to take a long-term view, and touched base with the Camaros’ owner about once a year to gently remind him he’s ready to buy if and when the cars are for sale. After 10 years, Miller’s persistence finally paid off.
“The owner of the cars called me on Easter and said he was willing to sell, but with one condition. I had to buy both cars. I didn’t have enough money for both of them but it didn’t take long to find a buddy who would go halfsies with me. I got the Z/28 and he got the RS. I bought the car thinking it’s a perfect starting point for a father-son project, but my son was only 1-year old when I got it!”
Miller is an automotive bodyman and painter by trade so he had the skills and tools to do nearly anything he desired with the car, but initially wasn’t sure what direction he wanted to go in. Without a precise plan, he moved forward with the basics, which included getting it running and driving. He also took care of a few minor issues with the body, which was in overall excellent condition to begin with, and then got it into primer.
Given that the original engine was already gone when Miller bought the car, he wasn’t motivated to do a stock restoration. At the same time however, he wasn’t particularly attached to a particular type of custom build, but that changed after he saw some cars set up for serious autocross action. “I fell in love with the idea of keeping the car mostly stock looking, but modifying it for seriously good handling and overall performance, so I decided to do that kind of a build, which meant starting all over again.”
Some pretty intense research led Miller to choose Mooresville, North Carolina-based Detroit Speed, Inc. (DSE) for chassis components. He replaced the Camaro’s original front subframe with a complete DSE assembly, which bolted right in using the OEM mount points. The subframe is manufactured with hydroformed siderails and stamped crossmembers for maximum strength. Forged DSE spindles mount to tubular upper and lower control arms that are sprung with adjustable QA1 coilover shocks. A splined antiroll bar mounted with composite bushings and a Detroit Tuned rack-and-pinion steering setup complete the front end, which is lowered about 4 inches from stock. Miller did the frontend installation with help from Darrell Whitman.
At the rear, Miller decided to stick with the original 12-bolt axle, which is fitted with an OEM Positraction centersection and 3.73:1 gears. The car’s original leaf springs were discarded in favor of a DSE QUADRALink suspension system. The exclusive four-link design features what DSE calls Swivel-Link, an anchoring system that enables the suspension to fully articulate with very fluid but rock-solid motion. As in the front, suspension and damping are handled by adjustable QA1 coilovers. The rear, which was installed by Darrell Whitman, is strengthened with subframe connectors and lowered the back of the car about 4 inches to match the front.
For a great look and improved performance, Miller chose Fikse wheels and BFG tires. The front wheels measure 18x9 and wear 255/35ZR18 g-Force T/A KDW rubber. At the rear, 18x11 wheels run on 295/35ZR18 g-Force tires. Mini-tubs from DSE give the wide wheel and tire combo in the rear sufficient breathing room.
To enhance braking performance, Miller installed a Baer system, with 13-inch rotors up front and 11-inch rotors in the rear. For superior cooling the discs are both slotted and drilled, and to prevent corrosion they’re zinc washed. Baer calipers, a late-model OEM-style master cylinder, and an adjustable proportioning valve round out the brake system.
For propulsion Miller turned to the experts at MAS Performance in Bay City, Wisconsin. MAS built up a 350ci engine using an Eagle crankshaft, Speed-Pro hypereutectic pistons, and Comp Cams Xtreme Energy hydraulic camshaft. The pistons generate a street-friendly 10.5:1 compression ratio and the cam features 0.490-inches of lift for both the exhaust and intake valves, and 230-degrees intake and 236-degrees exhaust duration at 0.050-inches of lift. A Melling oil pump and pan help keep everything lubricated, even in extreme conditions.
The induction setup is all Edelbrock, including E-Tec aluminum heads, which feature an LT1-style raised runner intake port design for increased airflow and an efficient combustion chamber design that positions the spark plug closer to the center of the cylinder. An Edelbrock E-Street throttle body EFI mounted to an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air-Gap intake manifold gives the benefits of electronic fuel injection in one of the simplest and most reliable packages available. Fuel delivery is handled by an Aeromotive electric pump drawing from a DSE stainless tank.
The engine is finished off with an Edelbrock water pump, valve covers, and air cleaner assembly; Powermaster 140-amp alternator; and Concept One high-performance pulley system. Exhaust gases reach the atmosphere via Lemons ceramic-coated headers linked to MagnaFlow 3-inch stainless steel pipes and MagnaFlow mufflers. Engine temperatures are kept well within reason with help from a Be Cool aluminum radiator and dual electric fans. Final tuning of the engine to maximize its power output and all-around performance was entrusted to the experts at West Bend Dyno Tuning.
The engine’s 465 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque get to the 12-bolt rear via a TREMEC five-speed manual transmission and Centerforce clutch. Combined with the differential’s 3.73 gears, the overdrive tranny provides a great combination of quick acceleration and comfortable highway cruising.
All of the car’s body panels are original, which is something of a minor miracle given the F-body’s tendency to rust at the slightest provocation. The fact that this car was in Texas for the first couple of decades of its life, and then in a dry Wisconsin barn for 10 years, is undoubtedly what preserved its sheetmetal. Miller chose to retain the body’s classic good looks with a few custom touches, including removal of the door locks and the addition of Ringbrothers GM Billet Two-Piece Door Handles. He also installed a DSE electric Rally Sport headlight door kit.
Not surprisingly, Miller did the main exterior paintwork himself, using PPG products. A Mercedes hue called Crystal Laurit Silver was chosen for the main color and Harley-Davidson Cherry Sunglo modified with the addition of red flakes was used for the red accents. The broad center stripe going the full length of the car (and continuing on the firewall and underside of the hood and trunk) is one of the Camaro’s most impressive features. It looks like its revealing an underlying raw carbon-fiber weave but in reality its paint that looks exactly like carbon fiber. “The paint scheme is definitely unique,” Miller says with obvious pride. “It took me months to replicate the carbon-fiber look!”
The exterior’s finishing touches were helped along by two people very close to Miller. His wife, Terri, did the pinstriping and their son Colten took care of polishing the stainless steel. The renewal of the exterior was completed with sparkling new glass from Auto City Classic Auto Glass.
As with the exterior, Miller chose to stick with a mostly stock look for the interior, but did upgrade most of the materials and finishes. Stock seats were upholstered with custom vinyl and suede covers purchased from Corona, California-based TMI Products. Matching door panels and carpet was also sourced from TMI. The original steering column was replaced with a billet tilt unit from ididit, the original steering wheel yielded to a new one from Billet Specialties, and Dakota Digital VHX gauges were installed in place of the originals. For increased comfort, Miller added power windows, power door locks, and a Vintage Air A/C system. Mark Burns at MKS Upholstery in Slinger, Wisconsin, did the interior work, masterfully blending all of the new elements with the original parts to create a seamlessly integrated look.
Miller found the electrical work to be challenging and turned to Dan Gregoriou for assistance. Gregoriou installed a new stereo system using a RetroSound head unit, JBL amplifier, RetroSound 3-inch front and Polk 6x9-inch rear speakers, and JL Audio subwoofer. He also helped with wiring and other electrical work throughout the car.
“It’s been a 13-year-long process,” explains Miller. “And some of the build has been a real challenge, but it’s also been a lot of fun. But of course, driving it is even more fun. And as planned, I have just begun to do some autocrossing with it. I did two runs at my first event, and drove like a grandpa just to get the feel of the car. I can’t wait to go again to see what the car can really do!”
Photos by Richard Prince