If muscle cars could talk, it’s certain the stories would blow our minds or even make us cringe, as they recall high-school-era memories. The story this 1970 Chevrolet Z28 Camaro could tell, would describe a hard life beginning from when it rolled off the factory line, until Mike Blackburn of Monroe, North Carolina, turned it into an award-winning show car.
Mike’s first experience with this car can be traced back to his days in high school. That’s when a friend of his owned the Z. “Every time we went somewhere, it would break down,” said Mike. For most car guys and gals, those are the moments (such as being stuck on the side of the road due to a tossed belt) when memories are created. Despite his friend’s best efforts during high school, the Camaro proved to be more work than was desired in a daily driven car.
One person’s misfortune often leads to another’s good luck. After something went wrong with the engine, Mike purchased the car and decided to bring the Z back to life.
Every time we went somewhere, it would break down. – Mike Blackburn
His friend was not a gearhead, but loved the car and the memories that accompanied their high school years, so it was a good fit when Mike expressed interest in purchasing the second-generation Camaro. That was back in 1994. “The engine was messed up, and it had sat in a garage for three or four years before I bought it,” Mike recalled.
Starting From Scratch
After getting the Camaro to its new home, Mike put the car back together and even took it to the local track for a few races. However, the racing bug didn’t take hold. “The car was in too good of shape, and it’s an original Z28,” he said. Whether it was guilt, common sense, or whatever the reason, he decided to take a different approach with this classic Chevy.
With a straight body, decent interior, and all of the trim still in place, Mike embarked on a new evolution for the Camaro. He wanted to build a show car, but he did not set out with the intention of building a car that had to be trailed to events. He wanted a car that had plenty of power, looked incredible, and could still be driven to shows or cruise nights. Over the course of three years, he and his friend Mike Batson, worked countless hours to bring this dream to reality.
After some extensive research, Mike opted to seek out the services of Sheldon Medlin at Reflections Auto Refinishing in Monroe, North Carolina. Medlin handled the paint and body on numerous award-winning cars, so the Camaro was in good hands for the upgrade. During the time the car was at Reflections, Medlin enhanced the body by smoothing the firewall and cutting the hood – along with a few other subtle refinements to the exterior.
According to Mike, the silver hue selected for this split-bumper proved to be a challenging color to spray. North Carolina is subject to some extreme weather and insane humidity, which can make life for a painter truly hellish. The Mopar-originated Sterling Silver metallic paint requires the mastery of a skilled professional and ideal weather conditions. According to Mike, the humidity and temperature had to be ideal for Medlin to spray this complicated color. Those ideal conditions finally occurred one day at around 4:30 a.m. “This was one of the hardest colors, he [Medlin] had ever done,” Mike stated. After spending nearly a year at Reflections Auto Refinishing, the Camaro was returned with a striking silver color that is accented by black Z28 stripes.
Beauty Is Definitely On The Inside
The interior was refreshed to nearly original specs, with the exception of a few upgrades. There are those who change seats, door panels, and even the dash, but there is something to be said for maintaining an original look. For example, the original seats in the Z were reupholstered, and the door panels were refreshed, but overall, this car retains its classic styling.
Certain things do not require over-the-top upgrades typically seen on many television shows, but it never hurts to trade up to some items that may not be as restoration-accurate as their original counterparts. To that end, Mike installed reliable and accurate engine monitors, and reworked the dash to accept a set of Autometer Phantom gauges. Things like oil pressure, temperature, and engine RPM need to be easily read when driving something that is powered by a blown 383ci engine.
This potent, blown, 383ci-stroker engine is topped by a Weiand intake manifold and 6-71 blower. To help create plenty of power, this combination features a Comp Cams camshaft, Crane lifters, and Eagle connecting rods. With all that power on tap, the engine is obviously thirsty. To quench that thirst, a pair of 770cfm Holley carburetors handle squirting the go-go-juice. Despite the over-the-top appearance of the engine, Mike drives the ’70 to cruise nights, as well as big shows, like Super Chevy, Run to the Sun, and Turkey Run.
As a child, Mike spent countless hours watching his father and uncle work on cars, which helped fuel his passion for hot rods and old-school classics. As he grew up, he began to help his uncle, and eventually began to work on his own projects. His passion for the Bow Tie emblem never waned as he continued to collect projects throughout his life. However, the Chevy Camaro holds a special place in his heart, having owned both a 1971 and 1972 model in the past. It is evident there is something about the second-generation of this model that draws him in.
Based on the feedback he has received, this Camaro draws in the crowds and judges at car shows. One of the most memorable experiences with the ’70 was at the Super Chevy Show, where he walked away with Best Engine, Best Camaro, and a Best-of-Show award. With all of the attention to detail and careful planning, this car truly is a show stopper.