Monday, September 29, 2014

Bitchin' Camaro, Bitchin' Camaro!

So I’ve been thinking about replacing the commuter.

Right now, my daily driver is a 2001 Volkswagon Golf TDI (turbo diesel).  It’s got a 5 speed and four doors, and it is peppy and fun to drive.  The best part about it, though, being as I drive all over the state with my job, is that it gets as good as 50 miles to the gallon, and mid 40’s on a bad day.

It’s got 210,000 miles on it, and it needs work.  Lots of work.

The entire suspension needs to be rebuilt.  Shocks, struts, control arm bushings, ball joints…  you name it, they’re worn the hell out.  Likewise the clutch is getting weak.  This is the original clutch, ladies and gents, so it has 210,000 miles on it, just like the rest of the car.

I know these things are good for a lot of miles.  This one may have another 100k in it.  It may not.  Being an EGR car, it’s been feeding itself particulate laden air for the entire 210,000 run, so who knows if it’s about to wear out or if it will go another 100k.

The car itself is in good shape.  Straight as an arrow, never wrecked. The paint in good, and the interior is nice and clean.

So I’m stuck in a dilemma.

I want to rebuild all of these things, but I realize that I’m talking weeks worth of work over the winter, during which time I’ll be driving my truck and putting miles on it at 17 miles per gallon, best case.  It also costs $60,000 to replace, so if I put a bunch of miles on it, those miles cost a lot more than the miles I put on my commuter.

And that’s why I’m stuck.

For years, I’ve been dreaming about doing an LS conversion on an older Camaro 3rd Gen.

Visual aid for you folks that don't know a 3rd gen from a 5th gen...  

When I was growing up, the 3rd gen Camaros were the baddest-ass things on the market.  I figure that over a long weekend, I could take a good 3rd gen F-body, drop a LSx engine and a t-56 6 speed transmission into it, and then take it to a local exhaust shop and then the local tuner to have him tune me up a fire-breather (my plan would take an existing 5.3 LS1 and replace the cam with a higher lift, longer duration setup, and the injection system with one of those units made to squeeze power out of a car motor, since the donor would most likely be a truck, set up for torque instead of speed). We figure we could get close to touching 400 horsepower by camming, injection, exhaust, intake, and possibly a head swap to a set of wedge style from an ls corvette (as opposed to, once again, the heads from the donor truck, which will likely be truck heads set up for torque instead of go-faster).

Anyway, projections have that rig probably nearing or exceeding 400 horsepower (the Ls 5.3 bone stock is 300) and 25 miles to the gallon, so it would be fun.  And I’d be running a T-top 3rd gen around instead of a mild-mannered Volkswagon.

I found a very clean 3rd gen locally for $3200.  I can get the LSx for 2,500 from the local junk yard, or 3,200 remanufactured from a local dude who does that stuff.  The T-56 will run 2,500. Suspension, paint…

Long story short, I can probably have all this done for $15,000 or less.  For a zero-mile equivalent 3rd gen t-top Camaro that will go like a scalded-ass ape.

If I paid someone to do the Golf’s work that it needs, it would probably be about $4,500.  

I could sell the Golf now for probably 3,500.

I wonder if I should just stop being an idiot and go buy another commuter for $10,000 and be done with this, or if I should follow my obsession and build that “Bitchin’ Camaro” of my youthey dreams?


  1. I vote for Bitchin Camaro! I'd probably do the motor work before the install, though. While it doesn't look quite as cramped as more modern cars, that engine compartment looks a little confing to accomplish things that could be done on the bench, before install.

  2. Oh yeah. Totally. I'm talking head swaps and cam swap (which I don't think you can do without pulling the motor). Probably do some port matching while I'm at it. I've got a month's worth of futzing around with the motor before I even think about dropping it in the car. When it gets dropped in, it will have the headers bolted to it and essentially be ready to run with the exception of a radiator and fuel lines.

    I'm sort of attracted to the idea, and I'm going to talk to the Mrs. tonight about selling the golf and see what she says.

  3. Two words... sub-frame connectors. Get the welded ones.

  4. You can swap out the cam with the motor in the car, you just have to pull the front clip, radiator and core support... You know stuff that's harder than pulling the motor!

  5. So, was that car driven up from the Bahamas? ;)

    1. Probably not. The Bahamas are an island!

      (I think that's how it goes, doesn't it?)