Aloha, Team Camaro Peeps! My name is Bill. I've been lurking on Team Camaro for a couple of years, and decided that it's finally time to introduce myself and start posting, since I am about to start some heavy wrenching on my own first generation Camaro. I have actually met a couple of Team Camaro members out in the wild already, like Rtee at the Roamin' Angels Car Show in Grass Valley, and 3forme over at his place earlier this year, so I figured it's about time to start posting.
A little about me:
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the East Bay, on the island of Alameda. Besides our common love for First Generation Camaros (and my love for many other cool muscle cars, hot rods, and classic and vintage cars), I also like all things Mid Century Modern, including architecture and furniture (my wife and I would love to own an Eichler style house filled with Eames and Heywood Wakefield and similar styled furinture, preferably in Palm Springs one day), and also especially like all things Tiki - I actually put together a Bay Area Tiki Bar Crawl every year, where we charter a bus and go from tiki bar to tiki bar, and am currently planning and designing a big ol' whoppin' tiki bar in my back yard right now as well.
A little about The Car (what you really want to know):
She's my very first car, ever! A 1968 Camaro RS, all matching numbers 210 horse 327 small block drive train, with a powerglide tranny and a 10 bolt rear end, originally in LeMans Blue, built in the Van Nuys plant in April of '68. I'm technically the second family owner - the original owner was a woman from San Leandro who got the car new either while in or right out of high school, from McCullough Chevrolet in Hayward (I still have the metal license plate frames). She drove it for around 18 years, then gave it to her son, who wanted to hot rod it out, but didn't have any mechanical skills whatsoever, and screwed up a bunch of stuff, like re-installing the distributor incorrectly one tooth over on the cam gear when he swapped out the cast iron 2 barrel manifold and carb (I still have both plus the air cleaner) for an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold and crappy Carter AFB 4 barrel carb, and other similar things in a 6 month period.
I bought the car off of him, spent the next few weeks undoing and fixing his 6 month mechanical handiwork, then started disassembling the car for a partial frame on restoration. I quickly discovered that the "pristine" body had it's fair share of collision work, including a completely replaced back panel that still had the galvanized coating on it, plus a few other problem areas. The car was covered in a layer of primer when I bought it, plus it also had a crappy Miracle Auto paint job beneath that primer. I spent that entire summer after I graduated high school before college stripping down the layers of crappy primer, crappy paint, various spots of bondo, factory paint, and factory primer with cans of Jasco, putty knives, and steel wool (man, that layer of factory primer was TOUGH!) - while my friends were out partying, chasing girls, and having fun on our "last summer", I was in my parents' garage, scraping, scrubbing, steel wooling, swearing when globs of Jasco fell on my inner arm skin, priming, and sanding. A couple of my dad's friends, and my next door neighbor who was a hot rodder from back in the day (as well as a jack of all trades carpenter and woodwooker who built his own house next door to us), took me under his wing, and showed me how to prime and block sand, and later taught me how to do a full power tune up, change my points and set my dwell, set my timing, choose the correct set of spark plugs, gap them, and how to read them and their colorization to fine tune my air fuel mixture, and all that jazz. So, I finished up the body work as best as I could, then handed it over to a paint shop who went over my work once or twice to smooth things out better (they said that I did a great job, especially for my first attempt, but there were still a few waves - hey, these guys are professionals, and in my opinion perfect body work is an ART!), and had them shoot the car in Ferrari red Imron paint. The car came out nice, and I put some Centerline rims with BFG tires on it, and called it a day.
