"It is easier said than done," commented Bob Gonier, the auto body teacher at Mercer County Vocational School-the current residence of Project Back To The Street. Gonier has been orchestrating the conversion of Super Chevy's '71 Camaro from a hard-core bracket racing machine to a Pro Touring sensation. It's been a long road on many levels from back-ordered parts to the school schedule. But things are progressing forward, maybe not as quickly as one would hope, but it takes a lot of work to do a body-off conversion, making Gonier's comment so truthful.
This month, our goal was to hang new sheetmetal on the front-half of our F-body. One of the first things we did with this project last year was rip off the one-piece fiberglass nose that adorned our precious Camaro during its life as a bracket brawler. We popped open the National Parts Depot catalog and ordered all new sheetmetal for the front end. On the inside are new inner fender wheelhouses, since the factory ones were long gone. These pieces will set you back $88.95 each. Our project car didn't have 'em but these typically need to be replaced due to rust and general abuse from rock dings and road debris. National Parts Depot also sent its '70-73 standard valence panel. The valence even comes with cutouts for the parking lamp assemblies. The lower valence retails from National Parts Depot for $199.95.
For $269.95, we scored a matched RS upper panel, which will also allow us to utilize a split-bumper when we get to that point. The fenders are new and National Parts Depot offers each for $199.95. The final piece of the puzzle was a replacement hood. We ordered the standard hood, which lists for $369.95, from Ground Up. In all, our body parts totaled $1,417.65 for new parts and pieces, not including shipping costs.
"People always tell me that owning an older Camaro is easy because they make everything for it," commented Gonier. He went on, "While there are many aftermarket parts to replace rusty and broken factory parts, everything isn't always just a bolt-on and go." Our doors featured new skins, also from National Parts Depot, and it took Gonier some time to get it all properly lined up. He adjusted the panels to minimize gaps as well as line up the body lines and edges. Like Gonier mentioned earlier in the story, some things are easier said than done. This is one of those situations-hanging the body parts is a time consuming process. In all, it was about a six hour ordeal just to line up the fenders, nose, hood, and doors-which included Gonier taking the time to teach the students how to install the fenders, hood, and nose properly. The body parts came in black primer but Gonier decided to prep the fenders and hood before we got there and he planned on doing the same to the front valence and upper panel. Gonier and his students will then sand the body and get it ready for paint, which you will read about in two issues.
As we left Mercer County Vocational School, BTTS was back on the ground and rolling on all four Rocket wheels (wrapped in Nitto 555 rubber). Under the body sits a freshly painted frame, Fatman Fabrications G-Tech front and rear suspension system, QA1 adjustable shocks all-around, and Wilwood disc brakes. Gonier slung a Currie 9-inch rearend with 31-spline axles, 3.70 gears, and limited slip differential under the backside as well. A GM Performance Parts ZZ454 crate engine will reside under the hood.
Next month, we plan on running brake lines, installing a master cylinder and power brake booster, as well as a proportioning valve. If BTTS is going to look like a Pro Touring machine, it has to act like one too. The Wilwood binders will make this car stop like a Vette.
After the brakes are installed, Gonier will paint the car and add the racing stripes. At that point, it will leave New Jersey and head south to Super Chevy headquarters in Tampa, Florida, for final assembly. With any luck, we will be cruising BTTS sometime this summer.