Homebuilt Pro Touring 1973 Camaro

Necessity is a Mother

Anthony Margaritondo talks about doing the real long haul

Most Chevy High magazine readers adhere to the do-it-yourself discipline. It is usually the lack of money to engage a competent facility … or being unable to scratch out the hours to do it. Hot rodding has always been considered a hands-on endeavor, something that’s instilled in hot-rod brains … and those hot-rod brains love it. Those exploding heads are usually supported by family and friends with the same inclination.

Yes, the things that were ingrained, the things Tony learned from his father were the catalysts. His “initiation” years taught him that a slow and methodical approach would yield the best results. More than 33 years later, his modus operandi has not changed. Nor has his obsession, his first car, this very Camaro that was his abiding partner throughout high school and his early college days. Tony tried imports for a while and played with a Cobra Mustang ragtop, but that yellow Camaro always shimmered in the back of his head.

He’d spotted the Zed on the side of the road with a For Sale sign pasted to it. It had nice paint but that’s where the niceness ended abruptly, like a backhand across the chops. Rot was rampant. Rot was looking to be champion, but then so was Tony.

Then, serendipity transpired and everything changed. “When I decided to take the car off the road, my girlfriend Leslie brought me back to college. She met my dad. We would eventually get married. She is my wife of 25 years.”

The F-body simmered in its funk for at least 12 years. When Tony’s elders sold the house, he had to move the program but didn’t have the money to pay for a restoration or anything else. He took night classes at a tech school; the curriculum was mainly welding and auto body training. This prompted the acquisition of a 220V MIG welder so he could practice what he’d learned.

On the real-life side, Tony emerged as a web developer and then became an IT manager (his day job). He documented his project by building his own site (apiem.com/camaro). Concurrently, he accessed the site nastyz28.com. “That site was a tremendous help. When I started building the car, Pro Touring was in its early stages and I knew I would move in that direction. I wanted better brakes, better suspension, and an engine with fuel injection. The bodywork took five years to complete and included quarter-panels, tailpanel, rocker panels, and doorskins. I dropped it in Pennsylvania with painter Rob Macaulay who put on the Corvette Millennium Yellow and the clearcoat applications,” he said.

Bucks-down continued to play a mournful ballad. It took another two years to get the load rolling on its own with a 327 he’d built in high school when he should have been doing his homework. It was backed by a Super T-10 four-speed, a popular aftermarket item back in the day. A little later, he replaced the carburetor with TPI. If you caught his ear at a serene moment, he’d say he craved the modernity of a timelier engine and transmission.

Meanwhile, he refreshed the electrical system and did the fabrication vital to the installation of the LS6 engine and six-gear transmission. Tony says that learning how to do the bodywork correctly was the most challenging part of the experience, and that there was not much available in the aftermarket for the second-gen Camaro when he began the build. Now that doesn’t matter. This car, like a great many others, is successful because it rests on perception as much as it does reality.

With the stance looking like business and the big Pro Touring rubber, who’d know at a glance that the brakes behind them were not 14-inch monsters with six-piston calipers? Tony passed on the aftermarket and raided a C5 Corvette, easily adapting its 13-inch, four-pot binders up front and completing the combination with ordinary 12-inch Camaro plates out back. He hopped-up the 10-bolt from a ’76 Trans Am with 3.73:1 gears and retained the factory limited-slip differential. Engine output is still pretty much in line with the latent strength of the modest drivetrain. Tony: “The LS6 makes the car very reliable. I wouldn’t be afraid of driving it on any trip. I hope to do the Power Tour in the next few years.”

To address the long-haul notion, he punctuated the sanctum with cool air, a sound system that jumps steady, substantial chairs, and new trim and panels. Instead of strapping on a fussy five-point harness, he pulls lightly on a modern three-point belt.

Not being envisioned as a quarter-mile killer left all the more room for a tight, linear suspension system very much in line with the Pro Touring guidelines. Tony used coilover dampers, a hefty “lawyer bar,” and tubular control arms in front and secured the rear with coilovers complemented by a skinny antisway bar.

In all, Tony Margaritondo says he’s accomplished everything he set out to do and is pleased with the outcome. He says that now; maybe looking to add some trim bits but certainly not heave up what’s already been done in his existential garage, despite an irrational universe. CHP

 

Tech Check

Owner: Anthony Margaritondo, Morristown, New Jersey

Vehicle: 1973 Camaro

 

Engine

Type: First-gen LS6

Displacement: 346 ci

Compression Ratio: 10.5:1

Bore: 3.900 inches

Stroke: 3.622 Inches

Cylinder Heads: OE, symmetrical port, 2.00/1.55 valves, 65cc combustion chambers

Rotating Assembly: OE nodular iron crankshaft, powdered-metal steel rods, cast-aluminum pistons

Valvetrain: OE 1.7:1 rocker arms fitted w/ Straub bushings, Holley rocker covers

Camshaft: OE hydraulic (0.525/0.525-inch lift; 204/211-deg. duration at 0.050)

Induction: OE manifold, 25-lb/hr injectors, 75mm throttle body, factory fuel tank w/ sump and baffle, 190-gph Edelbrock pump

Ignition: Factory ECM, LS3 coils, MSD primary wires

Exhaust: Dynatech headers, 1 7/8-inch primaries, Heartthrob 2.5-inch system, X-pipe, Heartthrob Turbo mufflers

Ancillaries: LS7 water pump, Summit Racing aluminum radiator, Perma-Cool fan, American Autowire loom

Machine Work: GM

Assembly: GM

Output: 405 hp at 6,000 rpm, 400 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm

 

Drivetrain

Transmission: BorgWarner T56 six-speed, Mantic ER2 twin-disc clutch assembly and steel flywheel

Rear Axle: GM 10-bolt, Yukon 3.73:1 gears, factory limited-slip differential, Axle Exchange aluminum prop shaft

 

Chassis

Front Suspension: Stock spindles, StrongArms tubular upper control arms, GM 1.25-inch antisway bar, QA1 coilover shocks w/ 450lb springs

Rear Suspension: GM 9/16-inch antisway bar, Bilstein B6 Performance shock absorbers, Pro Touring GT coil springs

Brakes: C5 Corvette 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, front; 1988-’91Camaro 12-inch rotors, two-piston calipers, rear; C5 master cylinder, booster and proportioning valve

 

Wheels & Tires

Wheels: Stern 5T-7 Hyper Mesh 18×8.5 front, 18×9.5 rear

Tires: Sumitomo HTR Z II 245/40 front, 285/35 rear

 

Interior

Upholstery: N/A

Material: Cloth/vinyl

Seats: Corbeau A4, Morris Classic Concepts three-point belts, ’93 Camaro console w/ gauges and power window switches

Steering: OE column, IROC box, Grant wheel

Shifter: Modified Cadillac CTS-V

Dash: Factory

Instrumentation: AutoMeter Phantom

Audio: Custom AutoSound USA-230 head unit, 6.5-inch Focal Poly Kevlar 165K, front; 6×9 Access 640CA1, rear; installed by owner

HVAC: Vintage Air

 

Exterior

Bodywork: Tony Margaritondo, firewall smoothed, ’70 mounts to move bumpers closer to body

Paint By: Rob Macaulay

Paint: U-Tech Corvette Millennium Yellow

Hood: Harwood 3-inch cowl

Grille: Factory, painted

Bumpers: Factory, smoothed and painted