We all know of a car that’s been sitting in the same spot for years, decades, or even as long as we can remember. It becomes part of the landscape in our mind as we think about our hometown. Heck, it even becomes a landmark. We wonder why nobody has ever bought it, but we ourselves never stop by to ask about it. Jon Sacco of Chicora, Pennsylvania, eyeballed a car in the weeds for a while, and one day, he finally stopped by to ask about it. That car was this 1970 Z28 Camaro.
You could only see it in the winter time when the leaves were off the trees, and then, just the taillights – Jon
Finding The Z Under A Tree
Whether intentional or not, the car was not highly visible from the road. “You could only see it in the winter time when the leaves were off the trees. And then, just the taillights,” he explained. “I thought it would be a good father and son project.” He found the car sitting only three miles from his house, and he heard rumors that the owner would tell interested parties that he’d never sell it. That didn’t stop Jon from asking anyway. When he caught up with the owner, he was was surprised at his reaction.
The '70 Z28 Camaro is a clean, understated musclecar that is as fun to drive as it is to look at.
“I guess he was afraid someone was going to buy it and put neon lights under it or something,” Jon told us. “He asked me more questions than I asked him. He was just looking for someone that really wanted to restore it.” The owner was looking for someone with good intentions for his car, and that was Jon. “I didn’t know it was a Z28, I just assumed it was a regular Camaro.”
Half Stripped And Left To Rot
Jon bought the car and brought it home in July of 2006, it didn’t come back out of the garage until May of 2014. The previous owner told Jon there were only 45,000 miles on the car, but it still sat for a long time – from 1986 until 2006 – and that’s not good for any car. “He was going through a divorce and sort of half-stripped the car,” Jon explained. “There was no instrument cluster, and a lot of other stuff had been taken off.”
Those taillights were the thing that gave the car's identity away.
Jon was initially drawn to the car by the taillights. When he saw it, he knew what it was, and that was all he needed to see. “I had a Camaro when I was younger. That car was a ’78, but I always had a soft-spot of the ’70-’73s.” he explained. “I liked the two round taillights in the back. People always call them the poor man’s Vette, but I always thought they had a badass look to them.” We also love the look of these early ‘70s Camaros and agree with Jon, they look badass.
The project was a serious undertaking to say the least, and there was a huge level of restoration involved in rebuilding this car. There was rust, missing parts, and the damage done by decades of Mother Nature’s harsh hands. “Fortunately, the floorboards and frame rails were good,” he explained. “Unfortunately, it had fiberglass fender flares that had been molded on in the ‘70s, and the quarter-panels were gone.”
The copper color paint looks really nice on this car, and it's impressive work all done by Jon.
Bringing It Back Together
Jon was searching online for body parts and saw that original and new-old-stock fenders were selling for big money. Even more depressing was the lower-quality aftermarket stuff was still expensive. But, he needed fenders, so he was going to have to buck up and pay the price—or so he thought. One day, his wife was at a garage sale where they advertised Camaro parts. Turned out, they had a nice set of fenders hanging in the garage rafters, and they were perfect for Jon’s car. “I didn’t even ask how much, I just said I’d take them,” he said, “they only wanted $100 for the pair.”
By the time all the bodywork was done, Jon had replaced the quarters, quarter extensions, and trunk floor. “Basically the only thing that I used from the car was the doors,” he said. “I got a good deal on a real Z-car though.” Jon’s happy with the end results, so even though it was quite a bit of work, he doesn’t regret anything.
Even though it started rough, hard work and sweat-equity has made this Z28 into a real show-stopper.
A Drivetrain Worthy Of The Name
Between the pair of $100 garage sale fenders sits a 383 cubic-inch engine that packs a decent punch and helps this Camaro live up to its reputation. This small-block puts out an impressive 425-horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. The engine specs are made even more impressive when considering the power-to-weight ratio of the overall build. This isn’t a big, heavy Impala, this is the light, agile Camaro, and that 383 cubic-incher will pull it along just fine. After all, with roller rockers, forged pistons, BluePrint aluminum heads, and a steel crankshaft, it’s hard to go wrong.
Of course, when considering performance and driveability, the engine isn’t the only thing that matters. Jon has a an Edelbrock intake, Holley carburetor, Muncie M21 manual transmission, and a 12-bolt 3.73-geared positraction rearend making up the rest of the drivetrain. It also benefits from front disc brakes, an MSD ignition, Hedman headers, and an aluminum, 2 1/2-inch exhaust with Magnaflow mufflers.
What's better than a small-block Chevy in a Camaro? Not much.
Interior Built For Comfort, And Stitched For Looks
The interior is another a place where this Camaro really shines. The rest of the car is nice, but open those doors and take a look at the upholstery. It wasn’t always that way though. “We finished the car and got it to a point where I could drive it, but to me, the interior was always the eyesore of the car,” Jon explained. “The original seats weren’t all that comfortable either.” So, during the winter of 2016 to 2017, Jon took the car to Trick Labs in Butler, Pennsylvania. “They did an amazing job.”
The interior really helps this car stand out. It looks absolutely stunning, and matches the rest of the build nicely.
“I got ahold of Trick Labs, told them what I wanted, and they really knocked it out of the park,” Jon explained. Along with the gorgeous saddle and buckskin-colored vinyl interior, Jon now has a nice set of Procar Ralley 1000 seats, a Billet Specialties steering wheel, and a set of Dakota Digital gauges. “The Dakota Digital gauges are nice, and they still have the classic look. But, there’s a whole slew of information you can bring up on there.”
Enjoying The Car
This is now, and will always be, more than just a car to Jon. When he bought it, his intentions were to make it a father and son project, and he created quite a few memories with his son. “He was nine at the time I bought the car,” Jon said. “When he was young, he worked on it a lot with me.” Although he grew up and became more geared towards sports and stuff like that, the help he provided at the beginning was big for Jon, and he’ll never forget working with his son like that.
The center console extending into the back is a nice touch. It really brings this build to the next level of custom.
As it sits today, the family loves driving their car and it’ll never get trailered. “The only time this will end up on a trailer is if it’s stolen,” Jon said. “Me and my wife just love the car. We enjoy the heck out of it every chance we get.” Jon just took it to the Chevrolet Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, this year, and that is where we got our first glimpse of it.
I wanted a ’73, but I could never afford one back when I was a kid – Jon
Jon’s love for the Chevy brand goes back to his first car, that was a ’63 Chevy Nova that ended up getting totaled by a drunk driver. But after that, he got a ’78 Camaro. “It was a nice car, but nothing like what I have now. I wanted a ’73 at the time, but I could never afford one back when I was a kid.” You could say that getting this car is like fulfilling a dream and getting something that he couldn’t when he was younger. There may have been a time when a second-generation Camaro was out of the question, now it’s just out in the garage waiting for Jon to get behind the wheel.
Plans going forward are pretty simple. Eventually, it will get disc brakes in the rear and maybe a Tremec five-speed in place of the four-speed. “It needs that fifth gear,” Jon explained. “Like I said, we drive the car.”