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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Super Camaro and Son

1978-1979: Sam Gianino Builds Me An Engine

By Perry S. Wyatt, Jr.

Perry Wyatt, Sr., and the Super Camaro. Photo thanks to Perry Wyatt, Jr.
Perry Wyatt, Sr., and the Super Camaro. Photo thanks to Perry Wyatt, Jr.

Perry S. Wyatt, Jr., has put together a great story for his dad, Perry Wyatt, Sr., who owned and tuned the Super Camaro funny car. He kindly consented to share his story with Draglist.com readers. As it spans 40 years, we are running it in installments. Check out the links at the bottom to navigate the entire story. Perry is looking for any info on his dad's old funny car, the Super Camaro. If you know of any info or photos, please drop him a line. bp

1978. Spring. Pulling out of the school parking lot in my Gran Torino, with Lora at my side. Here comes this jacked up Javelin, with Cragars, a hood scoop and rear spoiler. Lora blurts out "Wow, what a cool hot rod," I looked at her and said, and "you got to be kidding?" "I'll show you what a real hot rod is"!

Well now I was on a mission (thanks to Lora). I decided that I was going to rebuild that engine I had and put it in a car to prove to Lora what a real Hot Rod was. So it began, I started tearing down the 327 and planning on what parts that I would use to rebuild it, but what was I going to put it in?

1978. The local machine shop guy says the block will clean up at .019 over and he can use an oversized ring to make up the difference, my dad says .011 more and it's bored .030 over and since I was buying new pistons, just buy them .030 over and get the block bored. Enter Bruno Bucci.

Bruno is an old friend of my dads and has been cutting my hair for as long as I can remember. He ran Super Stock cars and at that time he had a 1964 Plymouth Savoy, that was 1 of 50, with an aluminum front end and 426 wedge motor with cross ram intake, that ran in SS/DA (another guy for whom my dad built Hemi Torqueflites). Well Bruno says, I know just the guy to do the machine work for you, he used to be a barber also, and he's a good friend of mine! Sam Gianino.

We make a trip out to Sam's and Bruno introduces me. Sam's shop is spotless, why you could eat off the floor! Sitting there is the 1975 B Gas Monza that Sam holds an NHRA National record with and it has a 331 small block in it, just like what I'm going to build (yea, right).

Well, we go over the details of what Sam will do for me and he gives me a price and sets a date for completion. I leave there feeling like a kid waiting for Christmas!

Now, what am I going to put it in?

1978. My brother knows this guy, George and says he has a car in his back yard that I should take a look at. We go check it out and it's a 1969 Camaro. It was love at first sight!

It had no engine or Trans. The windshield was busted (but he had a new one). There were rust holes in the fenders, doors and rear quarters, but the rockers and floor are solid. The front seats were missing, but other than that, I had to have it (blinded by love).

It was Hugger Orange. I found out later that Camaros could be equipped any way you wanted and this one had a very unique combination of pieces.

It was a "plain Jane" so to speak. Standard Camaro. Flat hood, but had rear deck spoiler. It had 14-inch wheels, painted in body color, with center caps. It had white pinstripes painted over all four-wheel flares. Grille was silver in the center.

Interior was black and it was the deluxe style. Molded door panels, cross-stitched seats. It had buckets, but no center console. It had a wood grain dash, but plain steering wheel with wood grain insert. Column shift. It had the clock in center of dash, looking through the steering wheel.

Original driveline I found very interesting. It came with a 350 engine and 350 turbo Trans. It had a 12-bolt rear end, mounted on multiple stacked leafs (instead of mono), but it had a 2:56 ring and pinion.

I was in love. I purchased the car from George for $350.00 and towed it to my dad's Trans. shop. My dad just shook his head. (I would go on to purchase eight or 9 more Camaros for parts and what have you, some in better shape than this first one, but never experience the feeling of being in love with the first one).

My brother and I sat and stared at it bouncing ideas back and fourth! Ideas-Ideas-Ideas!

1978. Well all these ideas, but we just start tearing the car apart. Yellow is my favorite color and that's what I want to paint the car. Dad says, "you're crazy to change the color" (I believe him now), but that's what I wanted and I was determined!

