Saturday, March 9, 2019

Finding a 1974 Camaro Z28 LT on the way to the Rose Bowl

Found in California while in town for Alabama vs UCLA football game in 2000.

Gold in California. Gerald Davis climbed aboard a plane to go watch football in California. He came home with a 1974 Camaro Z28 LT. Fate? Hardly. Davis had his sights set on southern California Camaros before he left Alabama. His target, the early second gen variety. The same cars that filled his high school parking lot. 

Reason to hunt
  Locating rust-free 1970-1974 Camaros, even in Alabama, is tough. Once you subtract the demolition derby remnants left by decades of anxious teens the challenge is severe. More so when you prefer budget-friendly finds like Davis.

Gold with black interior.
Climb in a 1974 Chevy Camaro Z28 Type LT 4-speed with light gold paint. 

Bible of cars
  Davis scanned the latest Hemmings Motor News ads with his final destination of Pasadena, California in mind. He would be staying with family in El Cajon, near San Diego, and any southern California Z28 would be within driving and car hunting range. As luck would have it a 1974 Z28 was listed for sale in Palmdale, a 30-minute drive north of Pasadena.

What game?
  Davis tackled the California Camaro opportunity head on after he landed in the golden state. Before he drove to Pasadena to watch Alabama face UCLA at the Rose Bowl Stadium he contacted the owner of the ’74 Camaro. The ad stated it was a true 1974 Z28. ’74 was the last year of the small back window second gen Camaro. And the last year before the Z28 took a two year hiatus. 
  In 1974 the Z28 package included a 350 V8 with 4-barrel, dual exhaust, sport suspension, Positraction rear axle (4-speed manual Z28s came with 3.73 rear gears), sport mirrors. Front and rear spoilers and hood and deck stripes were optional.

As had most of the front sheet metal after a front end collision.
The grill on the 1974 Camaro Z28 had been changed. As had most of the front sheet metal after a front end collision.

First look
  Uh oh! The Camaro was parked outside in the elements. Blowing desert sand had created a haze on the glass and the original Light Gold (53) paint was burned by the harsh sun. But those weren’t the first areas of concern for Davis.
  “When I first saw the nose, I thought that’s not a Z-28,” Davis said. “It had the wrong grill and header panel.”
  For 1974 the Z28 came with a blacked out grill that featured the red, white and blue Camaro emblem in the center. This Camaro has a silver grill and the emblem is centered on the header panel. Something was amiss.
  “The second owner (in Palmdale) told me the car had been involved in a front end collision.” 
  As luck would have it, junkyard parts from a Light Gold ’74 Camaro were found. The crunched black grill, header panel, and hood featuring the optional Z28 stripes were replaced with base model parts by the previous owner.

Z28 stripes were optional across hood and rear deck lid. No stripes on hood since it had been replaced.

Deal is done
  A four-speed and hot rod rumble made the decision easy. The stack of receipts, an L.A. Southwest College sticker on the bumper along with California plates confirmed the history of the Camaro. It was rust-free (compared to what we see in the southeast U.S.) and would be coming back to Alabama a few weeks later on a car hauler. 

Dual snorkel air cleaner with chrome lid was standard on 1974 Z28s. 

  1974 was the last year of the Z28 built without a catalytic converter and it did not go quietly. It went out with a bang. Davis’ Camaro had around 100k miles when he bought it in 2000. Now at 117k (in 2019) and still packing a punch when he nails the go pedal on the gold beast. Here’s what’s powering his stock Z28.

  • Engine: 350-V8 rated at 245 hp
  • Transmission: Muncie 4-speed
  • Factory hot rod parts: 4-bolt main caps. Forged steel crankshaft, heat-treated and shot-peened connecting rods, impact extruded aluminum pistons. Screw in studs. Big valve cylinder heads (2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust), 76cc combustion chambers with high-speed valve train. Oil pan windage tray and high-speed crankshaft damper. Dual snorkel air cleaner.

Light gold (code 53) paint is almost a perfect match on the replacement front end body panels on the ’74 Z28.

Type LT
  Camaro-speak for "Luxury Touring." Consider the Type LT the Lexus of 1974 Camaros. More insulation, more sound deadener, the lighting group, cushier seats, better stereo system and ribbed cloth on the door panels with map pockets. This gold Z28 has the "Type LT" emblems along with proof in the cushy inserts on the door panels. This was no cheapo Camaro with a 4-gear. 

Type LT emblems featured on the sail panel.
Type LT emblems featured on the sail panel and right rear next to tail light.

Lost the game but…
  Alabama, ranked #3 to start the 2000 college football season, fell to UCLA 24-35. The game, tickets and plane ride are a distant memory for Davis – much like the money spent on them. But all was not lost on that trip to California. The Z28, with Davis behind the wheel, still roams the streets of Alabama when he gets the urge to relive the glory days.
  Money well spent.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Steel 15x7 five-spoke Rally wheels were made to accommodate specific thin trim rings. The wheels resembled Torq-Thrust mags.

