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The Green Movement: 1968 Camaro Convertible

Custom touches abound in this ’68 convertible, and many are so subtle you might not notice them at first

Jim Campisano Feb 14, 2013

Mark Pecikonis has built plenty of hot rods over the last few decades, but none has approached the scope of the one you see here. There are subtle touches everywhere, right down to raising the floor and console slightly to accommodate the transmission, and a custom cloth convertible top with a one-piece glass rear window. You might miss a few at first, but the more you look, the more you’ll find.

There’s a lot more to the story of this Camaro than just the finished product. The project spans three generations of the Pecikonis family: Both of Mark’s sons (Matt and Nick) helped with the build, Mark used some lead he had gotten from his late father (a former GM employee) on the bodywork. Even his wife, a designer, helped pick the colors inside and out.

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“My father worked for Chevrolet at the Tech Center in Detroit during the ’50s and ’60s,” explained Mark, an Ohioan who retired from UPS after 29 years. “He worked as a design metallurgist. Some of the projects I saw him do were ’57 Chevy bumpers and the ’60 Corvair body. After his death, I loaded up tools and materials. In this car is lead from his garage that we once used to repair a ’53 Buick, so his contribution in a physical way is in the quarters.”

Mark had specific goals for this F-body when he started out. He had never built a pro touring-style car before, ergo that was the overall direction he wanted to take. He was also more comfortable around carburetors than electronic fuel injection, but this one would have EFI. Having spent many years in California, his ultimate plan was to have a domestic toy that would run circles around high-dollar Porsches on twisty roads.

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He probably should have started with a better foundation. Once upon a time, oh, 35 years ago, $1,500 might get you a driveable, used, first-gen F-body convertible. In the 21st century? Not so much. This Camaro was rescued from the garage of a former co-worker, whose husband had torn it down and stored most of it in boxes before dying. When you take your project home in boxes and you look in its trunk and can see the floor below, you know you have your work cut out for you.

Undaunted, the project proceeded. Having accumulated its first 59,000 miles in the rust-belt, the Camaro needed sheetmetal—and lots of it. The car was taken to Yoke’s Auto Body, where it was blasted and put on a rotisserie. It got new floors, wheel tubs (stock size), trunk floor, quarters, door skins, fenders, hood, decklid … have we forgotten anything? Mark and son Matt contributed labor, though Mark quickly points out it was the craftsmanship of Yoke’s Joe Montano that was the motivation to raise the bar for the rest of the car. Because of all the labor involved, it extended the timeline of the project by about a year. Eventually, this aspect of the build would be completed. Mark chose a Dodge Viper color, Snakeskin Green, an uncommon hue, to really make it stand out, though shortly after Chevy introduced Synergy Green, which is very similar.

Montano slathered on the color in spectacular fashion, but those stripes and tail panel are not black. They are charcoal/graphite, as is the custom cloth top from Haartz (installed by Mac McGuffin at Mac’s Top Shop).

Now, what to do about the interior? In steps Mark’s wife, Wendy, who helped choose a color that reminded them of a trip to the beach. The wool for the carpeting and leather for the seats, etc., are in a calming sand color. The seats are out of a Lexus 300 Sport Coupe, though they were cut down for a more period-correct look. Dakota Digital’s VHX line of analog gauges. Tunes are compliments of a Retro Sound One-B head unit with Infinity speakers. The owner’s only disappointment is the sandstone and graphic door panels, the finish of which is not (in his opinion) up to the standards of the rest of the Camaro. The wool carpeting came from Godfrey Hirst and the color is called Biscuit.

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In order to bring the project’s handling into the realm of autobahn terror, Mark ordered up a Heidts Pro-G rack-and-pinion front suspension, with 2-inch drop spindles, tubular A-arms, QA1 adjustable coil overs, and a 1-inch sway bar. The entire nose has been dropped four inches. For the back, he added a Heidts adjustable four-link with Panhard bar and QA1 rear shocks. A set of frame connectors tie the front and rear together, and add much-needed torsional rigidity to the convertible. Mark installed all the suspension pieces himself.

Stopping the Camaro are Wilwood binders, with 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers fore and 12.5-inch rotors with four-piston calipers aft.

Power comes from a 6.0L LS2. The L92 heads are stock, but the valves open and close via a Comp roller cam. Breathing is further improved with an LS7 intake. A Delphi electric fuel pump supplies the Dino juice. An Autocraft seven-quarter oil pan and stock pump keep the aluminum engine lubricated in high g-force scenarios. Hedman 1 7/8-inch headers modified to fit the chassis expel the gasses through a Mad Hatter 3-inch custom aluminized exhaust system with Walker Turbo mufflers.

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Transferring the estimated 465 hp to the 9-inch rear is a 6L80E automatic transmission. A 3.54 ring- and-pinion is used in the locking rear.

Mark wanted the widest possible rubber he could fit into the stock wheelwells, so he had Boze make him a set of 18x9-inch rims for the front with custom offset (5-inches); same for the 19x10s in the back (5.5-inch offset). This allowed him to fit 245/40 and 275/35 Nitto NT05s without interference.

Since its completion, Mark has had a ball with this F-car. Shortly after completion, it completed four laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s been featured at the Detroit Autorama and autocrossed at Goodguys Columbus.



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