The term "ground-up restoration" gets bandied about quite a bit in our hobby. Depending on whom you talk to, it may merely mean that a classic Chevy has been thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. On the other hand, it may mean that said Chevy has also been reconditioned with appropriate replacement parts in place of items that have worn out over time, bringing it back to off-the-assembly-line condition. Then there's Rick Kirkindall of Irving, Texas. Kirkindall uses the term "total ground-up restoration" in reference to his '73 Camaro Z28, but that description falls far short of reality, which is that this second-gen F-body was stripped down to bare bones and resurrected as an almost entirely new car, and the results are stunning.
As with most enthusiasts, the seeds for future projects were sown in earlier years. Kirkindall had a '701/2 Z28 RS four-speed, red with black stripes, deluxe interior, and matching numbers. It wasn't that nice, a fact that, ironically, provided the impetus to create such a high-level '73. "Vision was the bottom line here," Kirkindall explained. "As kids we had a Mustang or a Camaro, the car of our choice, but none of the cars were ever nice. One day when I was able, I wanted to build a world-class car." We'll let you be the judge on that issue, but when it comes to Kirkindall's efforts in building this Z28, there's no doubting that he went all out.
1. The 427ci Dart-based small-block in this Camaro's extremely neat engine bay produces 46
Kirkindall didn't tell us much about the condition of the '73 when he bought it in his home state of Texas, but Swiss cheese was mentioned, so you can imagine what the old Z28 must have looked like. And if you can't, we'll paint you a slightly more graphic picture. Kirkindall totally disassembled the car and then literally cut it apart, right down to the trunk extension piece, the floorpans, the filler panel between the rear glass and the trunk, and anything else he could get at. The chassis, what was left of it, was sent off to Metal Rehab of Ft. Worth, Texas, where it was chemically stripped and E-coated to look just like new. Kirkindall then went on a shopping spree.
"I started seeking every panel," he told us. "Look at how straight the car is, how everything fits properly, and that was the whole purpose." We'll go along with that, but do have to comment that the list of parts that were still sitting around from GM is pretty incredible. Kirkindall came up with an N.O.S. replacement header panel, along with the lower valance, fenders, core support, bumpers, turn signals, bezels, grille surround divider, the lower front spoiler and braces, mirrors, and even replacement weatherstripping. And he even found a new Rally Sport urethane bumper face. Who knew Texas Chevy dealers were so well stocked with '73 Camaro parts? The few things that Kirkindall didn't find N.O.S. were sourced from Goodmark: a trunk floor, the inner dropoffs, doorskins, and the 21/2-inch cowl hood. Advantage Paint & Body, in Dallas reassembled the practically all-new body, and sprayed the slick black-stripes-on-white hues.
2. Could this be the perfect place for a day of corner carving fun? Dig the very nice alum
Take the lengths Kirkindall went to create a perfect Camaro body and go even further, and you'll have an idea of what went into the suspension underneath. Brink Racecrafters started the good work here by minitubbing the Z28, allowing nice fat P315/35R17 Yokohamas to fit inside the expanded wheelwells. A Martz Chassis Rally & Road Race subframes was installed up front; a stout 1-inch swaybar, Aldan coilovers, and Wilwood brakes are standard fare on these units.
During the '03 Power Tour, when we photographed Kirkindall's Z, the rear suspension consisted of Koni shocks, Hotchkis swaybars and leaf springs, and a Competition Engineering Slide-A-Link setup. The suspension has since been taken a step further with the addition of a Martz rear Rally & Road Race subframe, which brought another 1-inch swaybar, Aldan coilovers, and a four-link system. Mike Minette Enterprises then linked the two subframe assemblies with subconnectors, in essence giving the unibody Camaro a spanking new frame. Rebuilt from the ground up, indeed.
Kirkindall certainly didn't neglect the '73's engine compartment. The short version is that Kirkindall had Dick Alen of Dallas Export >> Sales create a 427ci powerplant based on a Dart Little M small-block filled with great goodies from Scat, Lunati, and Crane. Breathing through ported and polished Airflow Research 227 heads and fed by a Holley Commander 950 EFI system, the package churns out 460 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. With that power connected to the rear wheels via a Richmond six-speed and a narrowed 9-inch rearend, those fat gumballs out back are probably a good idea.