A few months after I got her painted, white smoke started billowing out of the tailpipes worse than a Stanley Steamer. The engine had about 92,000 original miles on it, so it was worn out. My next door neighbor was currently about to rebuild the 327 in his '66 Chevy C-10, so we decided to get our engines done at the same time. I learned quite a bit more from him about camshaft selection and cam timing, and matching heads with valve and combustion chamber size and and all that stuff to your needed application, getting good air flow, etc. We both built our 327's exactly the same, with the camel back double hump heads with the 1.94 intakes and 1.50 exhaust valves, except that I went with a Crane HMV-272 cam, and he went with the next level down with a slightly milder grind. Otherwise, same aluminum intake manifold, same size carb, same cast iron exhaust manifolds leading to dual exhaust, pretty much the same set up except that he had a Muncie 4 speed and I still had the lowly powerglide. We were both really happy with our results. I never dyno'd the engine, but am guessing that I get about 300 to 320 hp at the crankshaft - it's got a lot of low end grunt, but loses a LOT through the weak non posi 3.08 10 bolt rear end and the powerglide tranny with only the anemic 1.76 low and 1.00 final gears.
So I basically drove the Camaro as my daily driver for the next decade. I drove it all through college. I drove it to my first real job out of college. I parked it every day in the Bayfair BART parking lot in San Leandro, with no hood locks and not much of a theft deterrent alarm system, where people used to steal the registration tags off of my plates, and also the fancy hex nut caps off of my Centerline rims - imagine me parking that car in that exact same parking lot today, the entire car would be GONE!!! I drove it to Disneyland and multiple trips to L.A. I drove it to Santa Cruz countless times. I drove it up and down the cruise strips in Pleasanton, Fremont, and Castro Valley until they outlawed cruising in all of those spots. I picked up my wife for our first date in that car, after a cop pulled me over for no reason then let me go because I was dressed up in a suit and tie - that threw him for a loop. I gained the acceptance of her younger full blood Italian gearhead brother and therefore their entire family pulling up in front of their house in that car. I put another 100,000+ miles on that car, documenting both times that I turned the odometer over with photographs. Needless to say, I have a lot of history with this car.
When I had second thoughts about using a vintage car as a daily driver in my second year of college instead of maybe a Honda Civic, my dad passionately exclaimed, "You wanted a Camaro real bad, and you got one, and now you're gonna drive that car until the wheels fall off!!!"
And drive that car until the wheels fell off I just about succeeded in. Around that time, I was starting grad school, and the Camaro was starting to show her wear and tear. The axle bearings started to go out, the powerglide tranny started slipping more than normal, plus a few other problems started creeping up, and I needed to have something a little more reliable, as I did not have the time to go through the entire car again. Also, someone rear-ended me, and the insurance company wouldn't pay for an entire Imron repaint, so I had them do what they could, and was then going to put her up for sale. I bought my Uncle's '88 Ford (ugh) T-Bird, and drove that for a while, as my prized Camaro sat and languished with a for sale sign on her. I got a few offers, but none of them were reasonable (do we ever get a reasonable offer?), but people thought that they could just skate away with it for like $2,500, and THAT wasn't going to happen. I finally tossed the for sale sign, and moved the Camaro up to my parents' basement, for a hopeful future restoration to her former glory.
Well, that was like 17 years ago. Things in life happen, and get in the way. My wife and I had to deal with a couple of serious health issues in our families, first in taking care of her mom for a decade, then helping take care of my mom who was struggling with her own health problems over an extended period as well. After we got through that, and I did some reflective thinking, the realization occured to me that Chip Foose or some other white night wasn't going to come and rescue and overhaul my Camaro, so I was going to have to roll up my sleeves and do it myself. And that's what I'm about to do, and here I am.
Here is a picture of my baby in her current state right now:
Here she is in my dad's basement:
I recently dropped the gas tank, and had it boiled out. Then I pulled all of the spark plugs, and filled each cylinder with a combo of WD-40 and Marvell's Mystery Oil. I've been letting that mixture sit and penetrate the rings for the past couple of weeks. Some time in the next week or so I am going to pull the distributor and spin the oil pump with an oil priming tool attached to a drill, to lubricate the drive train and the bearings - I'm sure that the bearings are dry at this point. Then I'm going to try to rotate the engine by hand a couple of times, and if that is successful, then I am going to hook up the battery, and try cranking the engine over with the starter. And if that works, then I'm going to try to get her running.
Then at that point I'll be jumping down the rabbit hole. Looking forward to the ride, and looking forward to asking questions and getting advice here on Team Camaro. Cheers,