Home > Project Cars > 1971 Chevrolet Camaro RS > 1971 Chevrolet Camaro RS Part 2: The Price of Neglect

1971 Chevrolet Camaro RS Part 2: The Price of Neglect

If you missed Part 1 of the Project Car series on our 1971 Chevrolet Camaro RS, here’s a short summary: Power Wheels Magazine Editor-in-Chief Lester Dizon bought the car in January 1996 and started working on it piecemeal, as his budget will allow. It went through a nuts-and-bolts restoration at MSG Garage in February 1998, displayed in April at the 1998 Trans Sport Show as the demo car for Audiovox, and then driven and enjoyed extensively until 2003. It was unceremoniously stored for six years while Lester was building a business and rearing a family at the same time. With better finances in 2009, our Camaro was taken out of storage, revitalized, driven and enjoyed extensively again.

Rust Never Sleeps

By early 2011, our project car’s body was noticeably turning into rust. Perhaps, the rushed metal and prep work during its restoration in 1998 was beginning to take its toll. Whatever it was, rust was showing its ugly head at the hood and the trunk lid, as well as on the fenders and the lower portions of the door. Rust has also perforated the roof on top of the driver’s side door. We guessed that it was time for our Camaro to undergo another restoration.

Rusted portions pointed out at the trunk lid, hood edges, and roof.

Rust has also pushed out the body filler that was used on the doors.

Will our American Sports Coupe slowly turn into Swiss Cheese? We hope not!

Failure to Ignite

While we were searching the web for new old stock (NOS), reproduction, or even surplus parts to replace our rusted front fenders, hood and trunk lid, the Petronix electronic ignition of our Camaro suddenly died. Without an immediate replacement, we temporarily had it replaced with a contact point and condenser set. Gazing at its engine bay, we realized that our old 307/327 V8 won’t cut it anymore if we were to present our car as a Z-28 “tribute”.

Our Camaro came from the factory with a Turbo-Fire L65 small block Chevy (SBC) V8 displacing 307 cubic inches (5.0-liter) and rated at 200 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 300 ft-lbs of torque at 2,400 rpm. A previous owner had the L65 bored out to 327cid (5.3-liter) to make more power, estimated at 275hp. To turn our project car into a Z-28, we need to upgrade to a 330hp 350cid (5.7-liter) LT-1 SBC V8 with solid valve lifters that original 1970-73 Camaro Z-28s came with.

No Replacement for Big Displacement

However, finding a period-correct and authentic LT-1 V8 motor can be a very expensive and extremely frustrating proposition. So, we went to ace Chevy mechanic Ben Lim and asked him if he could build us one. Ben sold us a 350 SBC V8 short block from his collection that he will assemble to produce roughly the same amount of power as an LT-1 but fitted with hydraulic instead of solid valve lifters for easier maintenance.


Ben cleaned the engine block and checked it for stress cracks and cylinder wall scratches. While he was searching around his workshop for parts to complete the V8, he found a rotating assembly – crankshaft and pistons – for a 400cid SBC V8. As most Chevy V8 aficionados know, a 400 crank into a 350 block will make a 383 (6.2-liter) “stroker” V8 that can produce between 350 to 500hp. Ben offered to upgrade our 350 to 383 at no extra costs.

To fit the longer rods, a relief was cut by machine into the lower part of the V8 block.

Ben also found a pair of high-performance “186” cylinder heads for our 383. Nicknamed “camelback” because of the casting symbols in the front of the heads, these cylinder heads boast of bigger intake and exhaust valves to improve engine and increase power output.

2.02” intake valves and 1.50” exhaust valves improve airflow into the combustion chamber.

Large intake ports suck in more air-fuel mixture. Ports and water jackets will be cleaned.

Exhaust ports are also larger to quickly expel used gases. These will be cleaned as well.

Lack of Focus   

The biggest mistake that anybody can do while restoring a car is to lose focus. That’s exactly what happened to us while we were working on our Camaro. First, we became busy with our publishing business. Second, we neglected to come up with a timeline for the completion of the restoration. And third, we delved into other projects – cars, motorbikes, and bicycles – which divided our attention, and our funds, even further. So, while we were busy working on other things, our projectcar sat rusting away on the roadside in front of our old office.

The Camaro was left outside during a strong storm in 2011.

It gathered dead leaves, dust and more rust while we waited for parts to fix the ignition.

In late 2011, the front disc brake rotors were getting rusty, too.

The dead leaves from the tree contributed to the faster deterioration of the metal parts.

The 4-barrel Holley carburetor began to leak when we tried to start the car…

… which made the car immobile and looking forlorn.

It didn’t help that we also drove new modern muscle cars…

… and that we had other project cars to work on.

Taken to the Maestro

On June 28, 2013, after several months of procrastination, we finally had the Camaro taken on a flatbed tow truck to the workshop of V8 maestro Ben Lim.

The Camaro was winched into the flatbed truck. Our 500SE can be seen in the background.

Once the car was on the flatbed, it was secured and transported from Quezon City to Cainta.

Upon arrival at Ben Lim’s workshop, it was carefully offloaded into a roadside car port.

This is our Camaro’s temporary garage while there are other cars in the workshop.

Empty Engine Bay

Two weeks later, on the 6th of July, we visited Ben’s workshop and found the front end of our Camaro sitting quite high. It turns out that he has already removed the old 307/327, which will be traded in for the newly assembled 383 V8. Likewise, Ben will take in our old but still working and reliable Turbo Hydramatic (THM) 350 3-speed automatic transmission as part trade for a refurbished THM 700R-4 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. He will also fit our rear differential with a limited-slip Positraction unit. We just hope that the maestro gets to finish all these in due time.

Oops. There’s no V8 in the engine bay.

Our old 307/327 with the finned aluminum valve covers and chrome Proform alternator.

Believe it or not, this K&N air filter was once shiny.

Our old Turbo 350 3-speed automatic transmission is still good but we want an upgrade.

Our old 2 ½ inch dual exhaust system with free flow mufflers

Sometime in October 2013, tropical storm “Habagat” crossed over Metro Manila, and brought heavy monsoon rains and flood waters. Our project car was still waiting for its new 383 V8 at Ben’s workshop when we learned that the area was hit by floods as high as 5 feet. Was it transferred to a safer location and spared from being inundated? Or did it become an engineless “Orange Submarine”? Will we pay a high price for our procrastinated neglect? Log in next week for the continuing restoration saga of our 1971 Chevy Camaro RS. Stay tuned!