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Z28 Camaro is 20 Years Old

Hard to believe it, but my Z28 Camaro is 20 years old!  8O

I was going through some old papers and came across the original documents for my 1995 F-Body Camaro Z28.  Sure enough,  my daily driver left the Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, Canada assembly plant the third week of September 1994 as a 1995 model.  This car had been special ordered sometime in early 1994 and hence carries some odd features (more on that later).

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Some History

Back in the day, the fourth-generation Z28 Camaro was quite the awesome machine, sporting wide ZR rated tires, lightweight bodywork and the impressive 5.7L LT1 V8 with almost 300hp and enough torque to light up the expensive Good-Year GSC asymmetric tires in the blink of an eye.

Needless to say, I had to have one.

I remember doing a great deal of research – my heart was set on a 6 speed – but at that time, the manual cars were very, very hard to find.  After many months of searching, an acquaintance who was in the car business told me about a special-order red Camaro that was up for sale at a dealership he knew well.  It came equipped with all I wanted, however that included the 4L60E automatic transmission.

Reluctantly I agreed to go see the Camaro.  It was parked on the front row of the dealership and how nobody had bought it before me has always made me wonder.  At any rate, as I walked up to it I realized it was immaculate.  I opened the door, sat down and looked at the odometer.  It is then when I realized it had only 5,300 odd miles on it.  As I gave the car a closer inspection, I realized this one was a keeper.  We struck a very favorable deal and I signed the dotted line.  Yes, it had the 4L60E automatic transmission but I would have been an idiot to pass this one up.

Purchase and a Few Surprises

A few days later, after the proper paperwork and money changed hands I picked up the Bright Red 1995 F-body Camaro Z28 pictured here.  I’ll never forget it:  it had rained that day and the roads were wet.  First stop was to a gas station down the street from the car dealership.  After filling the tank with Premium Unleaded I cracked the throttle a bit too far on the way out the service station.  The posi-traction locked and hooked up and since the street was wet, the rear of the car walked out.

Damn!!  I knew right then I had something special!  :mrgreen:

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As I went through the glove-box and center console, I found papers.  Many papers.  The original build sheet was there, the window sticker was there as well as the dot-matrix printout from when the car was spec’d out at the dealer when the special order was filled out.  Owner’s manual was there as well as the address of the original owner.  That would come in handy because I ended up contacting him for a few missing items such as the extra remote FOB and the T-Top shades.

After meeting the original owner, he told me he requested every option except two:  leather seats and a rear-window defroster.  He told he didn’t believe in rear window defrosters.  Well how wrong he was!

Everything else though, was included:  from the upgraded suspension featuring the preferred 3.23:1 rear end differential, to the Z28 package which included the 5.7L LT1 and 4L60E automatic transmission.  The interior was requested with Torch Red cloth inserts and matching door panels.  Also included were the tinted-glass T-Tops with removable inserts and “salad shooter” wheels.  The audio package featured the Bose quad-speaker system with sub-woofer and a CD player – very advanced for the time, might I add!  Finally, very unusual for a 95 Camaro are the body-color mirrors and roof bar (Z28’s in 1995 were built with black mirrors and black roof bar).

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The Journey

Once I started to get used to the car, I ordered a few “enhancements”.  First was a cold-air intake.  At the time not many were available so I bought one of the early Calloway kits with matching K&N filter – it was not cheap!

Glass abounds on the Fourth Gen Camaro.  This lets in a huge amount of heat as well as UV light.  So, to protect the interior I had a dark window tint applied to the door windows as well as the rear glass hatch.  During the summer months I keep the T-Top shades in place – during the winter months I take them off.  Totally transforms the driving experience!

Next I ordered a BMR strut-tower brace as well as beefier BMR rear control arms.  Finally, the sway bars and deCarbon shocks were replaced with the factory installed on the B4C Police Package units.  This enhanced the traction and cornering abilities of my Z28.

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IMG_2438One of the drawbacks about these cars have been the brakes.  So when the factory brakes needed replacing, I splurged and installed cross drilled rotors (front and back) as well as upgraded pads and braided steel brake lines.  While not as sure-footed as my S2000 or bowtie6, the upgrades did make a big difference.  On my list of “to-do” things is to upgrade the front calipers to Wilwoods – maybe one of these days!!

