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1969 Chevy Camaro - Reality Resto

Saving A Camaro Convertible

By Jeff Trush, Photography by Anders Odeholm, Jeff Trush

One of the worst was the time I took my car to the St. Ignace car show in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I had just arrived for the weekend festivities, and after driving for 5 hours with the top down and sun beating down on me, I decided that a nice cool dip in the pool was in order. I parked the car, and 20 minutes later I was on my way to the pool when I heard people screaming "Stop! Stop!" I turned around just in time to see a gentlemen in a Model T-this one must have had 11/44-inch-thick steel fenders-careen right into my Camaro. Apparently, the guy was backing out his brother's Model T but didn't know where the brake was. I ended up with a smashed quarter-panel; the T's fender sustained a small chip in the paint.

Needless to say, my weekend was ruined. The whole incident only took a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. I will give credit to the driver though. He was flailing about so frantically trying to figure out how to stop, that at first I thought he had some kind of medical condition. Happily, the owner of the Model T made everything right-note to readers: If someone hits you, it's better if he's a millionaire with his own restoration shop. Sorry Allstate, you lose.

Yes, I have many more warm and fuzzy memories, like when the threads pulled out of the nut on the lower ball joint just as I pulled into my driveway. The car did a Back to the Future II Delorean impersonation-you know, where the tire goes horizontal before take-off? My Camaro dropped on the frame and skidded about 2 feet. The car was hanging halfway in my driveway and halfway in the street with a crunched fender. Ironically, that was the day after I returned from the St. Ignace car show, just 2 years later.

Still, the worst of all incidents resulted in the damage shown in the accompanying photos. To make a long story short, picture a 15-year-old girl with a permit, Grandma in the passenger seat, and my Camaro with a smashed door and another wrinkled quarter-panel. When my wife arrived on the scene, she thought someone had been killed, as I was sobbing uncontrollably on the car. (She still reminds me about that to illustrate how ridiculous I am about this car. Is that the definition of OCD?)

Still distraught, I towed the car to a friend, Jim Bielecki, of JimTech Inc., in Clinton Township. Michigan. We talked over the repairs, and he said, "If I paint that one area, the rest of the car will look really bad." So I decided to go ahead and have the entire car repainted. The lacquer that was on the car was deteriorating and really showing its age. I disassembled the entire car and sent it to Ace Stripping for media-blasting,

I will never forget Jim's phone call to me when the car returned to his shop. It was like a scene from the television crime drama C.S.I. "Jeff, you'd better come down here..." To my horror, my 10 years of driving added to the miles put on by previous owners had taken its toll on the structure of the car. It needed new quarters, floorboards, toe boards, and trunk fillers and extensions. The area under the rear seat had to be completely fabricated, as it had almost entirely rotted away, and replacement panels were not available. The car had to have the rockers repaired as well.

Here's the best part. Apparently Liquid Nails can be an effective rust-hole plug if applied with sufficient sarcasm. We had to remove about a gallon of stuff plugging holes in the shock towers. Worse yet, the rear framerails were barely hanging on. There was also some pretty impressive backyard welding done within the wheelwells using some scrap metal and what looked like an old license plate.

Everyone in the world thinks they have a solid car, but let me tell you from experience, nothing is solid when it meets the dreaded media blaster. That tool really separates solid from rusty. I distinctly remember thinking back to all the times I said, "Oh yeah, it's a solid body" with "perfect floors." I couldn't have been more wrong.

By Jeff Trush
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