3. Rick Kirkindall says that he wanted "a very neat ponycar." Mission accomplished. Check
The interior appointments garnered equal attention. Mike Minette created the rollbar, along with the aluminum dashboard, console, and door panels. Kirkindall filled out his working space with replacement pieces from National Parts Depot, along with Auto Meter gauges, Sparco seats, and a Momo steering wheel, while a Vintage Air A/C, an Eclipse stereo with a JL Audio amp and Polk speakers provide creature comforts.
That little detail, perhaps, sums up Kirkindall's rendition of the ground-up restoration. "Some pay people to put together a car," he told us. "I put this one together. I totally disassembled it, then reassembled it. I installed the front and rear suspension, the motor, the trans, and the interior. I wouldn't say it's my pride and joy, but it's close." And since he literally built it from the ground up, we would guess it's very close.
4. Classic Torq-Thrust II's look just right on this early second-gen Z28. Wilwood binders
'73 Camaro Z28
Type: 427ci Dart Little M small-block
Block: Four-bolt mains, 0.030-inch overbore
Oiling: Milodon pan and high-volume pump
Crankshaft: Scat forged, 3.875-inch stroke
Connecting rods: Lunati 6-inch Pro Mod
Pistons: JE with Total Seal rings, 9:1 compression ratio
Cylinder heads: Airflow Research 227, ported and polished
Valves: AFR, 2.10/1.60
Camshaft: Crane mechanical roller
Timing set: Crane
Valvetrain: Crane pushrods and 1.6:1 rockers, AFR valvesprings
Induction: Holley Commander 950 EFI, K&N filter, Nitrous Works 150hp plate system
Ignition: MSD-6AL, billet distributor, Blaster 2 coil and wires; 32-degrees initial timing
Electronic engine control: Holley Commander 950
Exhaust: Hooker Super Comp headers, 21/2-inch pipe with Flowmaster American Thunder system and 40 series mufflers
Cooling: Be Cool radiator with dual Flexalite fans
Other: Rock Valley fuel tank, Aeromotive fuel pump, March serpentine-belt system, 140-amp one-wire alternator, Edelbrock high-flow water pump
Output: 460 hp at 5,200 rpm, 525 lb-ft at 4,500
Built by: Dick Alen, Dallas Export Sales
Transmission: Richmond ROD six-speed with a Long shifter, Hays clutch, and 11-inch flywheel
Rear axle: Custom-made 9-inch, narrowed 4 inches to 501/2 by Brink Racecrafters, Irving, TX; Performance Gear 31-spline axles, Moser spool, 3.90:1 gears
Driveshaft: Denny's Driveshaft
Frame: Martz Chassis Rally & Road Race subframes joined with subconnectors
Front suspension: Aldan coilovers with 1-inch swaybars and custom spindles
Rear suspension: Aldan coilovers with 1-inch swaybars and four-link setup
Steering: '95 Cobra rack-and-pinion, GM tilt column
Brakes: Wilwood Dynalite discs with four-piston calipers
Other: Minitubbed by Brink Racecrafters
Built by: Mike Minette Enterprises
WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: 17x9.5 American Racing Torq-Thrust IIs, front; 17x11, rear
Tires: P275/40R17 Yokohama AVS Sports, front; P315/35R17 Yokohama AVS Sports, rear
BODY & PAINT
Body: Stripped and E-coated by Metal Rehab, Ft. Worth; N.O.S. replacement header panel, lower valance, fenders, core support, bumpers, turn signals, bezels, grille surround divider, urethane nose, lower front spoiler and braces, mirrors, and weatherstripping; Goodmark trunk floor, dropoffs, doorskins, and hood; assembled by Advantage Paint & Body, Dallas
Paint: PPG Summit White and Black sprayed by Advantage Paint & Body, Dallas
Full rollcage by Minette Enterprises; Sparco Torino 2 seats; Simpson harnesses; headliner, sun visors, and carpet from National Parts Depot; aluminum dashboard and console with Auto Meter gauges and door panels by Minette Enterprises; Momo steering wheel; Vintage Air A/C; Eclipse stereo with a JL Audio amp and Polk speakers; wiring by Painless Performance.