The AC compressor was replaced about 4 years ago.  I’ve never let anybody touch my car however, when the compressor gave up the ghost I took it to a local, very reputable Chevrolet dealer in Greenville, SC.  They changed the compressor alright, and charged me dearly for it.  However, they did one very shitty job.  Turns out, when the compressor granaded itself, it sent out minuscule shavings that clogged the expansion valve.  Of course, the dealer failed to change said valve and the AC did not perform the way it was supposed to.  Oh, they claimed it was “done to spec” but I knew better.  I ordered a new expansion valve, installed it myself and with my cousin Jim’s help, we charged the AC system back up to the correct R134 settings.  Problem solved – AC is cold as the day it left the factory.

Moral of the story?  Don’t let shitty dealerships work on your car.

Oil has been religiously changed some 30 times during the last twenty years.  I’ve always replaced it with Mobil1 synthetic 5W-30 and premium filters.  Yes, my Z28 has 93,000 miles and it is still going strong. These days, I use the Mobil1 High Mileage version since it has a little more ZZDP.

I’ve gone through several sets of Good-Year GSC’s through the years.  Back when the SS Camaros were built by SLP you could order “take off” wheels from them.  These were perfectly new wheels and tires (GSC’s) for cheap.  I ordered one of these sets:  they are the five-spoke TransAm wheels.  I ran them for several years and boy did I get a few stares from folks!  The last few sets of tires I ordered came from BFGoodrich and they are nice.  I had them mounted on the original salad-shooters to give the car its original look.

I’ve bought several batteries through the years – matter of fact, I’m due for one.  With winter soon approaching, this will be the next purchase for the Z28.  Coolant has been flushed several times as well as transmission fluid, differential fluid (with the extra GM “additive”) and last but not least, brake fluid.

The BOSE radio/CD-deck was sent off and repaired several years ago.  They did a good job repairing it but just for good measure I bought a “spare” off eBay for a decent price.  Try to find one today!

The most recent replacement item were the gas-filled struts that hold the rear hatch open.  I bought them off eBay and they are perfect.  The bolt holding the strut to the inside body mounts was very difficult to remove – after all these years that LocTite really did its job!  But after some heavy cursing and a good lever, they came loose.  The hatch opens and holds just like new now.

The Future…

Currently, I subscribe to several car magazines.  Forever you read about folks that talk about owning that special car they have owned since the start of time.  They also often talk about the special bonds they have with their rides.  I am no exception.

This Z28 has been part of my life for twenty years.  This machine has been by my side in good times and bad times.  I endured a divorce while owning it.  It has been my best friend when I could not find a friend.  Yes, I have been looking for a Vette for several years but somehow I don’t see myself letting my old friend go…

Build quality might not be “refined”; fit and finish is not perfect.  In wet weather the rear tends to “walk” if you crack the throttle too quick.  It is noisy.  It might rattle on bumpy roads.  The window motors stick from time to time.   There is no iPod connector nor satellite radio.  There is no backup camera.  It is, after all a muscle car.

It might be a “Camaro”, but it can still hold its own and it does very well.  Recently I took a road trip partly on a freeway, partly on secondary roads.  And still, twenty years later this machine delivers when asked.  I suppose for me, the thrill is still there.

I don’t like to abuse my cars.  I like to keep them together in one piece and as such, I give my Z28 a bit of break of sorts.  Yeah, it will light up the rear tires just like before but now it takes two blinks of the eye. ;)  However, I respect the old warrior.  It has definitely earned that respect.

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In Summary

Twenty years ago, this Z28 was state-of-the-art and oh believe you me, it turned heads.  Did it ever!

Ten years ago, Z28’s like mine fell in the hands of second, third, fourth ownerships and the great majority started to show as if they had been driven hard and put up wet.

Today, I look around as I drive to work every day and rarely see Fourth Gen Z28’s (or cousin WS6’s) on the streets anymore.  Yes, there are a few out there but not many that are well taken care of.

Who knows, if I hold on to my Z28 and continue to keep it up maybe ten years from now (or sooner), I can drive it to Cars & Coffee and once again, turns heads…

That would be pretty cool.

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Triple Tree Aerodrome Fly In

I had a chance to visit the 8th annual Triple Tree Aerodrome Fly In in Woodruff, South Carolina this Saturday.  It was a very warm and humid day – felt more like 4th of July weekend rather than the weekend after Labour Day.  However, once we got there things were all good!

Cousin Jim and I arrived late.  We had “issues” with the transmission on Jim’s shop-truck – the tranny gave up the ghost.  With the help of one of our buddies Mike R, we got a ride back to Jim’s shop.  We called a local rollback to go pick up the shop-truck.  In the meantime we jumped in the backup shop-truck-2.0 and headed out to Woodruff.

