1979 Chevy Camaro Z28 - Oil Pressure? Who Needs It!

This second-gen was a father-son build that began in a less than promising fashion

Mike Ficacci Jun 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
Sucp_0806_01_z 1979_chevy_camaro_z28 Passenger_side_view 1/12

Tom and Jason Intravaia decided it was time for that ever-essential father-son bonding experience, and what better way to accomplish that than by building a hot rod? They took a chance that tempts many and purchased a '79 Z28 Camaro through an online automobile site for $3,200. They flew down to Dallas without ever seeing the car with their own eyes, paid in full, and plotted their long journey back to Illinois.

While cruising north on the Texas interstate, they soon realized the oil pressure in the small-block was steadily dropping. Facing insurmountable odds, they were left with little choice but to simply trudge on. While idling at a gas station hundreds of miles away from home, they noticed their luck had run out. The oil pressure gauge was pinned at zero.

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They looked at each other in dismay and tried to figure out what they could possibly do to get home. It was then that by chance Jason slipped and his foot hit the gas pedal, bringing the rpm up. "Dad, the oil pressure gauge moved," Jason said. "It budged when I hit the pedal." Like a sign from above, they realized that at more than 1,000 rpm, they were able to summon a whopping 4 pounds of oil pressure. So, with nothing to lose, they topped her off with 17 gallons of go-go juice and three quarts of 15-40 and hit the open road. After cruising for 20 miles with their fingers crossed and the oil pressure at a "steady" single-digit reading, the engine was, amazingly, still running. As if things couldn't get worse, Jason looked down at the pedals and noticed his shoes were covered in motor oil leaking through a floor seam.

Now, at this point, stopping to call a tow truck enters everyone's mind. The only problem is that the idea doesn't tend to stick for too long with most of us. There's a certain point where logic and sensibility just get thrown out the window; kind of like that time you thought you could jump that 10-foot-wide river on your Schwinn. Yeah, I tried it; didn't work out for me, either.

So, like any self-respecting gearhead, Jason kept his foot down and soldiered on till she simply refused to continue. What do you know, they made it all the way home-more than 400 miles with practically no oil pressure. It defies all automobile logic other than simply, "small-block Chevys never die."

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Over the next year, Tom and Jason revamped the Z28 from the bottom up with the help of friends and family. They built a 355ci small-block with Dart 215cc Platinum Series heads, a custom Crower solid-roller cam, 8.5:1 JE pistons, and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold. Pumping 15 psi of boost through the Extreme Velocity hat and Holley 750 carb is an intercooled ProCharger F1R supercharger. "Sergi and the guys at ProCharger were a huge help and even invited me to park the car in front of their trailer at the Super Chevy show," said Tom.

Sucp_0806_07_z 1979_chevy_camaro_z28 Procharger 7/12

Tom and Jason like to put miles on this car, as well as drop some serious low-10-second timeslips at the track. They credit their transmission builder, Ruben Lasanta, for most of their success. "We were amazed at the ability of the GM 4L80E trans and Art Carr 3,200-stall converter to handle the abuse we put it through at the track and still have a smooth drive to dinner later that night," said Tom.Local metalworker Claudio Prunotto fabricated the subframe connectors and rollbar necessary to meet structural integrity and drag racing standards. Competition Engineering Slide-A-Link bars keep the Currie 9-inch rear flat on the ground and wheelhop free. Weld Pro-Star wheels wrap all four corners covered in Michelin Energy MXV4s up front (205/70R15) and M/T ET Street radials (275/60R15) out back.

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Paint and graphics were done in-house at Napleton Cadillac, where Tom is the service manager. He single-handedly performed 50 hours of prep work prior to the silver PPG luster. Fire-red reproduction GM interior and carpet are accented by black Sparkle racing seats, and a polished aluminum gauge panel is full of Auto Meter Phantom gauges. Jason, the full-time 1320 driver, has his hands full at the strip with a Grant vinyl steering wheel and Hurst Quarter-Stick shifter.

This is one bad machine. It's a car you glimpse while wandering around a car show, yet keep coming back to visit without exactly knowing why. At the True Street event last fall, Jason put down consistent 10.40s with a weekend best of a blistering 10.02. Their next step is to install an eight-point rollcage and a cog-drive system to hopefully see some 9-second timeslips. Expect them at the strips and shows around Illinois in 2008.

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