Home-Built Hero: Mike Ciero’s ’79 Second-Gen Camaro Z/28

Mike Ciero began his email by saying, “I enjoy your featured articles and thought you might enjoy seeing another home-built hero.” He is correct, I really do enjoy seeing all of the rides you guys have. Anyway, I thought you guys would also enjoy seeing more of his second-gen Camaro Z/28.

The project began when Mike found this car while searching an online auction. It only had 49,500 miles on the odometer and had no rust or damage. It did receive a repaint at some point but looked like it was a very well-done job.

“I have always loved second gens,” says Mike. “Years ago, I regrettably sold my ‘79 Z/28 that I purchased new in 1979. I sold it to a friend’s son in 2000. To replace it, I’ve been building this ’81 Camaro Z/28 for the last 11 years.”

secon-gen Camaro

Under that air cleaner is a well-built small block delivering slightly more than 400 horsepower. That makes this a very capable cruiser – and then some.

Mike says the engine is a scratch-built 350 that uses a Chevrolet Performance four-bolt block. Inside is an Eagle forged crankshaft and rods supporting JE pistons. It’s a full roller motor with an Edelbrock aluminum top end. Behind the engine is a Turbo 400 transmission that leads to a Strange rearend with 3.70 gears and 35-spline axles.

“With the exception of the long block and transmission build, I did all the work myself,” Mike states. “I worked with a local engine builder, Opel Engineering, in Streamwood IL. I knew what I wanted in the engine, and we walked through the build. I provided the parts and then he machined, assembled, and broke the engine in and tuned it on the dyno.”

Mike realized that giving his second-gen a serious amount of horsepower meant it needed a serious set of brakes to bring it all to a halt. That’s why a set of four-piston Wilwood brakes grab the rear discs while six-piston versions hold the fronts.

When it comes to the suspension, Detroit Speed suspension parts and a pair of Heidt’s subframe connectors make sure the car handles as best it can.

“Everything I did was done in my garage,” Mike affirms. I don’t have a lift, so I was working off the floor. That’s a little tough, as I am 64 years old. It took quite a long time to build the car because I wouldn’t compromise on the quality of parts. If I couldn’t afford something, I waited until I could. If I couldn’t do it the right way, I wouldn’t do it. I added fuse panels, relays, weather-tight connectors, and other upgrades to improve reliability.”

Mike says he still needs to finish the door panels, and if you ask me, those Corvette seats look right at home.

Mike also told me he added C4 Corvette power seats inside and a pair of power mirrors from a C6 Corvette. Inside, Mike had help but did some of the interior work himself (he left the seats to a professional).

Building a car is no easy task, and Mike Ciero shows that with a little patience and a lot of determination, you can realize a completed dream without compromising standards.

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’ve 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].

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About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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