Triple Tree Aerodrome is quite a nice place.  There are some 80+ acres of freshly mowed grass and other amenities.  My friend Richard S, happens to be a member there and that is how we found out about the fly-in.  Once we got there, volunteers promptly asked us to sign a waiver and pay our $15 to get in.  Then we rode one of the buses to travel the 2-odd miles to the event I had a chance to take a few pictures…

Update:  Made a change to the gallery so a full-sized picture will display when you click on each thumbnail…  Enjoy!

For those of you on the mailing list, please go to The Bowtie6 Blog and check out the gallery!

This is also the same Aerodrome used for RC airplanes.  From what I understand there are several very awesome events that take place there.  At any rate, I hope you enjoy the gallery of pictures.  As always feedback would be appreciated…

Cheers!  :mrgreen:

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Letter to a Soldier…

Today, my friend Jeff showed me a tweet from a letter to a soldier from an elementary school kid.  You know, the ones that thousands of little kids send to our brave warriors proudly serving our Nation and defending Democracy overseas.

I suppose this is the innocence of an 8 year-old…  Then again, I think Jack (and Jack’s Dad) got it right especially with the behavior being displayed by goat ****’s these days.   :mrgreen:

I showed this tweet to another friend of mine – a retired USMC Major – and he told me this would make a soldier’s day.  I’ll post this here in the hope that a brave Soldier reads it.

As young Jack said, “I hope you get them”.  Hurrah!!

 

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1935 Bugatti Type 57S Compétition Coupé Aerolithe

What a treat today has been!  Drove to the High Museum of Art Atlanta to see the Dream Cars collection exhibition, which will continue until September 7, 2014.  If you get a chance to make the drive, I highly recommend it.  A total of seventeen concept cars are on display each magnificent except for two turds.  Both German – one, a BMW and the second a Porsche.  Oh well, can’t have it all I suppose.

So I’ll start by listing what I thought was the most impressive in the collection:  a 1935 Type 57S Compétition Coupé Aerolithe.  The finish of this car is a shade of very light green metallic that exhibits properties akin to a chameleon:  one moment it looked light green, and the next it became almost silver.  And yes, this is the Bugatti with the exposed backbone assembled with hundreds of rivets.  Feast your eyes…

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The front of the car displays an immense amount of exceptionally perfect chrome.  The grill has what appears to be thermostatically controlled vertical blade arrangement allowing the correct amount of cool air to keep the engine from overheating.  The headlights were particularly impressive:  everything was crystal-clear except for the bulbs: they were yellow.  The side vents on the hood were also flawless and the latches holding the sides were magnificent.

IMG_2312Moving right along, notice the doors.  What a door!  Check out how high the door sills are and the teardrop design of the side glass window.  The occupant’s shoulder would be even with the lower edge of the window – how awesome is that?  Finally as if it were not obvious enough, those are suicide doors held in place by two delicately made door hinges.  To make something look this simple and elegant takes an obscene amount of knowledge, craftsmanship and time.

IMG_2319Here is a closeup of the rear wheel cover.  The cover has five fasteners that when turned in the correct direction allow the cover to be removed.  Pay close attention to the lower right corner where the wheel cover meets the rear curve of the fender.  The amount of detail is immense.  The cover has a compound curve – it boggles the mind how this the master craftsman in charge hand-formed this from a sheet of metal using his hands, an English Wheel, perhaps a planishing hammer…  And it goes without saying, but look at all those rivets holding the fender to the rest of the body.

IMG_2320The tail of this Bugatti is once again an amazing work of art.  Here we see the exposed backbone with all those alternating rivets.  The spare wheel must be under that large round cover.  Notice how perfect the sweeping seam on the fender meets the backbone in the middle.  Finally, below the roll-pan are four very tastefully placed indicators.  They are just neatly tucked away as to not distract the eye from the flowing curve of the back of this work of art.  Amazing don’t you think?

IMG_2323Here you see the four lights I mentioned before, but wait…  Look at that simple but elegant chromed release handle for the boot cover.  It appears to be designed to be lifted and then pulled back where it would rest on a detent.  Then the entire back cover would open.

IMG_2325This picture shows the exposed backbone actually goes under the car for a certain distance.  I was unable to get a closer look but I think there are even more surprises under all the shiny bodywork. If you look close enough towards the left, you see that small tapered point on the wheel cover that shows just how high the level of detail exists on this coachwork.

IMG_2326Here are the back windows.  Unfortunately the light was not good enough to show the interior, but from this vantage point I could actually see all the instrumentation as well as the dash and steering wheel.

IMG_2322I realize this is not exactly the best of photos, but look at how the door extends into the roof area of the car.  I suppose this would have aided the occupant when entering/exiting the inside of the car.  Nothing seems left to chance here.  Exceptional, don’t you think?

