All-original barn finds are getting rarer and rarer these days. Special cars are picked out of storage every day by hotrodders seeking that diamond in the rough. However, in the beginning of 2020, we came across a perfectly cut jewel of a car: a 1968 Camaro Z-28 RS in Le Mans Blue Metallic with every option checked. This example was bought new in 1968 and then parked after 58,000 miles at some point in the late 70’s. The next time it would see the light of day would be at our shop.
The goal for a vehicle this special is preservation. Our technicians return the car to safe, running and driving factory condition, while leaving the car as original as possible to retain the heart and soul of this homologation classic… and what a heart and soul this car has.
In the mid 60’s Vince Piggins, the head of performance at Chevrolet, decided he wanted to break into SCCA Trans-Am racing. Naturally, the brand new at-the-time Camaro would be the perfect platform. There was a problem, however. SCCA regulations stipulated that 305 cubic inches was the maximum allowable displacement. This immediately ruled out the base 327 V8 in the Camaro. The first prototype of the Z-28 utilized Chevrolet’s 283 small block, however after initial testing Piggins came up with a brilliant idea. If he took the block from a 327 engine and used the crankshaft from the 283, he could create a punchy, high-revving small block with a displacement at 302.4ci, meeting the standards set by the SCCA. At least 1,000 road going cars had to be built for homologation, therefore the road-going Z-28 became available to the public.
After a thorough inspection, we got to work turning back the clock. We rebuilt and resealed the engine, installed a new wiring harness, and went through the entire drivetrain getting it back to working order. The interior was stripped out for a good deep-clean. Fresh carpet was installed, the interior was carefully pieced together and after a proper alignment and fresh set of tires we put her back on the street once again.
Cars like this are a rarity. The experience is unrivaled. Cruising down the road in the original vinyl seats, looking across the patinated Z-28 paint scheme and hearing the wail of that 302 V8 takes you back to a time when cars truly meant something. It wasn’t built for sales numbers or road manners; It was built for performance. The existence of this car was merely a loophole to prove that on-track, Chevrolet was the best. Behind the wheel, 53 years later, you can still feel a piece of that victory.
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