When you watch an action-adventure movie where a classic musclecar is one of the main stars, the one thing you can count on happening is that both the lead actor and the hero car will get banged up a bit, sometimes beyond recognition.
In the case of John Wick 2, released in February of this year, the hero car was a very nice 1969 Ford Mustang. Sadly, the pony car was banged up so much that they ended up destroying five Mustangs during filming, with Keanu Reeves doing some of his own driving stunts.
On the set of John Wick 2 with John Leguizamo laying hands on Gil’s Camaro. This scene was cut from the final edit, unfortunately.
One of the “extra” cars that was on set for a bit during filming, fortunately didn’t get touched by Reeves or any of his demolition derby frenemies. This 1968 Camaro above, a restomod built by Gilbert Haas, was in a couple of scenes initially, but the only scene that didn’t end up on the cutting room floor had the beautiful bow tie under cover. For a brief moment, only the silhouette was seen, and not the actual car.
But if you ask Gil about it, he was just glad to be a part of it, and he can accept that these things sometimes happen. You might remember one of Gil’s other cars that we featured last year after the 19th Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio – a stunning Green with Envy 1971 Plymouth Barracuda named Evolver for the way the car evolved to its finished state.
The Barracuda was a contender for the Street Machine of the Year ceremony at the Goodguys show, sporting an electric paint job and Gen III Hemi power under the hood resting on a Viper ACR chassis. So when Gil asked us if we were interested in featuring his Camaro, we knew it was going to be another amazing build. We weren’t disappointed.
Gil got to meet a couple of the stars at the movie set, and although the Camaro didn't make it to the final cut, it was in one scene, protected by a car cover. Fortunately, it wasn't the hero car.
Hands On Is The Best Education
Gil was originally looking for a driver to build and have fun with, and picked up a rough 1968 Camaro that he found on eBay in April, 2009. The car was far from finished; the 454 had been rebuilt, but the rest of the car was nothing too special: automatic transmission, one-legger rearend, and manual steering and brakes. The plan was to add an interior and make a few upgrades. But how many builds actually follow the original plans?
The Camaro showed up looking like it was on its last legs, still wearing slotted mags – the leisure suit of wheels from the 1970s. Yeah, they were cool back then, but a rare sight these days.
Not Gil’s Camaro; this ‘fun driver’ was going to veer off path, but Gil just didn’t know it at the time. It was going to stray so far from the straight and narrow that Gil’s wife would eventually name the car “Camille” – the ‘other woman’ that Gil spent too much time with. The eventual change in directions didn’t take long; it happened when he started to install the first component.
When the plans changed, Gil’s focus changed, too. This was the first car build that he completed himself, so he wanted to make sure that he did it right. “I read several books, watched many videos, and talked to many people to gain the knowledge needed to perform and complete this project,” he said. Just looking at the car now, we’d say he is either more talented than he thought, or he had some pretty thorough books and videos to help him learn the hard way.
Gil's Camaro may have begun as a driver project, but he had other plans once he installed the first clean part. Then it became a show car project, and the level of detail that went into it included closing up the gaps.
Gil knew that he had a lot of work ahead of him, and the first component to go into the car was a rebuilt 12-bolt rearend to replace the one-legger the car limped in with. He decided to install 3.55 gears and CPP calipers on the rear disc brake rotors, and he refinished the rearend before putting it back in the car.
I read several books, watched many videos, and talked to many people to gain the knowledge needed to perform and complete this project. -Gil Haas
“My first step was to do all the mechanical work and make the car safe to drive,” Gil told us. “When the time came to put this new and freshly painted rearend back into the car, however, I realized the car was not worthy of the new rearend based on its current condition.
“I then consulted with several people and body shops, which led me to tearing the car completely down to the shell and have it media blasted,” he continued. And that was all she wrote, the car was destined to be a show car before Gil could even say ‘restomod’.
Once the plan changed and the car was stripped down to nothing, it was media blasted and epoxy sealed by a local body shop. Back at home, Gil went to work tearing the quarter panels off, and removing the cancer-ridden trunk floor and rear left floor. He installed new sheetmetal, and fitted new doors to the F-body, and then went after all the gaps on the car to close them up for uniform fitment – something few people even think about when building their own car.
With all of the body modifications done, the 'fun driver' was off to paint for an award-winning finish. No 12-bolt was going to upstage this restomod.
