What better way could there be to spend summer than cruising in a blown Targa-top Camaro?
According to John Pin, the owner of this supercharged Z28 Camaro, there is something better than cruising the streets over summer. As a man with many toys, John reckons the best thing for summer is hitting the water in the aquatic equivalent of his Camaro, an equally insane V8-powered American imported boat. Like the Camaro, it’s designed for speed, and summer cruising rather than comfort.
We’re not sure whether we agree, for it was John’s 1981 Z28 that caught our eye last summer, when we saw the car on the road and at events around the upper North Island countless times.
Gotta Have it
As we’ve already noted, John has a bunch of other toys including European exotics, a Cadillac, a Hummer ” the list goes on. However, while up in America on business in late 2007, he stumbled upon the Camaro and couldn’t resist adding it to his collection. Although he was not looking for a car at the time, especially not a supercharged muscle car, the deal was just too good for him to walk away from.
It seems the builder / previous owner of the vehicle knew what they were doing when they pieced it together. While it wasn’t built with million-dollar parts, no shortcuts were taken, either, and the result is a tough 388ci engine combination that is super-reliable and super-resilient.
Enough, But Not Too Much
With no aim to win dyno shootouts, there was no need for an aftermarket block, so instead the car’s factory-fitted 350 was the base for the forced induction build. With JE pistons, H-beam rods and an 8.1:1 compression ratio, John can be assured of many summers of cruising before he’ll need to perform maintenance. Atop the block now sit Brodix aluminium heads fitted with Crane double valve springs and Comp roller rockers, which are driven by a Crane cam.
The 6/71 supercharger is what produces the power, not to mention the noise that turns every single head as the Camaro goes past.
The aim for the build wasn’t for masses of unusable power ” after all, the car is a Targa top and would probably twist up like a tin can if it was overpowered. Instead the plan was to generate enough power to make the ride interesting, yet leave it maintenance-free.
The Magpie Effect
With the blower and twin 750cfm Holley carburettors sticking out of the engine bay, the car receives cheers and smiles wherever it goes, except perhaps from Greenpeace protestors and the like.
Being a 1981 model, it’s the last of the second-generation Camaros, with a shape that was under-appreciated in its time. There is no middle-ground with this model, you either love it or hate it.
At some stage in the car’s life, its gloss black paintwork was resprayed and gold Z28 graphics were added to leave the viewer with no question as to its authenticity.
The choice of wheels also leaves no question about the car’s intentions, which is straight-line performance only. They measure in at just five inches wide up front, so the car isn’t one you would exactly take on the race circuit. Down the back the feet are twice as wide and shod with 275/60R15 Mickey Thompson ET Radials.
Suspension-wise, the Camaro remains as the factory intended, albeit with new shocks replacing the factory items. The same goes for the brakes, which surprisingly also remain dead stock.
While the interior trim remains stock, a chromed roll bar has been added. Along with chassis connectors below the floor, the cage helps to stiffen up the chassis to harness the engine’s power.
With the targa top often taking up residence in the boot, and the relocated battery also sitting there, there’s no room for a huge audio system. However, a decent head unit and speakers reside in the cabin, along with a plethora of gauges that monitor the engine’s wellbeing.
The Driver’s Perspective
So what does it drive like? I was lucky enough to be thrown the keys to the car for an afternoon and took it for a drive. While most of my time was spent within the CBD, it was a great experience. I don’t hide the fact that I’m not a fan of convertibles (nor targa tops for that matter), but the roof was off when I picked it up, and that was the way it stayed.
With no lid to hide under, I became self-conscious about all the people stopping and looking to see where that supercharger whine was emanating from. Usually in situations like this, keeping the windows up separates you from passers-by, but there was certainly no hiding in this car.
With a 256 intake and 264 exhaust duration on the cam, the car drove well throughout the rev range, even with the 3800rpm stall converter. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to automatic transmissions (they are automatic for a reason, right?) so just left the B&M Quicksilver shifter in the drive position.
Once I was comfortable with the obscured view you get when driving a blown car, I gave a few stabs of the throttle and it picked up nicely. There was not enough power to leave massive skid marks up the road, but plenty enough to make our photographer hold onto his hat.
Unlike many blown cars, which suffer from the extra heat generated by the giant air pump attached to the motor, once up to operating temperature the Camaro didn’t get any hotter, even when sitting in Auckland traffic.
While the removable roof means it’s not a car I would personally buy, I can certainly see why John did. It’s a pleasure to drive, it goes well, stops well and handles better than you would expect. All up, I would say it is a perfect summer cruiser, and it’s one that many of you will see around the country in the warmer months to come.
1981 Z28 Camaro – Specifications
Engine: 350 bored .60 over to 388ci (5735cc to 6358cc), two 750cfm Holley carbs, 8.1:1 compression, 6-71 blower, JE blower pistons, Brodix aluminium heads, Cola crank, Manley valves, Crane double valve springs, Melling oil pump, Comp roller rockers (1.5), stud girdle, H-beam rods, Crane cam, duration at .050 intake 256/exhaust 264, 0.9-litre oil pan, three-inch exhaust, MSD ignition with rev limiter chips and a boost/retard dial, Holley Blue electric fuel pump
Driveline: TH350, 3800 stall, B&M Quicksilver shifter, Dana 60, Posi, Richmond 3:42:1 gears
Suspension: Stock, traction bars
Wheels/tyres: 15×5-inch and 15×10-inch chrome wheels, Kumho radial 165/80R15 and Mickey Thompson ET radial 275/60R15
Chassis: Traction bars, frame connectors
Interior: Chrome four-point roll bar, T-Tops, JVC stereo, Auto Meter gauges (liquid filled: boost, oil pressure, water temp, fuel pressure; not liquid filled: fuel, volts), five-inch Auto Meter speedo and tacho. Edelbrock fuel/air mixture gauge. Low oil pressure warning light
John Pin – Owner Profile
Car club: American Muscle Car Club
Occupation: Marketing director
Previously owned cars: Too many to list
Dream car: Plenty of them
Why the Camaro: “I found it when I was in the States and it was too good to refuse”
Build time: N/a
Length of ownership: Two years
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy