The lesson in automotive restoration is to always start with the best possible car you can find, even if that means seeing double. The first part of this two-Camaro story began with adventures in weight reduction. The previous owner of the original donor car had some interesting ideas in this area, and evidently a sawzall to test his theories. By the time Dave got the car, the damage was already done. The main firewall unibody supports and door supports were carved out to win a race run only in the previous owner’s mind. The hapless Camaro lost the race before it ever got started.
With Camaro number one too far gone off the big end of the experimental drag racing construction track to be rescued, another stalled Camaro project was located. Camaro number two looked good enough inside and out to display at any weekend show, but there was trouble hidden out of sight. Only after the layers of paint and bondo were peeled back did the true history of the project begin to unfold. Even though it had been professionally repaired, the dusty evidence revealed the Camaro had been hit from the right rear and coaxed back into the correct shape using classic poke and pull methods.
Stripped of its somewhat storied history, the Camaro was prepped with a new door skin, two new quarter panels along with some new front sheetmetal. Other body modifications included a set of inner wheelhouses and subframe connectors. A stock subframe was bolted up to the body with DSE half-height aluminum sub frame bushings. Onto the subframe went a set of big-block frame stands to place the engine a little down and back for air-cleaner-to-cowl hood clearance. Dave wanted to keep the Chevrolet mill under the hood looking period correct, so room had to be made for a ZZ383 and stock appearing powertrain setup.
With the underlying structure of the Camaro sorted, the Campbell Auto Restoration crew got started building outward on the newly-solid core. A ‘69 steel cowl hood was fitted to the ‘68 body. The stock bumpers were massaged, and side markers shaved to accent the super-sano clean look of the car. A stock replacement RS grille with electric headlights doors gives a menacing stare over the chin spoiler. The entire car was bathed in a custom mix Glasurit Orange Solid by Mike Kamimoto, and finished with a subtle-but- still-there front ghost stripe. To make certain the car had the right stance, a set of staggered 17- and 18-inch Budnik Groove wheels were shoehorned up into the fenderwells thanks in part to a set of DSE minitubs out back.
At the heart of the Camaro is a ZZ383 crate mill backed by a slightly-loose Trick Shift 2,300 stall speed converter and a GM 4L65e four-speed automatic trans. Twist goes through an aluminum Dynotech drive shaft and into a Moser 12-bolt rear stuffed with an Eaton Tru-Trac. Accell Gen 7 engine management meters the right combo of air, fuel, and spark into the holes through the custom intake modified for electronic fuel injection.
The 430hp mill huffs in air through a K&N element cleverly disguised into a stock cowl hood air cleaner assembly with the snorkel system removed. A set of custom Lemons headers exhales into an exhaust system fabbed up by Campbell Auto Restoration and finished off with quartet of two Dynomax race bullets and oval mufflers for an extra-deep, mellow sound.
Under the skin are suspension and brake upgrades to handle the newfound horsepower. The 2 1/2-inch total drop out front comes thanks to a set of Hotchkis springs and Koni adjustable shocks. The stock GM spindles are tied into the car to by DSE’s tubular A-arms. A full DSE rear spring setup drops the back 3 inches under stock height on Chassisworks Var-a-Shocks. A set of 13-inch Baer rotors and calipers out front is joined by a 12-inch setup in back to scrub off velocity in short order. Meaty Yokohama AVS Sport tires measure 235/45-17 for the front hoops and 295/35-18 for the rears. Hotchkis front and rear anti-sway bars help keep the car on the level while cornering.
The interior follows the modernized and uprated but still-timeless stock appearance of the rest of the car. A set of cloth-covered Recaro bucket seats lie at the center of the cabin and are flanked by custom door panels cut from the same material. The carpet comes by way of Mercedes-Benz and the dashpad is covered in an anti-glare suede-like fabric from Maserati known as mouse fur. The stock console and gauges are retained, as is the shifter. The latter modified to work with the 4L65E overdrive transmission. Even though the tallest number on the speedo is 150, the innocuous hash mark one tick south is officially calibrated for 160 mph. A 1969 reproduction comfort-grip steering wheel makes holding onto the car stylish at any speed.
While nearly impossible to visualize the almost three cars and four years worth of effort required to produce this award-winning Camaro, the arduous process comes as no surprise to Kevin Long from Campbell Auto Restoration. “It usually takes three or four cars these days,” said Kevin. Bringing 40-plus year old General Motors iron back to life and up to modern performance standards while holding onto the roots is clearly worth the efforts of everyone involved in this winning project.