I am going to come right out and say it. This post might raise some feathers in the Old Cars Weekly crowd. First, I would like to state on the record that I have immense respect for fully restored, unmolested classic cars. If the car is a numbers matching piece of history any right-minded car junky knows better than to mess with perfection. That being said, I would like to direct you to my last ramblings where I spoke of making your car your own.
As you have read in my previous posts, I am in the process of bringing my ’69 Camaro back to the land of the living. It was a base 307c.i., Dover White, drum brakes, automatic, ex-drag racing car. From what I gathered, there were over 68,000 or so Camaros with similar specs made in 1969. What I am trying to get at is that this was not a “rare” COPO, Yenko, or Baldwin Camaro that I would have no business putting my greasy mitts on. Though I would like the bankroll it would take to own one of those beauties. Plus, this car was a Midwest survivor. To put it mildly, it was rough!
One word of advice I can give anyone willing to listen is to come up with a plan and stick to it. This will save you time, money, and a whole lot of headaches. Of course, I am not one to take my own advice. Being a project that I have been kicking around since 2001 the scope and plans of the build have changed multiple times. All the junk stored in my garage scrounged from junkyards, swap meet finds and “good deals” can attest to my inability to heed my own words. When it came time to get serious, I had some choices that had to finally be set in stone.
I want to give you a little background before I discuss the direction I chose to take with my Camaro. I had owned a 2001 Firebird Transam since 2003 and fell in love with the ridiculous ease that you could cheaply modify the car to make stupid power. I spent most of my time and resources making that car perform. I really loved that car. Unfortunately, I had a garage fire that burned it to the ground. I actually wept more for that car than the rest of the house that also went up in flames. Someone was looking out for me that day. I am grateful that I was away with my kids at the time and nobody was hurt. Luckily my Camaro was safe and cozy in my uncle’s shed 75 miles away. I was able to build my Steve Austinesque garage… bigger, stronger, faster. Well maybe I couldn’t build it faster, but you get the point. So in the end there was a silver lining to the storm cloud.
Once I got my Camaro back into the new and improved garage, I couldn’t escape the thought of my TA going up in flames. The Camaro sat in the exact spot that the TA once resided before it burned to a crisp. I knew it would be easier and more cost effective to go with a traditional SBC and throw in a 3-speed automatic or 4 speed gearbox, but the modern LS1and drivetrain stuck in my head. I even had two small blocks ready to rebuild on stands. I couldn’t make up my mind until the fickle hand of fate (or a better name - Craiglist) turned up a LS1 with a 4l60e not too far away. I know this is the trendy ticket these days, and many feel it has no place in our vintage cars. I have a different take on it. I look at it as a natural evolution to the craft and welcome the power, safety, and reliability of newer technologies. I guess I tend to gravitate towards a hotrodding mentality versus a need to complete a numbers matching restoration. As I said earlier, this might ruffle a few feathers.
I now had a focused direction and could no longer look back since I began to invest “real” money into the Camaro. Like my motto, “make it your own,” I had a blank slate to start with. Craigslist struck again, and I found a 2001 Firebird parts car to add to the mix. I plan on using its disc brakes, interior, and anything else that I can glean off its carcass. It will be a challenge to say the least. Nothing a good helping of problem solving and “Macgyver” on-the-fly creativity cannot fix! With a welder and hammer anything is possible.
Hopefully I can meld the best of both worlds into my own resto-modded Fbody. I like the idea of having the classic flavor of the’69 infused with the blood of a modern muscle car. We currently are in another golden age of horsepower, but this time around we are also rewarded with improved handling, reliability, and safety to get the power to the pavement. These current cars are the “new class” of collectors in the near future. What is more fitting than bringing an old school classic back to life with a few tricks from the new school? Ironically, the Firebird will live on in a new body. It truly will live up to its namesake and rise from the ashes.