Called Dick Genthe Chevrolet and ordered new quarters, fenders, grill and cowl induction hood (would become a regular customer of theirs). My dad helped me weld metal into the holes in the doors. My brother and I sanded and sanded and sanded.............it was a ton of work!

Meanwhile, machine work was progressing on the engine block, Hey what Trans. am I going to run? Lore's dad has a turbo 400 out of an Impala sitting in his garage and says I can have it (crazy, my dad owns a Trans. shop and the man who became my father-in-law gives me a Trans.) I tear it down and it is like brand new from end to end, great! It goes back together with just a gasket and seal kit. But what am I going to do about a torque converter, I want some stall, but growing up in a Trans. shop, it's hard to see paying big bucks for an aftermarket converter.

My dad says the Vega had a 10-inch converter that should work great for street and strip and was used in turbo transmissions, so it should work fine with the right flywheel. He checks with the converter rebuilders. No problem, they have them in stock, $17.00 exchange!

Rebuilding this car was a "labor of love" and couldn't have been done without the help and support of my dad and my brother! I remember when we assembled the front end, as it sat on the floor of the shop in its satin black color, it reminded me of the "Super Camaro." I pointed that out to my dad and he agreed!

1979. I get the block back from Sam, machine work complete. He's bored and honed the cylinders after decking the block. Reconditioned the rods, polished the crank, fitted the pistons, and filed the rings.

I assembled the short block that began life as a 1968 327(the only year it was produced with a large journal crank) 2-bolt main (as were all 327's) and now is a 331(.030 overbore) with 11:1 TRW forged pistons and speed-pro rings. I installed a factory 327/350hp cam that I purchased from Dick Genthe Chevrolet and used hydraulic lifters. I purchased a set of heads that had 1:94 intakes and 1:50 exhausts, but had large chambers (off of a mid seventies 350, I had a lot to learn), then installed a factory aluminum dual plane intake used on the 302 Z-28's. Topped it off with a 780 Holley!

The most special pieces I put on the engine were the rocker covers that my dad had used on his "55" Chevy. They were chrome plated from the factory and had the word "Chevrolet" scripted in them. My dad had drilled holes in the ends to install breathers (I still have them).

1979. The engine and Trans are ready, but oh the details, I won't even begin to tell you about the "details" (if you have built a car, you know what I'm talking about).

We have everything together and we're ready to start the engine! It's Saturday night, late and it's just my brother, my father, and me. I'm in the car and my dad is over the engine, he tells me to crank it over.

OH MY GOD! What a sound! It comes to life and is music to my ears! My dad sets the timing, adjusts the carburetor, and gives it a good "whap" on the throttle. It roars through the open headers! We check all the fluids and raise it up to inspect for any leaks, all is good and we let it down and my dad backs it out and takes it on it's "maiden" voyage! My brother and I can hear it the whole time he is gone, when he returns, he is smiling ear to ear and says, "It runs good."

1979. We spent the rest of the summer, finishing the "details" and prepping the body for paint. My dad had used a wooden handled steering wheel on his "55" and I found one just like it and installed it on the Camaro.

The 2:56 ring and pinion had to go. We replaced it with a 4:11 and installed a posi unit. I picked up some Monte Carlo "rally" wheels, 15x7 and mounted radial TA G7015 black letters on them.

I had to have great sound and cassettes were new (replacing 8-tracks), so I installed a Pioneer cassette player and graphic equalizer and Jensen speakers.

The column shifter had to go, so I installed a B&M quicksilver on the floor and installed my Sun tach on the steering column, with water temp. And oil pressure gauges installed under the dash and a fuel pressure gauge installed on the cowl.

Now it's all together and ready for final paint!

1979. Saturday, Thanksgiving weekend. I start laying on the 1978 Corvette "Bright" Yellow (code 2756) paint. I keep spraying coat after coat until I'm out. My brother has fallen asleep in the office on a car seat. We are there until the early morning hours on Sunday.

The next day, I return to the shop with Lora and back the Camaro out and take the first pictures of it (didn't think to take any before, duh!)

Now, more work, water sanding, wheeling, plus installing all of the little "pieces," so many things to do.

It's finally finished!

Up Next: 1980
Previous: 1976-1977

Perry S. Wyatt, Jr.
perryswyattjr@aol.com

 

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