Like many people, Keith LeGier caught the hot-rodding bug when he was just a lad in high school. It all started when he acquired a ’78 Chevy pickup truck that according to Keith, “At the time, lowered trucks were the craze, so I modified it myself after I graduated high school and joined the Navy. It was fun, but I got transferred to Guam, and had to sell it.
In 1993, he was transferred from Guam to Seattle, and that is when he found an ’81 Camaro Berlinetta. The first order of business was to remove the anemic 305 cubic-inch small-block, and in its place, a 454ci big-block was reinstalled. Keith tells us, “I was looking to build a serious street/strip ride. I installed a set of skinny tires up front, and on my first drive with the new front tires, I turned the wheel and the car kept going straight. I almost went off a cliff! I said, ‘never again will I run skinny front tires’.”
After the accident, he was able to locate a ’79 Z28 on a used car lot. He yanked the small-block from the ’79, and installed the trusty 454ci big-block taken out of the ’81 Camaro. This second car had a factory-installed four speed and a 3.73-geared rearend, so they stayed in place. He also installed a set of South Side Machine lift bars, and a 3-inch exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. Keith continued, “I painted the car myself at the McChord AFB Auto Hobby shop. There was an old guy there who showed me the basics. I used cheap, enamel paint, because I didn’t know any better at the time. I really enjoyed the car, and even took it to the strip a couple of times.
Keith was transferred to other wild and exotic places over the next few years, but he never relinquished ownership of his Camaro. Part of the time it was stored at his parent’s house, and other times it traveled with him. When he finally retired from the Navy in 2013, Keith knew it was time to focus on building the car one more time. But this time, he had the space and resources to assemble a game plan, and disassembly was started in April 2014.
The body was disassembled, and any rust and dents that were present were eradicated. Keith is happy to tell us, “The paint is Summit Racing’s two-stage urethane in Bright Orange Metallic, with their Hot Rod Satin Clear and 5-percent gloss clear coat mixed in. I also added an Aztec Gold pearl additive into the clear. For the novice painter (like I still am), I would recommend a paint that is a little less complex. The use of satin clear with the pearl complicated matters.”
When it came to the suspension, Del-A-Lum lower control bushings and Summit tubular upper control arms work with Monroe shocks and the original factory springs, while a set of subframe connectors tie it all together. Keith also made one drastic deviation from stock in regards to the underside of the car. “I installed a set of solid aluminum body bushings that sit between the frame and body. I have them in a “wedged” configuration. This means that the radiator support bushings are nixed – the radiator support is sitting directly on frame. The other bushings step up slightly going towards the rear of the car.”
The inside features the factory look with new seat covers from National Parts Depot, and the dash cluster is Classic Dash’s Thunder Road series with Speedhut electrical gauges. “I prefer mechanical gauges, but could not find gauges made with black faces and bezels with an 8,000 rpm tachometer. The Speedhut gauges allowed me to customize the set the way I wanted, they are well thought out, and appear to be high quality. The speedometer is electrical also, not a GPS unit.”
The engine began life as a ’73 block that is bored .030-inch over. Inside are the stock crankshaft and connecting rods. Slamming the Speedpro Hypereutectic pistons up and down. The compression ratio comes in at a pump gas-friendly 10.5:1. Up top are a pair of stock oval-port heads with some minor porting work done by Keith. An Edelbrock RPM intake and a FiTech EFI system feeds the fire. Finally, a March serpentine conversion pulley set was mounted to the front of the engine.
A Hurst Driveline-sourced TKO 600 transmission connects to the factory 10-bolt rear with 3.73 gears spun by a Posi unit.
Keith finished by asking if we could keep a secret before he said, “I am in the process of building a new engine. This will be a 489ci big-block with aluminum oval-port heads. The plan is to have it ready to install in the spring.” No problem Keith, we can keep… oh… sorry.
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