Why this car and how did I end up with it? It’s kind of a long story, but here’s how it happened…
This all started back in the early 80’s when I was 13 or 14 and doing my paper route in our neighborhood. Two brothers at the top of the hill, Pat and Mike McDonald, had a 1970 Camaro with an L-88 hood and Cragar SS wheels (actual photos of the car below). It was love at first site. I used to ride past the car every day at the beginning of my route, then spend the next 45 minutes day dreaming about how I would own one someday.
Eventually I ended up buying my very first car, a 1970 Firebird with a “10-inch L-88 hood”. It wasn’t a Camaro and it didn’t have a motor or trans, but for $175 I couldn’t complain. I found a Pontiac 400 out of an old Grand Prix in the Little Nickel classified ads and managed to get it running by the time I was 16.
At home, I would read car magazines (and still own most of those magazines today) and make endless lists of all the parts I wanted to buy for my car. I must have built a 1,000 cars on paper over the years and my tastes would change over time. Early on, I wanted a 6-71 blower, sidepipes and N50-15 tires, over the past few years, I’ve dreamed of an LS2 engine, TKO 5-speed and Ford 9″ rear end. But for whatever reason, I never seemed to be able to convert the list into an actual car.
Fast forward many years and I’ve never forgotten about that 1970 Camaro. Perhaps most surprisingly, I’ve never owned one like it either, despite the fact that I’ve owned about two-dozen classic cars over the years.
In August 2007, I was coming home from work and spotted a 1973 Camaro a few cars in front of me on a one lane road. It was Viper Blue with White stripes, cowl hood and a wicked stance. I couldn’t catch up to him and lost him at one of the corners. I spotted the car a few weeks later going in the other direction on a divided road. Finally about a month later, I was at a local car show with my wife and kids when I saw the car again from about 200 feet away. I turned to my wife and said, “honey, I’m going to buy that car”. After all of these years she’s given up trying to predict when I’m serious or not so she just smiled and thought “whatever”.
When we got to the car, it was spotless and had a ‘for sale’ sign in the windshield. I called the owner, Ryan, on his cell phone and we agreed to meet at my house later that night. About a day later, I owned the car for a reasonable price.
Stick with me, I’m getting to the real reason I ended up with my 1971…
After well over 20 years, I finally owned a 1970-73 Camaro and I knew I wanted to put an L-88 hood on it, just like the one from when I was young. I also knew that I only liked certain L-88 hoods that had the scoop mounted far enough forward. When searching online one night, I came across the perfect hood, a carbon fiber L-88 design. I made a deal with the company and had it sent my way.
Suddenly I was faced with a dilemma, I didn’t really want to paint the carbon fiber, but it would look ridiculous on the blue car with white stripes if I didn’t. I thought seriously about switching the stripes to black and painting the hood blue but leaving the carbon fiber exposed for the stripes across the hood (lining up with the ends that are on the nose). Unfortunately, that would probably cause problems for the blue and require me to repaint half that car… for four years the hood sat protected in my garage waiting for a decision… what to do?
In early 2011, I found an amazing 1972 Camaro being built on lateral-g.net by Scott Mock (his mid-build and completed photos below). He was thinking about selling it to kick off a new project and I tried everyway possible to make it fit the budget but I came up short. The good news was that inspired me to get serious about building my own car.
I finally decided that the best approach would be to buy a black 1970-73 Camaro to replace the nice one I already had. The black and carbon fiber would work well together and I would have some flexibility with paint decisions (e.g. painting part of the hood, CF stripes, etc.).
So I started looking online for the perfect black car (I knew I couldn’t afford to build and paint the car so I decided to optimize for the paint). Every night I would spend about 30-45 minutes searching every single site looking for the perfect candidate. It had to be affordable and have some cool options. I didn’t realize at the time how hard it would be to find the right car.
In May 2011, I came across a cool web site called AutoTempest.com that enables you to search every Craigslist listing across the country (and several other sources like eBay) with one search query. The best part is that it makes it easy to create queries that are usually a pain in Craigslist (like searching for multiple years of vehicles). The only bummer is that it returns the Craigslist results in sets based on the Craigslist region (e.g. Seattle, Los Angeles, etc.).
One night I ran a query for 1970-1973 Camaros across the country. I was going through every listing and made it to Minnesota when I came across a nice looking, jet black 1971 Camaro. The ad was simple and mentioned the paint and body were in excellent condition, it had a basic 350, TKO600 5-speed, American Racing wheels and more. The best part was that the price was in the right range.
I called the guy the next morning expecting it to be sold. It turned out it was owned by a guy named Jeff who had owned it for about 15 years and he still had it. He had done most of the work and had a local body shop handle the paint and body. Jeff provided a really good, honest description of the car. The car was in great shape with a few minor exceptions. The wiring under the hood needed to be cleaned up, there was a bit of primer over spray on a seat and it still had the old 10 bolt rear end. On the positive side, the paint sounded too good to be true so I asked him to send me additional photos.
Unfortunately, picture taking isn’t Jeff’s strength, but he managed to capture about 6 or 7 photos before his memory card filled up. One of the photos he sent was of the tree tops. I didn’t know why he sent that one to me so I asked him about it. He said, that was a reflection off the roof of the car. Wow!
I liked the photos, but still refused to believe the car was as nice as he made it sound. After a couple more phone calls I thought what the heck and made him an offer. He agreed to the price the next day and I was thrilled with the purchase and praying it was half as nice as what he described.
A couple weeks later, the car arrived by open carrier from Minnesota. When cars come off the carriers, they are covered in dirt from top to bottom, so much so that I couldn’t actually see the quality of the paint.
I knew I was in good shape when I asked the driver what it looked like before he picked it up. He said, “this hardly ever happens, but I couldn’t find a scratch on it!”. I brought the car home, snapped a bunch of pictures and washed it carefully. I was thrilled to find a nice car with fantastic paint underneath it all.
Now it was time to start making a new list, only this time, I was going to actually go ahead and buy all of the parts, do all of the work and build the car that I always dreamed of.
In the Spring of 2012, I decided to get custom license plates and went with TYRSMOK since that’s usually what I like to do when I drive :). In June 2012, I thought it would be fun to put together a web site to track the progress and this is it.
Hope you enjoy it!