Gil shaved the side marker lights to clean up the body lines, fit custom carbon fiber panels from Anvil Auto, and trimmed the bumpers to tuck them up to the body line for a smooth finish. From there, the body modifications were complete and the car was off to paint at Dales Custom Auto.
That motivation is looking pretty good.
Motivation And Other Mechanical Goodness
The 454 that came in the Camaro was not to be outdone by the aesthetics, so Gil headed over to RS Racing Engines with the big-block. The GEN IV block was bored out .020 over to 460 cubes, and was treated to a steel crank spinning Speed-Pro Hypereutectic pistons, putting 10:1 on the compression ratio. Air Flow Research cylinder heads hug an Edelbrock Performer Air Gap intake manifold fed by an AED Performance HO 750 cfm carburetor.
With roller rockers and a Comp Cams roller thumpstick, the combination is good for 530 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, and stump-pulling 580 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. But all that beast needs some beauty, so Gil topped off the heads with Anvil’s carbon fiber valve covers and a Vintage Air Front Runner pulley system. MSD rounds out the ignition system with a Pro-Billet distributor to keep the fires lit.
That's about 530 horsepower on the dyno there, and a stump-pulling 580 lb-ft of torque to scoot this Camaro around rather quickly.
Backing up the ponies is a Mad Dog 700R4 transmission built to handle the bow tie mill with ease, with a Stage 2 shift kit and 2,400 rpm still converter. Shifting things into place is a custom Hurst Dual Gate overdrive shifter.
Denny’s driveshaft balanced out the driveline with a custom 3-inch driveshaft, that feeds the painted 12-bolt rearend that pointed this project towards its new path. That power is transferred to the axles with an Eaton Posi from Street-wise Performance, with 3.73:1 gears. Putting the rubber to the road, a set of Foose Legend wheels are wrapped in Nitto tires.
Suspending the car is a complete Hotchkis suspension, including frame connectors, and CalTracs traction bars. Bringing all that beast to a burden is a set of Wilwood/CPP brakes all around.
Under the hood is just as detailed and gorgeous as the rest of the car.
The Camaro still looks like a cool cruiser, and it's been taking home the bling from local and national shows.
Inside And Out
Inside the convertible, you’ll find lots of comfort and more carbon fiber touches from Anvil, with bolster seats from TMI and upholstery work from The Upholstery Shop, using imported Italian leather. Laying down the carpet over top of the Dynamat is TMI cut pile carpet, helping to keep the road noises to a minimum.
A half-wrapped Billet Specialties steering wheel is mated to a Flaming River tilt column and rack and pinion steering. Keeping the occupants entertained and comfy takes a 900 watt Kicker sound system accepting the signal from a Secret Audio sound system, and Vintage Air blows cool breezes to accentuate the cool sounds. Vitals for the engine are fed to a set of Auto Meter gauges via a Painless Wiring harness.
A little bit of office space and a lot of party hall going on here.
Accenting the Camaro on the outside, you’ll find a few more Anvil Auto carbon fiber touches from the front valance to the hood, the header panel to the cowl, and the trunk lid to the spoiler. The Robbins Stayfast convertible top is likely down most of the time, as are the smoked glass windows, all operated with electrical power.
Highlighting the road up ahead, Fesler brightens things up with a set of HID headlights and running lamps, as well as LED lighting all around. The grille is a custom billet piece, and Camaro was sprayed in spectacular PPG Prowler Orange paint.
Pick your favorite angle, we bet you can't.
Gil has done all of the work himself, except the paint and some upholstery, and had his hands on the engine build as well. As a first project build, he’s literally hit it out of the park, with several awards for “Best of Show”, “Best Paint”, “Best Engine”, and “People’s Choice” at local, state, and national shows. At the 2013 Camaro Nationals in Frederick, Maryland, he managed to pick up a “Mayor’s Choice” and “Best in Class” award.
You might find Gil’s Camaro in several performance parts catalogs, but for a full feature of this beauty he reached out to us for the first coverage, and we’re honored to have this 1968 Camaro restomod grace our site. We’re betting this car is going to be making the rounds again, and won’t be surprised if we stumble upon it at one of the many shows we attend around the country. If you want to see a little more of it, enjoy the gallery below and let us know what you think of Gil’s education into restomods. We’re giving an A on this one, it is well earned.