Art St.Germain's 1972 Camaro RS - The Story
1972 Camaro RS, production #11,364. Longest trip 200 miles. The car has had a frame off restoration. In 1991-1992 the previous owner did the frame/suspension and engine. In 1999-2000 I did the interior and exterior. In 2002(April) the engine will be replaced, it has some leaks at the mains, and time for some horsepower too.
Many thanks to my WIFE and thank goodness for overtime.
My son Tim wanted a muscle car for High School graduation, so we started looking for one in Feb of '96. Looked at several cars but in our price range there wasnít much for $5-6,000. Finally in May we found one, a 1972 Camaro RS. It had some rust, but drove and performed well.
The engine and drive train had been rebuilt. The frame/suspension was all new or rebuilt, it looked better than new. Paid $6,500 and started to drive home, it was just starting to get dark and a little cold. Turned on the heat, and instantly the windshield fogged over (heater core was bad), could hardly see, so I turned it off. Also it didnít steer correctly on right turns, I should have driven it more before we bought it. Stopped to get something to eat, took a bunch of napkins and cleaned the windshield which made it better for the rest of the drive home. I replaced the heater core right away, also bought new tires and had the front end aligned. When the car was put together no shims were used and it drove fine after that. The transmission started making noise soon after that so we had it checked. Someone had used cheap synchros and didnít replace the pilot bushing in the flywheel, main shaft got chewed up. The previous owner told me the transmission was a Muncie, but it turned out to be a Saginaw, at least it shifts good now. I went through the receipts we got with the car and found out how many new parts were on the car, which made us feel better after the transmission problems.
I got a quote for new paint and bodywork, a minimum of $5,000.00 with the current condition of the body...time start saving and work some overtime (Aug 96). For better looks and performance, I installed an aluminum manifold and MSD ignition, and the car ran much better. The hardest things to fine were a horn relay and passenger front seat belt (wanted to use the shoulder belt). I couldn't find the relay, so I just started calling every place that carried Camaro parts, on and off for a couple weeks until I finally got one. Now I had to find a horn that works, as wrecking-yard ones are usually bad. I found one in the scrap section at work, which turned out fine. I still couldnít find the right seat belt, so I put in a lap belt from the parts store. After searching for a year I decided I would have to do something else as I couldnít fine that belt. I found a belt from a '73 car that would bolt in, so I took the buckle form the back seat (as it worked with the shoulder belt) and had it sewn on the belt I found. Then I got another rear belt out of a '74 car and had that buckle sewn on my rear belts, now all the belts work. Then the gas tank started leaking at the filler neck, took it out and had it welded, lots of old crap in tank, will have to do something about that.
After a couple of years at a Junior College, my son was going out of town to a 4-year University. The winters are bad there and between our home and the school is a high mountain pass. I decided to buy him a car better suited for those conditions and keep the Camaro for ME.
After 3 years of overtime, it was time to get the paint done! I decided to have everything done locally, so I could keep track of the progress and it would be easy to take it back to the body shop if something had to be redone. I started stripping the car (Oct. '99) of everything except what I would need to drive to the shop which was only 5 miles away, including all lights (except tail lights) and the bumpers. The interior was stripped of everything except drivers seat, front and rear glass, steering column, and gauges. Most of the dash was stripped in preparation for a new pad. I also decided to put a new gas tank and sending unit in before going to the shop, which was easier the second time around. I drove to the shop, took the tail lights out and went home.....I couldnít wait for it to be done!!
Next couple of days they stripped the paint and pulled the front and rear glass out. I knew it needed quarter fenders and upper rear body panel, and the lower part of the front fenders. But when the rear window was taken out, the channel for the glass was rusted out. They had to build a new one by hand, $$$. This was originally a vinyl top car , once the vinyl top was removed they found some body filler, it looked like someone had been jumping up and down on it and had dented it...more $$$, but they did a fabulous job on it.
While the car was being worked on, I ordered all the rest of parts I wanted to replace. I wanted better front seats, so I ordered some aftermarket seats (Corbeau) un-upholstered, and had them covered to look liked the stock ones. All the interior plastic parts looked good, so I just cleaned and coated them. I cleaned, painted, or re-chromed everything I took off the interior and exterior. I replaced every fastener with stainless steel ($100.00), which took lots of time at the local hardware store.
After three months in the shop the body/paint was done (late Feb. '00). What a birthday present...the wait was well worth it, the paint just glowed right out of the paint booth. Click here to see pics of the restoration process.
Time to put it back together...not too bad of a job since I had bagged and labeled everything I had removed. First show after it was done (June '00), I took second place in my class. That felt good as it was a long haul.
As of Oct. '01 the car has earned 8 awards, the last being a top 10 at the Hot Chevy Show at Seattle International Raceway. This is where Chevy High Performance Magazine gave my car the opportunity to be in a future issue of their magazine. During this winter I took the hood to the body shop to have the underside painted body-color, and pulled the old motor out with plans to replace it with a completely new motor. The new motor will hopefully be done and installed by April '02.