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mopar440_6 10-31-2013 12:26 AM

Full Prep Camaro Build - Where To Start?
Well, it seems that most of the active members have seen my introduction thread (here). Now it's time to start asking stupid questions. I would like to use this thread to catalog my build and gather knowledge/advice from those of you who are much more experienced at this than myself.

Background information is this: 1987 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28, factory automatic car. Engine, transmission, and interior have been removed. Driver side front fender is damaged, inner wheel well is slightly kinked. We will be building a full preparation car and we're starting completely from scratch. We would like to get the car into the shop this weekend and get started.

The question is where do we start?

We don't want to do a bunch of work then have to undo everything because we started working in the wrong order. My thoughts are that we should strip the car to the bare shell, remove the undercoating, fix any bodywork issues, and begin working on the cage. Am I starting in the wrong place? Is there something I'm missing? How does one begin a project such as this? I feel like a predetermined plan will greatly reduce the chance of ending up with an unfinished project...

JDH 10-31-2013 12:05 PM

The very first thing I would do would be locate all the parts needed to the clutch/shifter addition, like a factory manual car. The conversion from an auto to a manual adds a lot of time, effort, and expense to the project.

wre46 10-31-2013 12:11 PM

I would do the pedal conversion. You have to extend the trans tunnel to the drivers footwell area if you plan on running external linkage on your transmission (compared to a tremac)

jimwheeler 10-31-2013 12:47 PM

I agree. Put in a double pedal set up with balance bar, tied into the cage/firewall. Wilwood makes several different types, which is what I use.

fastandyracing 10-31-2013 01:28 PM


Sounds like you are on the right track. Just remember your build will take longer and cost more than you think.

A couple of other things to consider. I would do subframes at the same time, you can use straight square tubing and cut into the floor boards. Don't use the commercially available ones for the street cars they suck.

You will probably want to get your fuel cell figured out, at least the dimensions, and since you have a hatchback you will need some sort of hinged plate to separate the cell from the passenger compartment.

The rules for cages are pretty wide open now, it used to limit you to 8 attachment points. I believe it is now pretty much unlimited. You can even put plates between the tubes and the A pillar and such (please verify that).

You will also want to have your seat and steering column in place so you can mock up your seating position. Nothing worse than putting the seat in the car and wacking you head on a tube. I use a woodward steering column #SCA827, it is collapasable and really nice. The pedals are also a good idea, the dual masters and balance bar give you pretty much unlimited ability to adjust you brake bias, much better than just a prop valve. You can use them with the stock brakes for now if you want and then upgrade later.

I would suggest you use some sort of external slave cylinder for the hydraulic throwout bearing. The Rams and other ones that mount on the bearing retainer can have some 0-ring leaking issues and they are a real pain in the ass to change out, as the tranny need to be pulled. The external ones are cheaper and more reliable.

You need good egress over the door bars on the drivers side. I sloped mine from back to front to give me a little more room to get out. But I am old and lets just say a "larger" driver, so you may not need so much room.

Gusset the corners of the roll cage for more strength. Howe has some really nice kind of a wrap around gusset that is light and really strengthens the corners.

Lots of fun, lots of work, but when you hit the track, you know who built it, and that will mean a lot, it does to me.

Good Luck.


thomas toth 10-31-2013 09:28 PM

I converted an automatic car. Easy and cheap if you use the stock mechanical linkage from the 82 to 84 cars. Look on the drivers side frame rail just under the brake booster. If you see 2 untapped holes around 2" apart you are on your way. If you can find the stock mechanical linkage and pedal assembly all you need to do is bolt the assembly to the fire wall using the brake booster studs, drill a 1" hole in the fire wall for the linkage to come through and bolt the mounting bracket to the 2 holes on the frame rail. Simple. Some members who switched over to the Wildwood pedals may have a set to sell you. You will also need a bell housing. I would recommend a QuickTime light weight scatter shield.

Once you get the car apart you can also cut off all the brackets that you no longer need. Before you start cutting for the fuel cell think it out and cut as little metal as possible....

#38 Camaro

jimwheeler 11-01-2013 09:46 AM

I counted the total number of parts in the mechanical clutch linkage one time. It was well into double digits and almost every one of them failed at one time or another. The hydraulic concentric throw out bearing has a master cylinder, an aeroquip hose and a throw out bearing. This system has been in there for several years without any failures. No way I would ever build a car using the mechanical linkage.

kbsmith1 11-01-2013 03:39 PM

In the Gen 3 camaro I raced, I used the mechanical linkage. It was fine, but
did have several points of failure, two of which did fail. In the Gen 4 car I built, I used a hydraulic clutch, and it is quite simple. Mine is the kind
that mounts to the bellhousing, and that the trans input shaft goes through.
It works well.

Fuel cell in Gen3/Gen4 is easy, and also easy to do in the state you have
the car in.

Roll cage needs to clear driver's head on the left side, so be sure you know
where you'll be sitting.

If you are going to do the whole aftermarket clutch, brake pedal setup
you may want to do that before cage to give more working room.

Definitely do the cage and sub-frame connectors at the same time.

If you are going to do soemthing special (3 link) for the rear-end mounting,
or want to reinforce panhard mounts, etc, this is also a good time to tie
those in.

fastandyracing 11-01-2013 06:25 PM


Got enough advice yet?? Just remember if you do the racing pedals with three master cylinders, you eliminate any of the issues "converting" to a manual bellcrank clutch linkage. You have the clutch master, a -3 braided line, and some sort of slave to actuate the pressure plate directly (in the bellhousing type), or to actuate the clutch "fork", the external slave cylinder type (I prefer this one, cheaper, easier to service, more reliable). The only thing you have to find is a clutch fork and pivot if you go with the external slave.


jimwheeler 11-01-2013 07:03 PM

Best thing that ever happened to my AS was converting to the Wilwood calipers and the pedal set-up inside the cockpit. The engine compartment is no longer crowded. I can change plugs without the brake booster in the way. I can tighten the header bolts without being a contortionist. The brakes don't lock up when I push hard on the pedal. I never have the problem of lack of vacuum at the end of a long straight. This does not even take into consideration that all of the pieces and parts are far cheaper than the old stuff. I throw away pads that have more pad material than the old pads had when they were new.


p.s. I am more than willing to share master cylinder sizes, caliper sizes, pad choices, part numbers and anything else that you need. This is based on changing all of this stuff multiple times until I got it right. Also applies to clutch stuff, transmission stuff, third link design, shocks, yada yada yada. All of this stuff I have learned through trial and error and error and error.

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