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Old 12-03-2017, 09:27 PM
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Default 1987 IROC Camaro Pro-Touring Build

I apologize in advance for the long intro! But I think knowing some of my background and goals will help you to help me make some decisions on the project down the road.

My name is Matt and I live in Massachusetts. I own a 1987 Camaro Z28 IROC-Z that I am hoping to transform until a reliable, fast track car that is also comfortable enough to drive long distances. (Aka… Pro touring). All while on a budget. Seems like a tall task but I’m up for the challenge.

Some background on myself: I am a mechanical engineer and have loved cars from a young age. My first “project car” was a 1975 Corvette that my Dad surprised me with when I was 18. It was sitting under a tarp in someone’s front yard and he knocked on their door one day and made a deal. That was when my passion really took off. Neither of us really knew too much about working on cars, but slowly and surely we took on bigger and bigger projects until we had a nice driver.




I was starting to get interested in road racing and autocrossing however, and started to realize that making a 1975 Corvette into a reliable track car was possible, but definitely beyond my budget. I just couldn’t afford to upgrade the suspension, brakes, cooling, wheels/tires, etc to get it where I wanted. So, I made the tough decision to sell the car that my Dad and I had spent a lot of time on and bought something a little more suited to track duty right out of the box, a 1997 Corvette:



I owned that car for 4 years, and loved it. What a value those cars are… you can drive it on 400 mile road trips with the A/C on and then lap it all day at the track and drive home.

My passion for cars has not faded over the years and has actually grown. I love being around cars… whether it be detailing them, going to a car show or reading about them… they’re in my head and not going away! Because of this, I have set a goal for myself of someday owning my own garage to help people pursue their own goals of driving their dream car. Life is too short and I want to do something I love, or at least take a shot at it.

That being said, I needed a car that I could use to grow my "brand" and use as my “advertising” of what I can do. Even though the Corvette was a great car, it just didn’t stand out enough if I wanted to use it for advertising. At any given track day or autocross event, I would be 1 of 5+ Corvettes. I needed something more unique. I also want to learn. I consider myself pretty competent with a wrench, but I have yet to do any hardcore engine or chassis work. The Corvette didn’t need any of this, so I wanted something that needed a bit of attention so I could make it my own and grow my skillset.

After a lot of research, I settled on a third generation (1982 - ‘92) Camaro as a replacement for the Corvette. You may think I’m crazy, selling a perfectly good C5 Vette to pick up a third gen, but hear me out. There are plenty of these cars around, and they are not old enough where they need a complete restoration (which is most likely the case if I were to get something from the ‘60s or ‘70s) so I could focus primarily on performance upgrades. This seems to be a great time to pick up one of these cars as well, since they seem to be gaining in popularity and the aftermarket support is starting to pick up for them. The were also quite capable right out of the box, and are already setup with a 3-link rear suspension and fuel injection.

After doing a lot of searching, I wound up finding my car on Craigslist. It was one of the more expensive ones available in my area, but I have always heard to start with the best car you can afford and you will save money in the long run. It had a good body, and lots of performance parts already installed which was a plus. Seeing the car in person, I was a little scared as it seemed to be a bit hacked together and abused. The parts were there however, and I decided to purchase it with the idea that tidying up the loose ends would be a good learning experience and would be something I could do without spending a ton of money. Here is a picture from the night I drove it home:



As I got the car home, I thoroughly went over it and overall it was pretty clean. It already had weld-in subframe connectors and quite a few suspension bits. A ZZ4 crate engine had been swapped in along with a T56. The car was still rough however, as if someone rushed to get it together and didn’t take their time… lots of things like loose wires hanging on the engine, oil leaks and disconnected hoses jumped out at me.

This was in May, and I had signed up to run the Optima event at NJMP in August that year and wouldn’t let myself miss it. Unfortunately, I had a really busy summer which left not much time to work on the car so I had to be selective with what work I could do before the big event. I chose to focus on safety, which meant really going through the brakes and checking all of the suspension bolts. I changed all of the fluids and added a fresh set of tires on the stock 16” wheels. I really wanted to upgrade the brakes and wheels, but there just wasn’t enough time.



I am lucky to have 2 race tracks close to me that sponsor SCCA Track Nights in America, so I attended one at Palmer Motorsports park the week before I had to leave for the Optima event in NJMP. Fortunately the car did great, I ran three 20 min sessions and other than being black flagged for not having my gas cap on tight enough the car ran great and I was super happy!



A week later my Dad and I loaded up the truck and headed down to NJ. I was so fired up for this trip… I follow the Optima series very closely and thought it was so cool to not only be there, but to run with some of the guys and cars I had read about and seen on YouTube. I was so fired up to be going! My only goal for the weekend was to finish with the car in one piece. Luckily, I was able to accomplish that and had a blast. We had awesome weather the whole weekend and the car took whatever I could throw at it. It was definitely not the fastest out there, but that’s mostly because of the driver (and maybe the 245 series tires?)