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IMG_2302I took the two pictures above, to highlight something particular about this car.  The entire body is a flow of curves.  The long swooping fenders, the compound curve of the rear wheel cover, the roof, the curves on the rear deck…  Except for one thing…  Look at the extreme sharp edge on the engine cover as it meets the firewall.  Then think when this was all formed:  the mid 1930’s.  This is not a car – this is art.

Finally, I’ll just close with a few more pictures of this exceptional rolling masterpiece.

IMG_2294IMG_2298IMG_2295Stay tuned…  I took many pictures of the rest of the cars in the collection.  I’ll try to write about them in the next few posts

 

Cameo

The Chevrolet Cameo Pickup

Back in the mid 1950’s, the Chevrolet Cameo pickup was the first of the high-end luxury trucks with real pizzazz.  Thanks to the knowledge General Motors obtained from the plastic-fantastic Corvette, the Cameo’s outer bed panels were made of lightweight fiberglass.  At the time the Cameo came equipped with a high-end interior, the best of V8 power, automatic transmission and two-tone paint.  In the 1950’s this made the Cameo a very avant-garde vehicle, and thus not many were built.  Even more obscure is the GMC version – the Suburban Carrier.

Today, the Cameo is very rare.  Today, I had the privilege to work on one (again!) – oh lucky me!!  :mrgreen:

In a none-too-distant-future this Cameo will be a stablemate to my friend Barry’s Bel Air (click here to see it).  What makes this Bel Air so damn special is that it has been in Barry’s family since new.  Just imagine still owning the car you grew up since you were a kid!!

This Chevrolet Cameo has been at my cousin Jim’s shop numerous times on its way to being brought back to life.  Jim has modified the frame, installed the new LS 5.3 liter engine (oh hell yeah!!) and done a huge amount of other fabrication work.  I have written about it before; you can read more about it by clicking here and here.

Today we did some bodywork on the fiberglass outer bed panels.

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Body filler applied to the “low spots”.

To get the bed panels nice and straight, my cousin Jim previously sprayed them with sanding primer (the gray stuff) and today we worked some body-filler in order to ensure a very straight finish.  Body filler is applied to the “low spots” on the panels.  The great majority of this will eventually be sanded down.  This takes patience and a steady hand.  Yes it is tedious, it is messy (you get a ton of powder all over the place) and it takes time.  And time.  And more time.  And yes, you guessed it, more time.

I’ve had quite a bit of stress and aggravation in the last few weeks, so working on Barry’s truck today was very therapeutic.  This is the kind of stuff that “builds character”.  It gives you time to think and well…  I just enjoy doing this!

Sanding was done using an orbital air-powered sander, several sanding blocks of different shapes and sizes and different grades of sand-paper.  Of course this is July 4th weekend and it was nice and warm (no – it was HOT!).  Fortunately we had a few box-fans running and this made it tolerable.

Some folks say this is boring and a pain in the ass.  Nope.  This brought back fond memories of the endless hours I spent the summer I did this very same work on bowtie6 (click here).  What made the Cameo different was that the sanding had to be more careful because I did not want to dig into the fiberglass gel-coat.  After several hours we had this:

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The end result, after a few hour’s worth of sanding.

What is left now is just a film of filler covering the “low” spots on the body panel.  If you look closely you can see some of the sanding blocks (on the top of the bed and on the floor).  We had air-powered versions too but this has to be done the old-fashioned way:  by hand.

Here is the cab on Barry’s cameo (yes, the photo is not perfect, I used my iPhone!):

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The Cameo’s cabin.

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The opposite side, after sanding was completed.

So what’s next?

Well…  We have some more sanding to do.  There were a few spots that needed some more filling and further sanding to get really, really smooth.  Then another coat or two of sanding primer followed by more sanding with even finer sandpaper.  The idea is to get the surface straight and smooth.

Man!  This was fun today.  If you have never done this kind of work before, you are missing out on one of the pure joys of auto-restoration.  I highly recommend it!

How is it done?

Filler is mixed from a paste in a can.  Usually you would get about a golf-ball sized amount and add a pea sized amount of catalyst.  This is then mixed very quickly on a special pad lined with paper until thoroughly blended.  Then the fun begins.  You must spread this with a special pad thin enough and quick enough while it is still malleable.  After just a few minutes there is a point-of-no-return when the stuff gets too hard and grainy.  On a hot day like today, the set time is even shorter.

