To many enthusiasts, Frank Barbaro included, the second-gen Camaro is the coolest car ever built. It’s hard to argue with that logic as the car does have great lines and accepts upgrades extremely well. As popular as the second-gen is, it’s hard to find a project car that is in decent shape, Frank was fortunate when he found this ’71.
“The car wasn’t a prime example of what ’71 Camaro’s could be, but it wasn’t ready for the scrap yard either,” Frank quips. “It was already painted red and in okay condition, it just needed a little attention. The body had a few dents and scratches that needed to be fixed, but nothing really worth complaining about. The plan was to keep the body all original, including the period-perfect front and rear spoilers.”
As Frank alluded, when he found the car, it was already painted red. He liked the look and decided that, during the repaint, the Camaro was going to be draped in a shiny new coat of red. But before the new paint could be applied, the small metal imperfections were repaired.
“When it emerged from the booth, I was impressed, but realized that it needed something to break up the all-red theme,” says Frank. “It was at this time that I decided to add the white stripes down the center of the hood. Usually, these stripes finish at the top of the grille, but I wanted to continue them all the way down to the front spoiler.”
With the paintwork completed, a Fastburn 385 engine package from Chevrolet Performance was put into place, but not after a few modifications were made. “The most obvious improvement over the crate version is the tunnel ram and twin 600 cfm Holley carbs, both of which help the performance of the engine,” Franks says with a smile on his face.
“Hiding under the intake is a four-bolt block that holds a steel crank, performance rods, pistons, and cam that is bigger than normal but not too big that the Camaro becomes a pain rather than a pleasure to cruise. Roller rockers, performance valves, and springs were added to the aluminum heads before they were reunited with the prepared bottom end.”
Behind the small-block is a Turbo 400 transmission that features a 2,500-rpm-stall converter. Gear selection is done via the factory, console-mounted shifter. The 12-bolt rearend is amongst the toughest from any manufacturer, so it made good sense to leave it in place. It did however get a once-over just to make sure that all the internals were going to play nicely together.
With the new running gear secured in place, the work continued under the coupe with every part of the suspension being removed, rebuilt, or replaced. “I planned on spending as much time behind the wheel as possible, and that means making sure everything was done right the first time,” says Frank. “Both ends of the undercarriage were re-bushed and lowered by 2-1/2 inches with Koni shocks at each corner. Likewise, the disc and drum brakes have been replaced with new items and work in conjunction with an HQ master cylinder that has been modified to suit the remote booster for better performance when I needed it the most.”
In this day and age, many car guys are of the mindset that 15-inch wheels simply don’t cut it and 17-inch wheels are considered entry-level. According to Frank, “I knew how good his Camaro was going to look with big diameter billet wheels. I opted for a set of Intro billet wheels measuring 18×9 on the nose and 18×11 on the business end. Falken rubber keeps the Camaro off the deck.”
Inside, he kept the factory seats in place and had those and door panels trimmed in a combination of black and red vinyl. Apart from the woodgrain steering wheel and late-model stereo, the inside of the Camaro replicates 1971 when this car was finished off and delivered to a dealer.
Many people reckon that when you build a car, you should have a firm idea of what you want and stick to it. Frank put that theory to the test, and 18-months after he dragged the Camaro home, his vision became a reality. “I have enjoyed the car for many years by cruising and showing it. It has won many awards over the years.”
Do you want to read about more Home-Built Heroes? All you need to do is click here. I want to see those reader’s rides. If you would like to share yours, I want to hear about it. Since I started this series, I have received more than a few candidates, but I still want to see more — I can never get enough. If you want to see more cars built by you the readers, send a few pictures of your car showing the engine, interior, and exterior, along with all of the pertinent information, and I’ll make you internet famous. You can send your submissions to [email protected].