Now comes time for the winter upgrades. I’ve been going back and forth about whether to pull the engine out of the car (which is running fine by the way), and I think I have decided to go for it. If I really want to organize the wiring and get it cleaned up to the point where I am proud to pop the hood, I think this is the only way to go. I also bought this car to learn, so no time like the present to dive in and pull my first motor.

I’m working with a limited budget and am also making a list of possible upgrades over the winter. I know I NEED a new radiator, as the car was overheating after 15mins at NJMP over the summer. There are lots of things I would LIKE to do, so I will have to prioritize and see what I can afford. I’m sure I’ll be asking for lots of advice in this area before I put out any big bucks.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope by following this thread you can learn just as much as I intend to.
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Old 12-04-2017, 05:22 AM
T/AAddict T/AAddict is offline
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Thanks for the great read!! I'll be following along as you go. Best of luck.
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Old 12-04-2017, 08:26 AM
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Great looking ride. Cant wait to see what you do with it.

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Old 12-04-2017, 09:43 AM
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Love third Gens and like your approach at buying a decent car to start with, much easier than going a full rebuild from the ground up right off the bat.

Something I have found that works for me is to plan your upgrades out very well and try to not take the car off the road for more than 2-3 weeks at a time. This way you keep interested in the car and project creep doesn't sideline you to the "Jackstand class".

For example, I just did a complete brake system upgrade along with some steering components in just under 4 days. My T56 swap start to finish took 20 days. Following this plan will not only make you plan your projects out better before turning the first wrench and will also let you keep enjoying the car as you upgrade it.
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Old 12-04-2017, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SSLance View Post
Something I have found that works for me is to plan your upgrades out very well and try to not take the car off the road for more than 2-3 weeks at a time. This way you keep interested in the car and project creep doesn't sideline you to the "Jackstand class".

For example, I just did a complete brake system upgrade along with some steering components in just under 4 days. My T56 swap start to finish took 20 days. Following this plan will not only make you plan your projects out better before turning the first wrench and will also let you keep enjoying the car as you upgrade it.
Great advice.
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Old 12-04-2017, 08:14 PM
WSSix WSSix is offline
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I'd say you're off to a great start. Make sure you have plenty of chassis bracing. It may take more than subframe connectors. Make sure the engine's reliable as well as having the brakes up to snuff. From there, learn and plan. Make sure you're always starting with a solid reliable platform even if that means forgoing the fun parts. Driving the car and learning its limits is the fan part.
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Holy crap! I finally have a Lat-g Build thread: https://lateral-g.net/forums/showthread.php4?t=46415
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Old 12-04-2017, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SSLance View Post
Love third Gens and like your approach at buying a decent car to start with, much easier than going a full rebuild from the ground up right off the bat.

Something I have found that works for me is to plan your upgrades out very well and try to not take the car off the road for more than 2-3 weeks at a time. This way you keep interested in the car and project creep doesn't sideline you to the "Jackstand class".

For example, I just did a complete brake system upgrade along with some steering components in just under 4 days. My T56 swap start to finish took 20 days. Following this plan will not only make you plan your projects out better before turning the first wrench and will also let you keep enjoying the car as you upgrade it.
Thanks for the tips Lance. My approach with my cars has always been to drive them as much as possible in the summer and fix any small items that come up. Then, in the winter, I tackle the big projects since I have about 3-4 months where I cant drive the car. I'm definitely aware of project creep and I'm trying to work quickly so I can get back out there in the spring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WSSix View Post
I'd say you're off to a great start. Make sure you have plenty of chassis bracing. It may take more than subframe connectors. Make sure the engine's reliable as well as having the brakes up to snuff. From there, learn and plan. Make sure you're always starting with a solid reliable platform even if that means forgoing the fun parts. Driving the car and learning its limits is the fan part.
Good advice Trey, thanks for the tips!

Last edited by garage_engineer; 12-04-2017 at 09:16 PM.
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Old 12-04-2017, 09:30 PM
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Here is my starting point on the engine bay, Looks fairly tidy from a distance but once you start digging in there are lots of issues. For instance, the charcoal canister is there, but not connected to anything. There are also a ton of wires just taped together or a thinner gauge wire crimped to a thicker gauge wire.

Starting Point:


Charcoal Canister Area:



Lots of rusty old fasteners and clamps too:


Can't wait to dive in!
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Old 12-05-2017, 06:21 AM
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Cool project man! Good luck with your winter upgrades. It's certainly a good time to own a gen3 camaro.
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Old 12-06-2017, 09:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LS1-IROC View Post
Cool project man! Good luck with your winter upgrades. It's certainly a good time to own a gen3 camaro.
Thanks for the compliments. Nice car by the way, hope mine can get to be that nice someday!
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