1980 Chevy Camaro Z28 - Exit Strategy

Bill Hronis’ late-second-gen will blow your doors off

Ro McGonegal Jun 1, 2012 0 Comment(s)
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You know the story. You’ve heard it here a hundred times before. Always remembering that one man’s erotica is another man’s ennui (boredom), Bill invariably prefers the late-second-gen Chevy Camaro Z28 (’78- 81). “I like the look of the soft bumpers, the size and proportion of the car, and the body lines,” he says. Could there be more to it than that? Probably. “Over the years,” reminded Bill, “I’ve owned four second-gen Camaros.”

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What does Bill think is the most unique feature of his ’80 F-body? “I wanted a big-block but also wanted to be different and bigger than the norm. The GM Performance Parts 720R was the biggest crate available, but since then I’ve had the engine gone through.” Yes, for additional grunt. What’s an engine if you don’t modify it? Isn’t that the one thing that hot rodders can’t ever quit?

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And that’s why there has been more than one memorable experience with the Z28. At a show last year, Bill heard over the PA system that’s his car had tied for First Place. Then, in typical carnival convolution, someone flipped a coin to decide the winner, and instantly Bill became a runner-up. It was getting late. He got in his car. As he was pulling out, over his shoulder he saw two of the judges scrambling after him. They were holding a 3-foot-tall trophy. They told him that his car was voted Best of Show. “I had the biggest smile on my face for the rest of the day,” Bill crooned.

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Bill took the Z28 from his brother in 1994, its black paint faded to dust, its albino interior little more than a skuzzy, fuzzy memory. Time screeched along. A year later, Bill went to Fortney’s Body Shop. A couple of months after the fact, Bill Fortney had the Z28 decked out in Mazda Blaze Red. “To this day,” crowed Bill, “it still has that same paintjob that cost me $1,200.” And if that paintjob locks the Z28 into a permanent time capsule … so what? We all have to be somewhere.

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Time continued to screech along, years actually. It extracted more from Bill than he realized. Between the hours he lavished on the Z and time needed to run his Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, restaurant, his main spring popped. But after a 3-year hiatus, his motivation and enthusiasm rallied. He looked at the Camaro in a different light. It turned his cogs. Since the 350 original, Bill had chopped through a couple of 383s and had been thinking seriously about a 454 when the vision vibed him just before dawn: Get a 572, the big-boy 572R. So he did. He made the basic changes to the chassis, cooling, and drivetrain to accommodate that high-compression apocalypse and drove it sparingly for three more years. Then wayward lifters took out the cam and prompted an immediate engine teardown.

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Bill went to Kriner’s Racing Engines in Chambersburg. Bill went to G-Force Design Concepts in Chambersburg. The theme: Let’s build a bigger mountain. That time frame brings us current. Kriner’s balanced and blueprinted the new combination, which they based on the original steel crankshaft, connecting rods, and forged 12.0:1 pistons. The Lunati custom roller brings 309/317 degrees duration at 0.050; lift for both valves is 0.730 inch. Cam and kit were set with Cloyes double-roller timing gear and sealed with a stock front cover. The solid rollers are Iskenderian. Pushrods are Manley. Kriner’s closed off the nether end with a GMPP 8-quart sump and Melling pump.

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