"It isn't even the same year!" Machinist Perry Heigl of Otsego, Minnesota, exclaims when we asked him how many times people call his 1972 Chevy Camaro Z28, "Bumblebee."
"Yeah I get that a lot, but you can't miss me coming, that's for sure!" He chuckles to himself. Perry is right about that, it would be hard to miss this bright yellow missile barreling down at you.
Perry got his true '72 Z28 from a buddy of his who desperately wanted to have a running car. He traded for Perry's '61 Falcon that was complete. Perry agreed to take on the project, with a little cash donation, and due to sheer boredom of the Falcon. We don't blame you; around here, Ford is a four-letter word!
The motor was blown and the red paint was in desperate need of a respray, but Perry was up to the challenge. His wife, Tricia, suggested the bright yellow eye-grabber paint, and Perry had the engine all picked out well before it ever hit his driveway. The hue is borrowed from the Corvette color palette from PPG and was sprayed base-clear by Perry himself.
The first iteration of the power plant was a 502 that he had pieced together, but that engine just wasn't enough for him, so he yanked it out and beefed it up to the current 540ci you see now. Perry conservatively estimates the new combo makes 635 hp at 6000 rpm and 650 lb-ft at 4500 rpm. Although, after seeing the parts list, he may just be acting a bit coy.
The 540 has a 4.500-inch bore and a 4.250-inch stroke. Perry slapped a pair of aluminum Dart Pro I cylinder heads with 310 cc's worth of port, then set the compression ratio predictably at 9:1. The rotating assembly consists of Eagle crank and rods. SRP pistons round out the bottom end. A Lunati solid roller cam measure in at .595 intake lift, .595 at exhaust lift; all at a duration of 242. The ensemble is topped by an Edelbrock Air-Gap intake and a Holley Ultra HP 4150 carburetor weighing in at 950 cfm, capped with a ubiquitous K&N filter. An electric Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump makes sure the carb stays quenched. A 6AL MSD box with adjustable rev limiter allows for maximum performance and keeping the rods in place. The bottom end sports a Moroso 6-quart pan and a Melling oil pump. Keeping it all cool is a two-row BeCool aluminum radiator and twin Spal electric fans with a custom fan shroud.
The mighty buzz out the back comes courtesy of a set of Hooker Supercomp headers doused in Jet-Hot's ceramic coating with 2-inch primaries joining at the 3.5-inch collectors. The headers flow into a steel Flowmaster exhaust system with a crossover pipe and a 3-inch outlet into their Super 44 series mufflers.
The motor is backed by a TH400 built by Master Transmissions of Rosemount, Minnesota, and features a 3000-stall TCI converter. The tire roaster is a Strange Engineering Dana 60 rearend stuffed with 4.10 gears and an Eaton Tru-Trac posi unit.
The suspension is all work and no frilly business. Frame connectors and stock A-arms, spindles, and springs make up the front end. Cal-trac's and stock leafs reside out back, and all four corners get treated to Competition Engineering's adjustable drag shocks. Eleven-inch rotors ride along to reign it all in when the go-fast pedal gets pounced.
Perry picked Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels to set the final look of the car. The fronts measure 15x6 with a 3.5-inch backspace, and the rears come in at 15x8 with 4.5-inch backspacing. Mickey Thompson Streets up front measure in at 225/60R15, while the business end wears 275/60R15, making for a very aggressive-looking stance.
Interior-wise, the stock seats entertain a fresh covering in a true, classic motif. Custom cloth inserts were sewn into the vinyl to give a subtle dual-tone appearance. Perry peers through a Grant steering wheel, and utilizes Autometer Pro Comp gauges to monitor engine vitals. The Cheetah Turbo Action shifter makes short work of high line pressure shifts. Perry installed the Jeg's brand roll cage himself. He also set up an Alpine CD player with Alpine 6x9 speakers-we presume though, it's just for show. We figure the exhaust note is all the music he needs to find that happy place.
"My wife calls it the 'Yellow Bitch' 'cause it eats up everything on the road. I've yet to lose on the street!" Boasts Perry. "My wife is also good for more than just nicknames and color picks, too. She even helped out with hanging the doors. I found it very difficult to complete a car all on my own; I always seem to call on someone."
In the end, Perry's swap from a pristine '61 Falcon to a beat-up, ratty '72 Z28 with a blown-up engine proved to have done him well. Even as it sat, tired and needing a lot of love, we can tell who got the better end of that deal.
After we shot this helluva cool big-block Camaro, we learned that Perry had a wicked stroke that knocked him out of commission for a few days. Hang in there buddy, we need more guys like you out here building more sweet ground pounders just like this.
Special thanks to Phil Gagne of the Pig's Eye Brewing Company for free reign of his killer brewery to showcase this badass car.