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1973 Chevy Camaro - Told Ya' So!

Chris Ongaro Spent More Than A Decade Proving His Father Wrong With This Camaro

By Damon Lee, Photography by Damon Lee, Steve Reyes

Most teenagers like nothing better than proving their parents wrong. As self-appointed know-it-alls, they're convinced they have love, life, and happiness all figured out. And cars? Hey, don't even question a teenage gearhead's expertise in the automotive realm!

North Carolina resident Chris Ongaro was one of those "expert" high school kids back in the '80s. He was pretty sure he had things all figured out-at least when it came to cars. And as it turns out, he was right.

"When I was in high school I had my heart set on one car," Chris said, "and it was my dad's '73 Camaro. Upon graduation he told me that the Camaro was 'too much for me to handle.' As if that wasn't enough bad news, he sold the car! For the next 10 years, all I could do was sit and wonder about the car I truly loved."

Chris quit wondering when he got a phone call from his brother Tony in Florida. Tony had somehow managed to locate their father's Camaro, and he knew how badly Chris wanted it. Needless to say, Chris wasted no time calling the owner and negotiating a deal to buy a car that he hadn't even set eyes on in a decade.

Though the car came without an engine, it was in fairly solid condition. Tony trailered it back to North Carolina for Chris, who quickly shipped it off to Bill McDonald and Rusty Flora for bodywork and paint. That duo did an excellent job of massaging out a few dents, adding a Harwood hood, and spraying the sheetmetal in DuPont's Pocono Pearl Green.

While the body was being done, Chris and his friend Grayson Lamm went to work on the drivetrain. They assembled a strong 454 using TRW 11:1 pistons, a Lunati cam, ported and polished heads, Crane roller rockers, a Weiand intake, and a Barry Grant carb. Then they freshened up a Turbo 400 and a 4.56:1-geared 12-bolt rearend to back it up. This rock-solid running gear was ready and waiting when the Camaro came out of the body shop, and was installed along with Chassis Engineering subframe connectors, ladder bars, and a six-point rollcage. Center Line wheels (15x10-inch rear, 15x5 front) wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber got the car rolling.

With the body and drivetrain in order, it was time for some interior changes. Jerry Hobgood did the stitching, covering stock buckets, a modified rear seat (designed for his son Chris), and custom door panels in black tweed. The trunk was upholstered to match, and the dash was filled with Sun gauges, a Mallory tachometer, and a JVC stereo. A Grant wheel topped the stock steering column, and capped off the four-year rebuild project.

"After all was said and done, the Camaro looked awesome," Chris said. "My dad couldn't believe it. He thought it was a mistake buying the car sight unseen, but the finished product proved otherwise. He told me that if he only knew that I would have respected and loved this car that much, he would have let me own it back in high school!

"As for myself, I felt like a family member had finally returned home. I truly love my Camaro, and I'm sure my son will too."

By Damon Lee
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