While waiting for its new 383-cubic-inch (6.2-liter) small block Chevy V8 engine and 700-R4 four-speed automatic transmission in October 2013, our 1971 Chevrolet Camaro RS project car was inundated in five-feet-high flood waters during the height of the Habagat monsoon rains while parked outside the garage-workshop of V8 maestro Ben Lim in Cainta, Rizal. Ben jokingly called our Camaro a “swimmer” while we termed it as the “Orange Submarine”.
We decided not to wait for Ben to finish our 383 V8 and had our Camaro taken by the flatbed truck of Auto Transporter to the workshop of JSK Custom Paint and Auto Works in Marulas, Valenzuela City. The JSK technicians eventually deconstructed our project car and we were surprised with the amount of rust that they had found, removed or repaired. JSK proprietor Johnson Tan also asked us to purchase new or reproduction body parts for it, namely left and right front fenders, hood and truck lid, because the old ones were simply too rusty to repair.
Rust Repair and Body Work
By August 2014, our Camaro was just a shell of its former self, figuratively speaking. The front subframe was detached from the body shell and the JSK technicians started repairing the rusted portions of the body. They replaced the entire rocker panels on the left and right side of the car and worked on the roof and firewall. They also inspected the floors, and the rear panel that separates the trunk from the interior.
Luckily, the JSK technicians were able to salvage the doors, the radiator support panel, the inner fenders, the front header panel and lower valance panel. They inspected the wiring harness and recommended that we purchase a new one because the old one was submerged in flood water and will most likely come out with some electrical gremlins should we decide to reuse it.
Stripped to the Bare Shell
By March 2015, the JSK technicians were able to spray a coat of yellow etching primer over the exterior shell of our project car. The firewall was cleaned and coated with primer, and they were able to remove the thick body filler that covered the portion where the roof joined the rear body panels. The rusted hole in the roof was repaired and covered properly. The painter was able to apply a thin coat of body filler on the rear quarter panels.
The interior was now completely gutted and most of the rust was eliminated. They were also able to clean the front subframe, which was protected from the rust by a thick coat of black paint that was applied when the Camaro was hurriedly restored in 1998. We initially planned to finish the car in time for the 2015 Manila International Auto Show (MIAS), but since we still don’t have the 383 V8 engine and 700-R4 automatic transmission from Ben Lim, Johnson Tan decided to work on our other Project Car, a “Gotta Have It” Green 2014 Ford Mustang GT, turn it into a luscious metallic gold, add some modifications, and display it for the show. The Mustang won the “Best Two Door” plum at MIAS 2015.
The Dictates of Business
By June 2016, we were caught up in a lot of business matters that we were beginning to neglect some of our project cars. We still haven’t ordered the new hood, front fenders and trunk lid for our Camaro because we were advised that reproduction parts were made in Taiwan and the metallurgy was not as robust as the original American steel panels. We asked our friends and relatives in the US if they can source these parts but second-generation Camaros were beginning to be recognized as classic collectible cars so the pickings at junkyards of surplus panels got low and the asking prices went high.
By April 2017, we were beginning to feel the effect of digitalization in the publishing business and our magazine sales was slowly ebbing away. As you all know, it was our Power Wheels Magazine business that solicited funds and sponsors for our project cars. Since money was becoming tight, we decided to make our restoration completion date more realistic and moved the debut of our restored Camaro to MIAS 2020.
Will we make it? Can Ben Lim finish our 383 V8 and 700-R4 combo in time? Will we be able to come up with enough funds and sponsors to continue with our Camaro’s restoration? Find out in the succeeding stories here in www.powerwheels.com.ph