Turning A Neglected Second-Gen Camaro Into A First-Rate Hot Rod

You can’t always get what you want is more than just a song by the Rolling Stones. As we grow older, the premise upon which the song delivers is realized more than we care to mention. However, that is not always a bad thing. Just ask Donald Endonino of Longwood, Florida.

“Before I bought this Camaro, I was actually looking for a Chevelle,” he states. “While I was searching for a car, one of my dad’s co-workers happened to mention he had a Camaro that he was interested in selling. I thought I should check it out since I have always liked the second-gen models.”

The Camaro had definitely seen better days, as Donald told us it was sitting in the co-worker’s back yard in Dunnellon, Florida. If you know anything about Florida weather, it gets hot and humid for long periods of time. Definitely not conducive for keeping a stationary piece of yard art from rusting. “This was in 2000, and I purchased the car, planning to build a nice cruiser,” says Donald. To say the second-gen was in poor shape is an understatement. Luckily, he is co-owner of Street Metal Concepts in Sanford, Florida, so he is not afraid of a little — or a lot of — rust.

second gen camaro

Is there any engine more reliable than the small-block Chevy? At 355 cubic inches, Don’s mill is the perfect way to get his car moving.

Just because he has access to a premier hot rod shop now, doesn’t mean he could simply park his personal car in one of the garage bays and wait for it to magically get rebuilt. Remember, the business was just getting started. “I actually did all the work in a one-car garage at my house,” he affirms. AS mentioned, he and his partner’s fledgling business was just taking off, so he really needed to watch what money he was spending on the car, and what was being done to the car. Think about it, he couldn’t spend a pile of money because he was putting it back into the new business. He also couldn’t cut any corners because it would reflect poorly on the new business. He was definitely in a tight spot.

“Money was tight, so my dad and I would scour swap meets looking for parts,” he quips. “My dad is very experienced with engines, so he was also a great help in that area.”

When the garage-filling fog of bodywork dust had settled, Don had taken the time to replace both front fenders, both door skins, the lower section of both quarter panels, and the taillight panel. Yeah, the car really did need some sheetmetal repairs. If you know anything about Murphy and the law he represents, it could have been much worse. When the body was rust-free and smooth, it was then covered with a base/clear slathering of the ultimate Camaro color – Hugger Orange.

second gen camaro

The aftermarket seats, sound system, and shifter definitely hint at something more than a stock resto.

Just like it was from the factory, a small block is taking up residence between the fenders. Now, however, it displaces a total of 355 cubic inches. The crankshaft and connecting rods are of the OE variety, but Don did incorporate a set of hypereutectic pistons into the mix. With the help of a pair of Edelbrock Performer RPM heads, the street-friendly compression ratio comes in at 10.0:1, which is great for a cool cruiser like this.

Nestled underneath the aluminum heads as a mild Edelbrock camshaft with .488/.510 inch lift and 234/244 degrees of duration. To start the breathing process an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake and Holley carburetor handle air and fuel delivery. Behind that reliable motivator is a 700R4 transmission with a 3,000-rpm converter and a 10-bolt rear with 3.73 gears. The overdrive ensures this really is a great cruising combination.

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Since Donald planned to spend most of his time in the driver’s seat and not under the hood, he wanted the interior to be comfortable yet retain a stock-ish feel. He began by contacting Procar seats to get a pair of bucket seats and also incorporated a Rockford Fosgate sound system. Other than the B&M shifter, this Camaro does have a stock-appearing feel thanks to soft parts from National Parts Depot.

From the inception of the build, Donald never planned to create a racecar, he simply wanted a very nice cruiser that would be a blast to drive and deliver years of reliability. For that very reason, you’ll not find any high-zoot race parts within the car’s suspension. He decided to keep it simple and rebuilt the entire suspension utilizing OE-style parts that would deliver exactly the ride he was hoping to achieve.

second gen camaro

The stock suspension and “right-size” tires and wheels give this second-gen Camaro the perfect stance.

During our conversation at the NSRA Southeast Nats in Tampa, Florida, Donald told us that he has owned this car for just over 20 years, and when looking at it, you would never know it was actually completed nearly 12 years ago. His “seasoned” Camaro is a great testament to building something right the first time so you don’t need to waste time doing it again. Finally, this might not be the fastest car in the neighborhood, but we feel confident in saying that it is certainly one of the nicest and will continue to be the perfect cruiser for many years to come.

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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