"I purchased the vehicle ... in Virginia Beach, Virginia, thinking I was going to restore the car to original condition. I later found that any numbers the car had either disappeared or didn't match," confesses Joe Frole. "I was crushed! No harm done, though, I thought. The car was still worth the $6,000 I had paid. At that point, I had to find something to make the car respectable. My vision needed to change drastically. Actually, I was a little worried."
Yes, Joe, who hasn't had that empty, sinking sensation at one time or another? Thankfully you forgot that matching numbers game and have had some real fun with a car you really like. It's still an original RS/SS, right? Five years after the fact, you had a different animal-freeform and unencumbered by the purist curse. And other than the paint, you and family did most of the mechanical exercises in privacy and within the confines of home.
To be sure, it was a family endeavor, thus ensuring harmony and just cause throughout the project. Son Joe III provided muscle for the heavy work and that often indispensible second pair of hands and helped keep the car "tweaked" whenever necessary. Joe's wife Hilva Allen was responsible for keeping the theme on track and the color coordination. The family that builds together lays rubber together.
Joe's occupation is in aircraft carrier engineering design support as an on-site engineer, so he's quite familiar with stuff like metallurgy, torsional and bending stress, and producing regular and highly detailed progress reports. The car feature techsheet he filled out for us was a wealth of technical as well as invaluable personal notations.
When Joe bought the Camaro in 2000 he began scouring the Internet for some input, ideas, and advice. He hit upon Detroit Speed & Engineering back when the Tuckers were working out of a well-equipped hole in the wall in Brighton, Michigan. He was captured by their bright yellow Twister Camaro, especially by the "eye-catching stance and the killer tire and wheel combination" that appeared to be right on the money.
"I took all the stuff [that DSE could provide in those early days] to Virginia and worked on it for the next three years in my spare time. It really was a monumental, time-consuming project, yet well worth the effort in the end." That's Joe's subjective side speaking. His objectivity, his pragmatic, problem-solving engineering side, was invaluable.
He installed the DSE mini-tubs, thus increasing depth approximately 3 inches. A structural reinforcement and upper shock mount brace was welded to the subframe rail structure between the tubs. The brace is critical because the floorpan of the trunk is structurally compromised when the tub depth is increased, simultaneously obliterating the original structure right along with the upper attachment points for the shocks. The brace restores and relocates the attachment points. He installed frame connectors and retained leaf springs but with lowering blocks and offset shackles to secure them. His one regret is not including a rack steering system and a subframe designed to accept it.
The interior received no less attention. Penny Burt at Classic Soft Trim in Austin, Texas, handled the case, and according to Joe, she's "simply fantastic." Her work included coordinating the upholstery, the seat pattern drawn from separate model years, and the theme stitching on the headrests. "The interior theme was planned to be subtle but without an extensively modified appearance," said Joe. Mission accomplished.
Curiously, Joe had little comment about the Rat under the cowl hood, as in its ability to vulcanize tarmac. We want terror, Joe. We want to see you on YouTube smokin' 'em sideways, maybe crossing just before the Norfolk Southern hurtles by.