Then, the filler is allowed to fully harden.  Once it is hard to the touch, one can start sanding.  The end result is a very fine powder that goes everywhere.  Yes, it has a special odour and when I say it goes everywhere I really mean it.  However, there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you take an air-hose and then gently rub your hand on the body panel.  If you have done it right, it will be as smooth as a newborn’s arse.

I’ll have more updates soon…

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Audi Transporter

On the way back from a quick visit to Costco this morning, I saw this new car Audi Transporter parked in an empty lot.  I thought it was pretty cool how these new Audi vehicles get transported in the safety of the white car covers.  Wonder if you spend the hard-earned cash for one of these gems you get the cover thrown in the deal?  Granted, it isn’t much of a car cover but it does have a certain “cool factor” to it.

I also found it ironic the proletarian Volkswagen loaded on the tail end of the transporter did not get the VIP treatment :-( – see below…

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The lowly VW just got a hood and trunk protector.  Oh well…

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MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance Review

From what I’ve read on the auto detailing forums, the MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance is the only way to properly wash a car.  This device is attached to your pressure washer and with the right kind of soap, a perfect layer of foam can be delivered to the surface of your car.

I did some research on the inter-webs and found there are several vendors.  Since I am not endorsing one or the other, I picked the one with the lowest price (and yes, they vary!) so if you decide to get one do your homework.  Sure enough, a few days after I placed my order the friendly UPS driver delivered a package with an MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance and on Memorial Day weekend I decided to try it out.  Here is what I found…

What You Get in the Box

So what do you get in the box after in return for your hard-earned $79 bucks?  As you can see from the featured image, the box is nicely labeled and the contents are:  a lance assembly, two fittings, a clear plastic tube and the plastic bottle used to hold an auto soap mixture.  The clear plastic tube siphons soap mixture from the plastic bottle.

IMG_2046The lance is quite heavy and appears well made.  This picture shows the lance with the clear plastic siphon tube attached on the bottom;  on the right is the fitting that matches my pressure washer.  The top knob regulates the amount of soap mixture being sucked in and the black lance on the left works just like the tip of a pressure washer:  it regulated the sweep area (from a fan to a concentrated point) by turning one way or the other.

The bottle looks like this.

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The Pressure Washer

I have a Sears gas-powered pressure washer, like this one:

 

From what I have read on the forums, finding the “right” fitting to match your trigger is a bit confusing.  Fortunately in my case, the correct fitting came in the box.  Here is what the MTM Hydro looks like with the proper fitting for my pressure washer:

IMG_2044This part was rather frustrating for me.  I tried several times to contact one of the vendors about the fittings and after several tries finally received a rather vague answer on whether the MTM Hydro lance would fit the Search trigger mechanism.  However all worked out right out of the box.

Using the MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance

Once I got everything assembled and had the pressure washer up and running, let me just say this thing works very well.  Since I am doing a full report here for you, I will explain the good and the bad.

First, let me tell you the bad:  the Achilles heel of this whole affair is the bottle.  It is very cheap and flimsy.  During transit the box appears to have been bumped a bit and the bottle showed signs of being semi-crushed.  Look at this picture:

IMG_2049I tried to straighten out the crease a little, but this bottle is made of such thin material that I am afraid to mess with it too much in fear it will just out rip.  Another issue I find in the bottle is that when it is full of soap mix, it is extremely easy to cross-thread on the lace.  This is what the threads on the bottle look like:

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And they thread into this:

IMG_2054However, if you take your time then you can get the bottle properly screwed in.  Bottom line, I see myself having to buy a replacement bottle sometime in the near future.  So it might not be a bad idea to get an “extra” bottle with your order.

Next the good:  this thing works.  But… Be aware the amount of foam will depend to a large extent on the quality of car-wash soap you use.  My first attempt was using Griot’s Garage car-wash:

IMG_2043And this is what it looks like after a minute or two after applying:

IMG_2038 IMG_2039 IMG_2041This soap gave good results.  I had two other bottles of car-wash I had previously bought at the local Auto Zone and those failed miserably producing almost no foam at all.  I realize there are probably better car-wash shampoo options out there, I’ll just have to find them.  When I do, I’ll have an update.

Oh and one more thing:  Keep an eye on the bottle as its contents get used up… ;)  In my case, the pressure washer had enough suction that it started to crush the bottle like an empty beer can.  Just watch the soap mixture!

In Conclusion

The foam lance worked very well.  It produced a very nice layer of foam and overall I was very pleased with how my S2000 and later, bowtie6 looked after all the foam was rinsed away.  Was it worth having to break out the pressure washer and all its attachments?  I guess I’ll have to try this out a few more times before I can say for certain.