Putting a car back together after a restoration involves an awesome amount of organization, planning, skill and determination, as well as a good deal of manual labor blended with absolute stubbornness. You will have to locate all the parts you removed from the car, buy new parts such as fasteners and motor mounts, identify all the specific holes you took fasteners out of, install and tighten nuts and bolts, hook up electrical connections, make adjustments, tape wires, route hoses, attach and test a variety of parts, move, position and attach heavy body sections, push, pry and prod things back into their proper relationships, grease, oil and lubricate pieces and hope that everything works.
Sounds like great fun—doesn't it? We call it "Humpty-Dumpty" work!
After all of the bad sheet metal in Jeff Noll's Camaro was replaced with new parts, he began the long process of putting it back together. Jeff stretched his project out a bit. He purchased the car on May 23, 2004 and it wasn't until four years later that he started showing it. As in many life endeavors, patience is a virtue when it comes to automobile restoration and the end results of Jeff's four years of expenses and work was a Resto-Mod worth waiting for.
You'll remember that he had covered the car with the beige epoxy primer to seal out moisture and prevent future rust while he was doing the reassembly work. He then sprayed the underside of the floor with Eastwood Chassis Black paint to give it a GM factory look. By March 2005, things were beginning to look pretty good. The door edges had been contoured to fit the new rear quarter panels and then re-welded for a perfect fit. Like the factory rocker panels, the original front fenders were in very good shape and required minimal bodywork.
Much of Jeff's project was done on the hobbyist level, although you would never know that when you see the final results. As an example, to blast small parts, Jeff placed them in a wooden box outdoors on his driveway and used a gun to spray media into the box. He wore heavy gloves and a hood. Door panels were rested on sawhorses and blasted using the same equipment and gear.
Jeff did not rush the job. The first coat of tan epoxy primer was applied to the fully repaired rear body section on Aug. 14, 2005. Five months later, with the body supported on jack stands in his garage, Jeff applied his sanding guide coat. It wasn't until August 2006 that Jeff was in the final phase of bodywork. By then, the car was back on wheels and tires. Jeff installed the new Goodmark cowl-induction hood, straightening the edges to match the original fender lines. The header panel also had to be matched to the slope of the hood. In September 2006, the entire front end was prime coated and Jeff added the rear spoiler.
In 1967, the RS or "Rally Sport" model-option could be added to any Camaro with any engine. So, as part of Jeff Noll's project, he decided to convert his car into a Camaro RS as described in an earlier article in this series. Each of these little jobs was part of the big job of making the Camaro whole again.
The trunk floor was another original piece that was in great shape on Jeff's car. It had only minor surface rust and no holes. After removing the surface rust, Jeff cleaned the sheet metal and finished it with spackle paint, which he then clear coated. Finally, new rubber plugs were installed in the trunk floor openings.
After installing a new sub-frame in June 2004, Jeff built his front suspension with many modifications. He painted the rear axle and installed his new Motive Gear set with the help of drag racer Frank Dickenburger. All new brake components were installed. The original gas tank was refinished and re-installed. The rear suspension was rebuilt, painted up and installed, using lowering blocks to achieve just the right stance. This phase of the project was completed by May 11, 2006 and brought him one step closer to completion.
The crate engine was painted — as were its accessories. It was dropped in the car on March 19, 2005. Thee Magna-Flow exhaust system was installed. Jeff focused a lot on tiny, but important details. The exhaust tips were cut to match the angle of the rear quarter panel, polished and hung with custom-made hardware. The car was started for the first time on March 27, 2007. An April test drive down the driveway was one of the most exciting cruises Jeff ever took.
At this point, the red GMC wrecker was called in again to move the Camaro to Jamie's Customs for paint. A Dupont No. 1 shade sealer was used on all of the body parts before the Dupont Hugger Orange base coat clearcoat 2-stage paint system was applied. After the first three clear coats, the body was wet sanded and the hood and deck lid were prepared for a Black Rally Stripe kit from Classic Industries. The refinished car came back home in October 2007.
Jeff Noll then began final assembly work. This involved things like cleaning it up from the body shop and installation of the grille, spoiler and trim. The wheels and tires were fitted and by the time the snow was falling that year, the side windows were back in the car. The final steps were installation of the windshield and backlight and the interior. The dashboard had to be painted twice. Then, new carpeting was installed. Since May of 2008, Jeff's '67 Camaro coupe has picked up Camaro First in Class, Best of Class and Best of Show awards.
All removable body panels like the front fenders, hood, doors and rear deck lid need to be fitted carefully when the car is put back together. Since even slightly bending or tweaking a painted panel to fit better can damage the new finish, Leo Coonan and Jim Mokwa fully assembled the GTO body on the frame before the parts were primed to check door fit and panel alignments. Then, once they were satisfied, they disassembled the complete car again and removed the body from the frame before it was put back on the dolly for its final paint.
When the GTO body initially went off Leo's body shop, Jim Mokwa started working on his mechanical restoration. The rear axle had already been cleaned up when the man brought a mobile sandblasting unit to Jim's home and blasted the entire chassis. Jim then removed the axle and supported it on three large jack stands so he could carefully paint by brushing on POR-15 rust-inhibiting paint. He then re-attached the axle to the frame of the car, which had also been refinished in matching black. Next, Jim mounted the rear wheels and tires.
At the front of the chassis, Jim attached the cleaned and refinished A-arms and coil springs. His front sway bar was painted silver gray, nearly matching the steely look of the aftermarket disc brake system components. With no tires or wheels mounted and the front frame rails supported on jack stands, Jim used a crane to lower the silver blue engine block, cylinder heads and water pump assembly into proper position. Clean rags were used to fill all openings so that no foreign material got into the motor. The steering linkage (also painted silver gray) was bolted together and installed in its proper position.
Next, the clutch and bellhousing were attached to the rear of the engine, before the engine crane and a strap sling were used to hold the Tremec gearbox level and move it into place. The transmission was then bolted to the cross member below it using rubber donut style mounts as vibration dampeners. Then the five-spoke front wheels were put on the spindles. The exhaust headers were bolted in place on the engine and all-new dual X-pipe style exhaust system parts were routed through the chassis. Then, the propeller shaft was installed between the transmission's tailpiece and the rear axle. During this phase of assembly, the radiator and grille support framework was installed at the front.
With the 400-cid V-8 in the chassis, Jim installed the valve covers, the intake manifold, the huge four-barrel carburetors, the slim line air cleaner and the spark plug wires and the other ignition system components. The alternator, power steering pump, coolant hoses and other front engine accessories were put in place. The aftermarket aluminum radiator was attached and plumbed up.
Meanwhile, in the body shop, Leo had the tub perched on a dolly so he could move it around and work on the body panel alignments. As mentioned earlier, whenever a car is completely taken apart, all panel fits will need to be checked, tested and adjusted over and over and over again. Some restorers we know take a body apart as many as eight times to get every margin and seam right. When the panel fits were good, a gantry style crane with a chain hoist for lifting was rolled above the body so it could be lifted straight up with the hoist.