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What's Black And Red All Over?

Answer... An '88 Iroc-Z

Mike Harrington Feb 15, 2006

I think I now know how a First Place marathon runner must feel when he breaks the tape and crosses that finish line. This marathon endurance job of making an ugly Camaro look good has finally come to an end, and to tell the truth, it seemed as if it would never come. The greatest thing about crossing this finish line is the self-satisfaction of being 100-percent involved from start to finish. A big thanks to staffer Grant Peterson for banging out the nasty crease in this Camaro and giving us some good pointers on how to prep a car for paint, and also to Roy Landgrave, the instructor of the Auto Body program at Chino High School. This Camaro has evolved from being just a paint job, to a car that has a constant color theme of black and red, with a few minor custom features thrown in for fun.

If you notice, we decided not to repaint the headlight area black. Camaros don't have black eyes; they give them. We also painted the grille, louvers, and smoked the taillights. We also decided not to put all the decals back onto the car. Less is more, right? But we didn't lose the badges that fit into the lower part of the ground effects. Believe it or not, '88 IROC-Z badges are not available in any catalog I have seen. To add to the final scheme of this project, we ordered some ZR-1-style wheels from SLP performance parts. They have a new "Hyper Black" painted wheel just for the Third-Gen Camaro, which fits this whole project beautifully. To round out the package, we added a set of 245/45 Toyo Proxes tires to the SLP wheels. Take a look in Camaro Performers magazine, as we are going to do some road testing on this Camaro with its new rolling stock. There we will have the track numbers to show you.

What do you do when your daily driver is finally painted, cut, buffed, polished, and waxed? Obviously you enjoy it, and drive it. But there are a few more things that you can do to really "church it up" with the final product. Since the beginning of this project we tried to keep it as budget-oriented as possible, and we'll be showing you a few more tips on keeping your project within your desired financial boundaries.


Take a close look at this photo. There is no need to put those ugly, worn-out oxidized lenses back onto your shiny car, nor is there any need to spend a few hundred dollars replacing them, either. The very same compound that we used to buff out the paint on the car was used to restore these lenses back into shape. First, we used 1500-grit paper and sanded down any rock chips or worn-out spots. We then used the buffer and some buffing compound to bring them back to life. Just look at how the top one compares to the bottom. This same process also applies to side marker lights and taillights. What a difference!

With the car fully painted, we also cleaned up the wheelwells a bit. The best way to get rid of the over spray in the wheelwells is with some spray on rubber undercoating. This stuff can be found at most auto parts stores...

...After the wheels are pulled, be sure to mask off the area fully around the wheelwell; there's no need getting black rubber on the new paint job. Not only does this rubber undercoating protect your wheelwells, it works with the overall color scheme of this Camaro.

Save your money and don't buy a new grille, or a set of louvers, unless you really want to. The black plastic grille and louvers on this Camaro needed some TLC. We took 1500-grit sandpaper to them, scuffed them up, and then shot them back in black. After a few coats of clear, they cleaned up nicely, and look better than new.

The trim around the rear hatchback had faded and lost most of its black paint. With the help from some of the students in the auto body program...

...we isolated the trim piece by first taking it off. Afterward, we scuffed the trim then used a Krylon semi-gloss black paint to revive the piece.

Let's compare some before and after shots. Here are a few snapshots of what this Camaro looked like before we started. It's really not that attractive...

..The purchase price of this Camaro was only $1,500. Now look at how, with effort, this 1,500-dollar Camaro has just jumped in price...

...These Third-Generation Camaros are the most affordable out there. You can find them everywhere for as low as a $900-$3,000.

Now let's look at the after shot. This car is visually exciting now. Back in 1991 when I was 18, I had qualified for a loan to buy a red T-top RS Camaro. The only thing was that the insurance for an 18-year-old would have exceeded the monthly car payments...

...No joke, it's the truth. Needless to say, I never bought the car. I guess they don't think an 18-year-old is mature enough to handle a red CamaroWell, I have news for the insurance company. At 33, I'm still immature and I'm still going to drive my red Camaro fast!

Taillight Tech

While we were working on the Camaro at Chino High School, former student Mario Wingate gave us a great custom tip on how to "smoke" our taillights and give them a tinted look. He even offered to help us do it. As you can probably guess, we accepted his help.


Toyo Tires
SLP Performance
Tom's River, NJ 08755

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