So you've been cruising around in a less-than-stout '96 Z28. It looks OK, but the loud pedal isn't so ... well, loud. Pop's recliner pulls more g's than your sleepy musclecar. So what's a young lad to do?
You do what any young hot rodder would do in this day and age: scan the internet forums and online auto listings for that elusive, reasonably priced musclecar.
Twenty-one-year-old "fourth-gen, Camaro freak" Steve Yoast did just that. Only the outcome wasn't quite what he'd expected. A search on a popular website listed the perfect find: a low-mileage 1998 Camaro Z28 equipped with a healthy LS1 capable of dishing out 450 hp at the rear wheels. The price was right, so he made his way on over to check it out. Steve arrived only to find a beaten down, mostly oxidized, sort of off-black late-model Camaro resting under a thick layer of dirt. The "low miles" turned out to be over 130,000 and the rear-wheel horsepower was right around zero. Seems the car had been slumbering in the owner's backyard for a few seasons and hadn't been running for who knows how long.
Steve decided to buy the car anyway. It was all he could afford at the time. Also, since he has no kids (that he knows of) or wife (that he knows of) to redirect his focus, he'd have plenty of time to get the car up and running. Needless to say, he spent many consecutive weekends wrenching, replacing and rebuilding.
Steve had high aspirations for the car, and looked forward to owning a hot rod he would be proud of for years to come. So he pulled out the tired mill, and detailed and painted the engine bay. He tidied up the electrical by running the wiring loom under the passenger side wheel well, welded in holes that weren't being used, polished the throttle body and MAS air flow sensor, replaced all the bolts with polished stainless steel and re-routed the ground wires and hood latch cable. With a background as a machinist, Steve is partial to polish and chrome, so he manufactures and uses his own brand (www.specializedstainless.com) of dress-up covers for the battery, brake fluid reservoir, fuse box, radiator support and power steering. A nice touch for some otherwise very sub-standard-looking equipment.
This was Steve's first engine refresh, so to get the job done he needed some outside help. He went to www.ls1tech.com whenever he got stuck in a technical pickle. He's a regular poster on many of the GM-related automotive forums, so he credits the online community for helping to get his car reassembled in the correct order.
With the engine bay looking tight and sleek, Steve was ready to address more important business: engine strength. Seems the lazy LS1 needed to be a bit more dominant in the horsepower and torque area. So out came the stock grind, and in went a larger profile Thunder Racing Cam. He continued on with Comp Cams' one-piece pushrods and an ARP stud kit. An SLP air cleaner stuffed with a K&N element suck down plenty of O2, while a set of Pacesetter 1-1/4-inch long tube headers handle the excess waste. For now the stock GM heads will have to do, but AFR heads are in the plans as the next performance upgrade.
Within a few months time he had a freshened-up LS1 and T56 trans. The fourth-gen was no longer a scattered bungle of engine parts. It was finally taking shape as the car he saw listed online. Suddenly months of lost weekends felt like minutes of minor inconvenience. He was psyched!
Not totally ready for its maiden voyage, Steve upgraded the exterior with an SS hood and spoiler before having a ton of PPG 3 Stage Black paint applied to the shell.
Suspension remains mostly stock with the exception of KYB adjustable shocks on all four corners, while 17-inch GM ZR1 wheels keep pace with the modern look and handling theme.
The interior treatment remains fairly modest with the addition of Arizen premium black leather seats and PRO 5.0 Power Tower shifter. A Harlen Shift Light with red LEDs helps out on gear selection when the pressure is on.
After the final tune-up by the guys at A&A Corvette in Oxnard, California, the healthy LS1 is now putting out 385 hp on the chassis dyno.
Recently the car took 1st place in its class at the Super Chevy Show in Fontana, California.
"If I had to do this all over again, I would have just bought a complete running car. I spent the same amount of money pulling this one out of the grave that I would have on a nicer running car." It's cool though: "I spend an insane amount of time detailing this thing. I drive it every chance I get."
We bet you do Steve.