Davis keeps his trim rings tucked away for fear of losing one on a bumpy road or sharp curve. He snapped one in place for a photo.

Surround panel for gauge cluster was pulled out during repair work. Note the "TYPE LT" horn button on steering wheel.

HEI distributors were installed after January.
Points type distributor was available through January 1974 on Camaros. The HEI air cleaner base will have a noticeable indention at rear.

L82 engines in 1974 Camaros received the finned aluminum valve covers with Corvette cross flags.

1974 Camaros were once scorned but are now earning respect for their place in muscle car history.

In 1974 the dual snorkel on L82 engines was smaller than previous years.

1974 Camaro advertisement: "Hidden windshield wipers tuck down for an uninterrupted body flow." Not sure if that was enough to offset the "Improved bumper system."

A 130-mph speedo and 6-grand tach in the 1974 Z28 gauge cluster.

Front view of replaced grill and header panel on 1974 Z28. 

The aluminum bumpers are stout with heavy steel inner support structure that help meet the new for 1974 5-mph bumper guidelines.

Side view of 1974 Camaro Z28 without rear or front spoilers.

Shifter that stirs gears in the Z28's 4-speed Muncie transmission.

Smog pump on 1974 Camaro Z28 350-V8. Even the clamps are date coded.

Most people ditched these smog pump systems when making performance mods trying to compete with higher compression foes.

Type LT emblem on tail panel.

Spotted in the wild, this 1974 Camaro Z28 was found parked at the local hamburger stand.

Camaro's gas tank straps look rust-free as do the sway bar and rest of underside.

Decoding VIN on a 1974 Z28 LT. 2nd digit "S" for LT, 5th digit "T" for Z28 350-V8 (L82).

1974 Camaro Z28 survivor of sorts from California to Alabama.

L.A. Southwest College bumper sticker remains from California days.

Ribbed cloth on door panel inserts were part of Type LT package.

Small back window made final appearance on second generation Camaro and Firebird in 1974.

California license plate stashed in back seat parts collection.

Unusual seat adjuster next to console on 1974 Camaro Z28 Type LT.

Driver door sticker looks original with no signs of respray.

Always a treat to see how good the paint looks under the trunk lid. Imagine if this Z28 had been kept in a garage all its life?

Look ma! No spoiler. The look is distinctive on a Z28. 

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at

Stay tuned and be sure to CHECK OUT JUNKYARD LIFE ON YOUTUBE.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Barn Find: 1970 Boss Mustang with a Holman Moody 427

Jack Sprague found his Ford dream car via a friend who told him about a guy selling parts. Always follow your leads, no matter how small.

Shake the world. Millions of Mustang fans dream of telling a story like Joe Sprague. Unbelievable Mustang mojo landed him this barn find Boss Mustang, with what appears to be a Holman Moody 427. Get this - he almost passed up his chance to own a muscle car icon.   

  Michigan’s Joe Sprague, 38, runs a small Mustang parts business as a hobby. Last summer a long-time friend of the family called his parents and told them that he knew of someone getting rid of some old Mustang parts. Knowing that Sprague dealt in parts he wanted to pass along the contact info. They gave him the go ahead. His parents told Sprague about it but at first he wasn’t that interested. 
  “I deal mostly in 1979 and newer Mustangs,” said Sprague. “Plus, I figured it was some run-of-the-mill 1965-1966 coupe stuff, not that there is anything wrong with those, I love them too. I didn’t follow up.”

Previous owner bought the Boss in 1973, drove and raced until 1980 then left in storage until 2018.
Previous owner bought the Boss in 1973, drove and raced until 1980 then left it parked in storage until 2018.

New ride
  Sprague was driving his stock ‘04 Mach 1 with 19k miles to work last summer when the Boss bug bit him. “I loved the Mach 1 because of the shaker hood and it was just a neat car,” said Sprague. “But the feeling hit me that I wanted something different. I knew a dealer that wanted my car so I placed the call, sold it, and got on the hunt for a replacement.”
  A 2012-2013 Boss 302s was his target car but he couldn’t justify the cost for a vehicle that was only going to be driven a few months out of the year. 
  “I ended up buying a 2013 Mustang GT with the Track Pack option – a budget Boss. At the time I thought how cool would it be to have an original Boss with the shaker hood!”

Flash forward
  A week after Sprague bought the 2013 GT the long-time family friend finally caught up with him about the old Mustang parts collection and stunned him with some news. 
  “I was actually traveling for work and I remember him saying, ‘Well, I looked at that car and it’s a 1970 Boss 302.’ I was like, wait, what? He told me the car didn’t have the original motor but some sort of big block in it.” 
  Because of Sprague’s recent interest in Boss Mustang models he knew that any 1970 Boss had value. 
  “I called him right away.”

