Do you remember what you were doing in 1983? Myself, I had just started terrorizing the small borough of Hughesville, Pennsylvania, in my first car. Steve Wrobel of Clearwater, Florida, was living in rural Michigan, and that’s the year he found his dream car. “I found the car listed for sale in the Auto Swapper in 1983. I was 15 years old and had a learner’s permit, so my Mom and I drove it home together,” Steve quipped.
When he found the car, the condition was like many old, cast-off cars of the era. Some rust was starting to make its way through the Hugger Orange paint, but the 327ci small-block ran well, the Turbo 350 shifted as it should, and the 10-bolt could easily leave a single black mark in the school parking lot.
Inside, the Dover White interior featured a floor shifter and console, while outside, Steve found 14-inch Rallye wheels, a rear spoiler, manual drum brakes and steering. It was your basic Sport Coupe Camaro.
My fiancée and I want a car that can be driven regularly. We think it’s a shame when people build a beautiful car and leave it sitting in the garage or trailer it to a show or race. Steve Wrobel
Steve immediately installed a set of headers and a dual exhaust, an Edelbrock Performer intake with a Holley 650cfm four-barrel, a shift kit, a Posi-filled 12-bolt with 4.10 gears, air shocks, and, 15-inch aluminum wheels. In 1983, that created the quintessential hot rod. Unfortunately, when 1984 came around, the engine needed some attention. “The engine only had about 60,000 miles on it, but it came unglued after the modifications and some aggressive driving,” Steve said.
“Growing up in rural Michigan, my older brother and I would drive the Camaro with open headers to Lapeer Dragway. It was roughly a 20-mile drive. We got a lot of attention as we drove the back roads through a few small neighboring towns,” he said. Sometimes, it drew some unwanted attention, as Steve continued, “The sheriff would pull us over for excessive noise, but he would let us go because we were being safe going to the strip and not racing on the street.” Steve finished by saying, “We started a trend. As the word got around school, a bunch of our gearhead buddies started unbolting their exhausts and running open headers to the strip every weekend too. The local Sheriff had his hands full.
In the mid- ‘90s, Steve decided to change color of the car to Burgundy Poly. He also installed a new cowl-induction hood, front fenders, and quarter-panels. He enjoyed the car for several years, and then the year 2002 rolled around. That’s when he started a complete restoration. “The goal was to have the Camaro back on the road before I turned 50, but that didn’t happen,” Steve said with a chuckle.
While the car was in pieces, Steve’s job kept him busy moving around the country, but he was fortunate that he could keep the Camaro stored in the family barn. That is, until he couldn’t. “When my brother decided to sell his house in Michigan – where the barn was located, the Camaro needed a new home. I was living in Clearwater, and my brother and nephew loaded up the parts and pieces and brought them to me here in Florida,” Steve said.
Once the car was in Steve’s garage, as much as he and his fiancée enjoyed working on the car, they realized they needed help. Not sure where to turn, Steve searched online and discovered Bill’s Auto Restoration in St Petersburg, Florida. Bill made a house call to evaluate the situation, and he and Steve put together a scope of work for the project. A couple months later Bill’s guys picked up the parts and pieces and took them to the shop. Some of what they’ve done so far: remove old paint, inspect/redo bodywork, replace all body hardware, install four-wheel disc brakes, rebuild the engine, transmission, and rearend, reassemble the body and primer it. That’s where the car is at this time. But, Steve has big plans.
Steve’s plan is to build what he calls a Pro-Daily car. According to him, it’s not quite Pro Touring, and it’s not the typical daily driver either. He considers it a low to mid-budget build that incorporates the latest high-performance automotive technology but keeps the classic appearance of an older vehicle.