In a time when the golden age of muscle cars was coming to an end — thanks in large part to smog regulations — 1973 proved to be an especially good year for Chevrolet’s pony car. The Z28 still featured plenty of power, great looks, and a true driver’s car experience. The second-generation Camaro is a difficult car to find today, much less in show-ready condition.
It was no coincidence that Fred Heldreth saw this particular red beauty and picked it up right away. This second-gen Camaro was owned by a friend of Fred’s before coming into his possession. Over the years, the car had seen various modifications, but had fallen into a bit of neglect and needed updating.
However, despite some of the car’s parts being outdated, the body was in excellent condition. It had been previously modified, but Fred, a huge fan of hot-rodded vehicles, wanted to take it even further. Some of the features it already included were a 414ci small-block, a four-speed, and 10-bolt rear. He chose to update not just the performance, but also the car’s looks and interior. Rather than piece it together part by part, Fred decided to do it all in one shot.
To do this, he took the car to the trusted team at Street Metal Concepts (SMC), where Zip Simons and his crew turned the Camaro into a fire-breathing stunner.
The Classic Camaro F-Body
Second-generation F-bodys, while beautiful, are notorious for having rust issues. To make sure this Camaro was in tip-top shape, SMC tore the car down to the frame, looking for rust. Luckily, it was rust-free and the already painted bright red exterior with eye-catching black stripes was in great shape.
Rebuilding from the Inside Out
To update the chassis, SMC went to work outfitting the car with brand new Wilwood six-piston disc calipers in the front and four-piston calipers on the rear. The guys then put a Ridetech suspension in place, including coilovers, the company’s Strong Arm control arms, muscle bar swaybar, and four-link rear suspension.
The steering components were torn out and a Classic Performance Products (CPP) steering box was mounted in its place. The rearend is a Currie posi-filled unit and 31-spline axles. The gear ratio is 4.11
The Camaro already looked lean and mean, so it was a no-brainer to simply add some nice wheels that would further enhance the pony car’s fiery look. A set of Bonspeed Huntington wheels (18×8 and 18×10) along with a set of Nitto 555 G2 tires complete the look. In case you were wondering, the tires are 235/40-18 and 275/40-18.
A Comfortable Interior
Fred wanted a more up to date interior, so he asked SMC to do a complete remodel. Inside, the car is all black and features vinyl and suede seating. You’ll also find Dakota Digital instruments. Black carpeting from Auto Custom Carpets (ACC) was installed, and TMI seats and a Volante steering wheel were added to make the interior more comfortable. For sounds, Retro Sound provided speakers and a brand new stereo, ensuring Fred would have killer tunes. To keep exterior noises from ruining the ride, SMC applied Kilmat sound deadening to the Camaro before installing the interior components.
As mentioned before, the Camaro already had a 414ci small-block installed, but Fred wanted to beef it up and create something more unique and powerful. In other words, he wanted to turn his already powerful Z28 into a real monster — something that would tear up the pavement. For that reason, he and SMC turned to engine builder and friend, Fred Kinney, for a one of a kind custom job.
Featuring a bore and stroke of 4.125 and 3.850 inches, Kinney installed a steel Callies crankshaft and 6-inch CP-Carillo connecting rods. The pistons are also from CP-Carillo. Altogether, the rotating assembly develops a compression ratio of 10.0:1. Kinney then installed a flat-tappet solid cam from COMP Cams with a lift of 520/540-inch and a duration at .050-inch of 244/252 degrees.
Brodix aluminum heads are modified with port-matched intake ports, and he put the finishing touches on the new engine by adding Manley valves measuring 2.05- and 1.60-inches. The roller rockers come from Crower. Finally, he added an Air Gap intake from Edelbrock.
The car also needed a new exhaust, so Hooker headers are followed by Magnaflow mufflers to give the car a distinctive sound. Fred loves the Magnaflow exhaust, describing it as the perfect sound for the car.
The Biggest Upgrade
According to Fred, the biggest change to the car is the custom ignition and fuel components that were added. In particular, a Holley Sniper EFI with a Holley distributor. According to Fred, the Sniper radically changed the performance of the car. With all the pieces in place, Fred says it’s an entirely different animal to drive. In fact, he says it gives his Corvette a run for its money.
“When I buy a muscle car, I’m not a stock-appearing guy, I gotta tear it apart,” says Fred. “I have to make it run like a new one, so it’s a lot of fun. I am actually a Corvette guy too, as I’ve had several Corvettes. But this Camaro is by far is the most fun car I’ve had yet. The way it turned out, is just… I’m so happy with it. I have more fun in it than I do the ZR1.
“It drives and rides as good as it looks. With the addition of the fuel injection, it’s a totally different car. The steering is tight and it’s adjusted to where I can really enjoy turning into a corner. It doesn’t stick as good as the ZR1, but it’s still amazing. There’s very little body roll. It’s a blast. It really is.”
Buttery Smooth Shifting
With the additional power being delivered by the engine, a new transmission was definitely needed. To handle the gear changes, a TREMEC TKO 600 accomplishes the tough task at hand. Once installed, a shifter from Hurst gives the Camaro a nice hot rod look on the inside.
In the end, Fred could not be happier about how the car came together. When asked about it, he says, “I can’t say enough good things about it. I am very happy with the coilover setup, it just performs very well. Initially, I was reluctant to change everything, but at the end of the day, it was a good thing. I’m a second-gen F-body guy, and I just love ’em.”
“I get a lot of compliments with it, have a lot of fun driving it, and it’s very reliable,” affirms Fred. “That stroker engine is a real hellraiser, it really is. It will put you back in the seat, that’s for sure. As I said, I’m really proud of her, really happy the way she turned out.”