Designer Larry Shinoda was responsible for the stripe package and the many visual cues of the "Boss" package, also the name may have originated when Shinoda was asked about the development of the car. "I'm working on the boss's car." He and his boss, "Bunkie" Knudsen, moved from GM to Ford in 1968.
Sport slats and rear wing adorn the back of the 1970 Boss Mustang. Designer Larry Shinoda was responsible for the stripe package and the many visual cues of the "Boss" package, also the name may have originated when Shinoda was asked about the development of the car. "I'm working on the boss's car." He and his boss, "Bunkie" Knudsen, moved from GM to Ford in 1968.

Finding a Boss during the gas crunch
  In 1973, a man by the name of Dale, a devout Ford fan, was at work when a friend stopped by and told him there was something on the used car lot at Camps Cars that he would want. Camps Cars was a VW dealer in Midland, Michigan (a town about 35 minutes from where Sprague now lives). Dale drove to the car lot and found a completely stock 1970 Boss 302. The friend knew Dale better than he knew himself because he was right! It was something that he wanted! 
   Gas prices were going up and muscle car prices were bottoming out in late 1973 with gas shortages due to the oil embargo. This was good news for a guy wanting a 1970 Boss Mustang in 1973. And a VW dealership’s used car lot was a good place to pick up a deal. 

Shaker scoop is menacing as it sits atop the air cleaner.
Notice the shaker top is just sitting on the oval lid of the intake. A 427 engine sits in the engine bay replacing the original G code 302-V8.

Racing in the streets
  Dale bought the car and started street racing it. In stock form the Boss did well. Around the same time that Dale bought the yellow Boss a friend of his acquired a 1967 Shelby from California. The Shelby was powered by an aluminum head 427. Per Dale the engine was built by Holman Moody. Although it’s hard to verify this, the engine does have the aluminum Holman Moody water pump. Dale always wanted a 427, and since that was not the original engine to the Shelby, Dale and his friend swapped engines. Out came the G code 302 and in went the 427 (side note: the original Boss drivetrain was ultimately destroyed in a garage fire).
  With the new engine (plus 4.30 gears swapped in the back), the Boss instantly became a street racing hero. Dale never took it to the track, but he did beat a well known Chevelle that was a drag strip regular. That Chevelle was very quick and was a consistent 12.5-second car in the quarter-mile. 

Boss keeper
  For 45 years Dale held onto the Boss. The car was driven up until about 1980 and then parked. Dale, a devout Ford fan, was the type of guy that didn’t get rid of things. 
  “I was the guy that people would bring stuff into work to see if I wanted it,” said Dale. ‘Just put it on my tool box,’ he would say. “I would take it home and keep it.’” 
  Dale, and his wife, ready to downsize and move to a retirement property in Northern Michigan, decided to sell the Boss in 2018. Among other things that needed to be attended to before the move could be made was getting Dale’s 1993 Cobra (bought new) back on the road. Dale took it to a mechanic and happened to mention that he was selling his stuff. That mechanic told Sprague’s family friend about it. Small world.

What could be better than hauling a Boss barn find home? This ’70 Boss sat for 38 years before coming out of hibernation.

Contacting the owner
  “The first time I talked to Dale I asked him what he wanted for the car and he joked that he didn’t know, but that he didn’t pay that much for it (in 1973 dollars!!),” said Sprague. “I told him the car was a valuable car and I asked him why no one else had tried to buy it from him.”
  Through the years there was one person that Dale always thought would end up with the Boss, but sadly that gentleman died from a heart attack in 2017.
  “I made Dale an all in offer, meaning I gave him the best offer I could,” Sprague said. “I didn’t try to haggle or low ball him and I got the car.”

  As far as Boss 302s go, this car wasn’t highly optioned, but it did come with the three most popular Boss options. The spoiler, the window slats, and the shaker. Sprague ordered a Marti report to confirm vehicle details. The car was sold new at Bill Grimes Ford of Midland, Michigan. Dale was the second owner. Sprague is now the third owner and keeps the ’70 Boss in storage until he can find time to restore it or possibly put it back on the road as it is. Either way the 427 will remain as the power plant. Sprague would love to know what the engine came out of as factory aluminum heads were not common (GT40 and the 427 Cobra being the only two that he is aware of).

  • 89,000 miles on odometer
  • 4-speed manual transmission
  • Yellow was the most popular Boss color in 1970.
  • 427 engine (not original, G code 302 removed) possibly a Holman Moody
  • 7,013 Boss 302s produced in 1970 model year

Lesson learned
  Always follow your leads, no matter how small or uninteresting you think they may be. Joe Sprague got lucky with this 1970 Boss, next time maybe you will too!

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at

Stay tuned and be sure to CHECK OUT JUNKYARD LIFE ON YOUTUBE.