Area51 Project - French's 1972 Camaro:
1972 Chevrolet Camaro RS
TCI Street Fighter Turbo 350 - 3 Speed Auto Transmission
Full Hotchkis TVS Stage 2 Suspension - 2" drop
Front to Rear welded sub frame connectors
CPP 500 series Power Steering Box
Dual 2.5" exhaust with H-Pipe
SSBC Front and Rear disc brakes with slotted rotors
17" Chrome wheels
Eaton Truetrac Differential with 3.73 Richmond Gears
Moser 30 spline Axels
This past summer French came across an awesome deal on a 1972 Camaro RS. The car was professionally built to 95% completion but never put on the road. Mark picked up the car, did a little tuning on the carburetor, torqued some fasteners and put the car on the road.
The car was originally a California car and is very solid with absolutely no rust. It was built with a full Hotchkis TVS suspension system featuring all new springs, control arms, sway bars and a 2" lower stance. This suspension gives the car modern handling, a better stance all while providing a smooth ride.
SSBC four wheel disc brakes greatly improve stopping power, and a custom dual 2.5" exhaust makes the 350ci V8 sound absolutely awesome.
Over the summer French had the rear end rebuilt with all new bearings & seals, and upgraded the worn out 3.28 gear set & open differential with an Eaton Truetrak, Richmond 3.73 gears and Moser 30 spline axels with heavy duty wheel studs.
The interior of the car is about the only area still original as nearly every other facet of the vehicle has been overhauled and improved.
This winter French began the next step of his Camaro Project, rebuilding the engine. The 350ci V8 had already been treated to performance goodies with a new cam, Edelbrock E-TEC Heads and a performer Intake but was built on a stock tired bottom end which constantly leaked oil.
We started the engine removal first by draining the coolant, removing the radiator & heater hoses and then the radiator itself.
Next to come off were the accessories such as the alternator and power steering pump.
The carburetor and fuel lines followed, and an engine lifting plate installed on the intake manifold.
Next under the car we wrestled the starter & headers out of the way and removed the torque converter bolts.
Lastly we got the engine lift in place to take the weight of the engine, and a jack placed under the transmission before removing the bell housing and engine mount bolts.
The engine bay is pretty bare now and in need of a good cleaning!
Ronnie, Stroh, French and I
With the engine out we popped off the oil pan to confirm that the engine was indeed a 4 bolt main block.
This engine stand from All Star Performance is a fantastic and secure way to ship an engine across town or across country! It fits the Chevy small block perfectly bolting in place of the engine mount and bell housing locations.
The following night we tackled taking out the TCI turbo 350 Street Fighter transmission. This way it can be cleaned up and the car can be moved around the garage with ease.
Taking advantage of this past weekend's unusually warm January weather, French pushed the car outside and hit the engine bay with purple power and a hose to remove 95% of the dirt and grime. The engine bay is now ready to have the electrical cleaned up while the engine is sent to the shop.
Work continues on French's Camaro project. This week I started sorting out the mangled underhood wiring which was not only untidy but hacked up pretty good too.
GM in the 70's often used existing hardware as positive power split points, such as the starting motor and this horn relay on the firewall. Most of the hacked up wiring was related to a set of aftermarket gauges which we removed, a past upgrade from old style ignition to HEI, and the former owner doing half of an Air Conditioning delete on the car. To solve the problem, French is ordering a new wiring harness which will be set up for the options his Camaro has.
The dash and interior was removed for cleaning and to facilitate repairs to the wiring inside the car which will include installing non AC heater box controls.
Next up was getting the engine and boxes of new parts ready for shipment to Armstrong's in Nova Scotia for a full rebuild and upgrades to be announced later.
While the engine work is being completed we will carry on cleaning the interior, painting the floor to prevent rust and get the new wiring harness ordered and on the way.
February-March Update: With the engine in Nova Scotia work on the Camaro continued by stripping and cleaning the floor pan. The old carpet and under pad were removed along with degraded sound deadening and dried out seam sealer installed at the factory over 45 years ago!
The body of this car is in absolutely fantastic shape with zero rust and no repaired areas. This floor is just the same as it left the GM factory in 1972.
The plan is to get the floor clean, etch prime, then install new seam sealer to prevent any chance of rust in the future.
Meanwhile the 350 small block arrived at Armstrong's in Nova Scotia and the crew set straight to work disassembling then hot tanking the block.
Then it was onto machine work which included boring .040 over and milling for the new Scat 383 stroker forged crank.
With machine work complete the block was painted Chevy orange and assembly began with the installation of frost plugs.
The short block included new Scat I-beam connecting rods, .040 over pistons, new Milodon heavy duty timing cover, Milodon Low profile oil pan, new oil pump, new fuel pump and a new harmonic balancer. Brand new ARP studs and bolts were used throughout the assembly.
French's Edelbrock E-TEC170 heads were cleaned up and reused but the Comp Cams roller tip rockers were swapped out for Scorpion 1.5:1 full rollers attached with upgraded 7/16 rocker studs.
French's Edelbrock Performer EPS intake was also reused but the 650 CFM Holly carburetor was swapped out for a better matched Holley 750.
Meanwhile back at French's garage the new wiring harness arrived. This is a full bumper to bumper kit that will totally replace the aging, cracking factory harness and eliminate sections no longer needed. This will reflect upgrades made to the electrical system such as the new style one wire alternator, HEI ignition and electric choke. It also replaces the old glass fuses, and multiple relays scattered all over eth car with a standard blade style fuse box and integrated relays which is more modern, reliable and easier to install then the factory mess.
This kit also includes a new fuse panel which centrally locates all power points, fuses and relays utilizing modern blade fuses. This completely deletes the OEM fuse panel with glass fuses and multiple splice points under the hood for a much cleaner, safer electrical system.
Next up was removing the windshield. The glass had numerous rock chips which were starting to crack and the steel dash needs to be prepped and painted as an aftermarket carpeted dash pad trapped moisture and causing surface rust to form.
The rust is minor in nature and will be stripped to bare metal, etch primed and painted properly.
After a short delay in progress French has resumed work on the Camaro and tired out a new garage toy!
The Sandblaster works great to get the old brackets & pulleys looking like new.
High quality etch primer will ensure that the parts are well protected.
A coat of Gloss Black paint really makes each part look like brand new!
After a brief pause in progress on the Camaro, French got back at it earlier this fall with the arrival of his new hood!
This raised hood certainly adds a nice aggressive look to the car and will also provide additional clearance for whatever air cleaner he decides to go install.
With the hood in place, final disassembly has begun. The car officially goes for paint in January 2019 so over the month of December we set about removing the bumpers, outside trim, back glass, headlights and finally every inch of wiring as it will all be replaced with the new Wiring Kit. The car will be painted inside and out and will change colour. Keep checking back for progress and the big reveal once paint has been complete!
Even the brake booster was removed to make access to the main firewall wiring harness much easier.
It never hurts to take a few photos to remember where the original wiring was ran to use as a reference when we install the new kit.
In April 2019 the final push was made to prepare the car to be sent off for paint. This meant striping out the last few odds and ends and all of the wiring inside the car, glass & trim removal, and finally lights and bumpers.
Although parts seem scattered all about Mark's garage, its an organized mess!
Finally the car is off to paint! It will be gone quite awhile but it will receive the best care and quality materials before returning to French's garage for reassembly.
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith