A classic muscle car restomod project, Project Stravaig came to Retropower under somewhat controversial circumstances a little over three years ago. It’s UK-based owner had purchased the car from its native United States some months beforehand and had proceeded to have it shipped across the Atlantic, safe in the knowledge that, as it had just been given a comprehensive ground-up restoration, it would be a solid, useable turn-key classic.
It was a laudable plan but one destined to come to nothing, as when we took delivery of the ’68 Chevrolet Camaro a little over three years ago it became clear that our own definition of ‘comprehensive restoration’ differed markedly from that of the US-based seller. Indeed, it wasn’t long before we’d been forced to disassemble the car to better assess its true condition, a process that revealed plenty of carefully obscured rotten metal, much of it within the front and rear floor pans (one of which had simply had a large steel plate welded over it to fully hide it from view).
“Our suspicions were initially aroused when we began to remove panels, fixtures and fittings from the supposedly freshly restored car, only to find evidence of rust,” explains Callum. “Further investigation revealed both quarter panels had a seam running their length where the lower portions had been replaced. Not in itself a problem, but still odd considering full quarter panels are readily and cheaply available. The final straw, as it were, was when we discovered that they’d effectively ‘double skinned’ the front floor pans rather than cutting out the pin-holed originals.”
The standard Retropower blasting process revealed further ferrous horrors, and so we ultimately ended up replacing the quarters, roof, gutters, dash, rear deck panel, floors, sills, doors, rear panel, parcel shelf and boot floor. Basically, everything except the inner framework. So much for that turn-key American resto.
Luckily for all concerned the Camaro’s owner is a true, dyed in the wool petrolhead, and thus didn’t so much as blink before committing to the car and the project in a more emphatic manner.
The owner subsequently gave us permission to take the care back to bare metal, which we did, before setting about identifying and removing any and all traces of rot from the bodyshell. We also treated the car to our famed anti-corrosion sprayed zinc treatment process and have since coated its underside and trimmed inner surfaces with a protective, sound-deadening coat of sprayable ‘Raptor.’
Rust removal (and the prevention thereof) is of crucial importance, but it isn’t what tends to set Retropower builds apart from their peers. What does, however, is the pride we take in the little details, engineering flourishes and creative redesigns; the sort we’ve endeavoured to apply to every resto-modified car to have passed through the Retropower workshop over the course of the last decade-and-a-bit
Project Stravaig is true to form in this regard, dotted as it is with bespoke alterations designed to either mark it out as a true one off, and the front subframe is perhaps the most obvious example. This was fabricated from scratch by Stu over several weeks, and has provision to mount the wings, bonnet, front panel, inner wings and the radiator, and in a manner that’s both more secure and visually pleasing than that favoured by Chevrolet.
The revised front sub-frame links to another, equally clean-sheet design, that of the under-bonnet area. Here Stu designed and painstakingly fabricated a custom engine bay cowling, a three-piece sweep of aluminium running the length of the engine bay from slam-panel to scuttle, and with carefully radiused ‘sweeps’ to allow it to blend into the inner wings seamlessly. It also has provision for the power steering, screen wash and radiator filler, all of which now sit within the inner wings ‘dress panels’ in specially fabricated reservoirs.
Other tweaks undertaken in the metalwork phase include a remade bulkhead, carefully designed to accommodate the relocated wiper motor which now sits within the scuttle panel. The metalwork phase of the build also saw the rear arches tubbed, while the transmission tunnel was revised to be able to accommodate the LS3/Tremec six-speed assembly the car will eventually one.
Other changes included a comprehensive programme of chassis revisions, first trial fitted at the dry build stage and shortly to be implemented ‘for real’ now that the Camaro is in the assembly phase. This list includes a Speed Tech Track Time front subframe and rear axle location kit, 9″ axle with Strange LSD, Wilwoods brakes at all four corners, Dutchman half-shafts and a hydraulic brake booster.
At the time of writing Project Stravaig is deep into its assembly phase. The engine and gearbox are in place, the front-clip in situ, the brakes and suspension installed and the wheels, Rotiforms, bolted fore and aft. There’s still plenty of work to do before it’s ready to be fired-up for the first time, much less driven in anger, but it’s a tantalising glimpse at what Project Stravaig will ultimately become nonetheless.