Most 17-year-olds are considered immature, impressionable, and looking for whatever it takes to get that elusive rush of adrenaline. For the average high school kid, it may be hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth, or catching the long ball for the winning touchdown under the Friday night lights in the championship game-all valid means to achieving the goal-but for a young Bill Panouses, having the feeling of being pinned back into the bucket seat of a '68 Z/28 was all it took for him.
It all started when Bill was perusing the local paper back in his hometown of East Moline, Illinois. He was in the hunt for a muscle car when he came across a '68 Firebird. "I went to have a look at the Pontiac, and the seller's garage door was open. I couldn't take my eyes off of this mean-looking '68 Z/28," recalls Bill. "The car had a 302 with less than 1,000 miles on it, a four-speed, and was white with black stripes. I asked the owner if he would take me for a ride. He did, and it changed my life forever. I remember feeling my heart pump wildly as he hammered through the gears. It was the ride of my life! From that day on, I knew there would be a time when I would own a '68 Camaro."
Not much of a stick-and-ball type during his high school days, Bill would race home after class to wrench on his cars. While other kids were working on their swing, Bill could be found in the garage, sometimes on into the early morning, working on his first hot rod: a '68 Chevelle.
Being heavily into muscle cars throughout his life, Bill has owned everything from Chevelles, second- and third-gen Camaros (even a Corvette), but claims his first love (in terms of cars, anyway) is a '68 Camaro. In 2005 Bill found a good candidate on eBay. After numerous back-and-forth emails, he had the car inspected, and got the green light on the car being as sound as it looked in the emailed photos. "I kept having flashbacks of being 17 and how riding in that '68 impacted my life," says Bill. "On top of that, my wife's first car was a '68 Camaro, so purchasing this car was really special to me."
After a little tightening up, Bill drove the car and enjoyed it for a while. He came across some Camaro enthusiast websites, and gathered information on restoring and updating first-gens with modern components. With help from a friend, Bill freshened up the paint and began taking the car to some local car shows. He won a handful of awards, so he figured he was done with the car and all was good.
"I started to notice a lot of first-generation Camaros going with the LS engine conversion, so I began to investigate a little deeper and came across a thread on pro-touring.com and lateral-g.net on a '68 Camaro named Bad Penny. That was it! The conversion was on! And not just the engine, but the whole car," Bill says. "Bad Penny was the whole inspiration behind me converting to LS power and going with the full Pro Touring treatment."
Hanging out on the Pro Touring forums, Bill also came across a car builder by the name of Tom Argue. As luck would have it, Argue's shop was just 13 miles from Bill's house in Tierra Verde, Florida. "Tom's shop was very clean and organized. I really felt comfortable putting my car in his hands. We hit it off right away and had many discussions on where I wanted to go with this build," Bill says. "Soon after, I got in touch with Ben Hermance and told him the direction I wanted to go, and he came up with not only the perfect rendering, but also with 'Evade' as the project's name."