57 Camaro


1957 Belair - Camaro Project

Welcome to the revised web site about my 1957 Camaro project.  With all the interest my project has attracted it was necessary to dedicate a site just to it.  If interested you can visit my other page to see some of my other projects.

When I started the original web pages for the project I was calling the car  a “Belaro” just as the manufacturer named the kit.  Since getting the car on the road and to many car shows I started to call it a 1957 Camaro and you will notice the name change as I update the pages but for now here is the story of how the project started.

While attending the 2009 Kit Car Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania I saw what is called a 57 Belaro.  It is a re-body kit for a 4th generation Chevy Camaro (1993 - 2002) that resembles a 1957 Chevy Belair and is sold by www.easyrods.com

The kit is available for both the coupe and convertible.  I have always liked the look of the 55 to 57 Chevys, especially the convertible.  Recently I have seen 1957 Chevy Belair convertibles selling at auction for over $80,000 and another in very good but not excellent condition at the Good Guys East Coast Nationals listed for sale for $60,000.   These cars are popular and the prices are still climbing.  I want to be able to drive the car, not keep it in a garage.  Would you take an $80,000 car to the grocery store?   

I spoke to Bob Hess from Easy Rods about the car he had on display, he explained the whole conversion process and showed various details on the car.  I thought about the kit during the 4 hour drive home, stopping once to read the flyer I had picked up.  Once home I spent a couple days researching 1993 - 2002 Camaros and visited www.easyrods.com several times.  I decided that if I was going to build a Belaro it had to be a convertible with a 5.7l V8 and six speed manual.  This perfectly describes a Z28 convertible.

Finding the Camaro

I searched various used car web sites, eBay, craigslist and the local want ads.  I found a couple cars pretty quickly but discovered the car I wanted was one of the most desirable models and was priced to match.  I found several 90‘s Z28 convertibles with asking prices of $8,000 or more.  I found a bunch under $5,000 but they had been torn apart by previous owners looking to race them.  (They pull the interior out and remove various other parts to lighten the car, making it faster.)  I didn’t need a perfect car since nearly every body panel would be either removed or covered but the frame had to be straight and the interior complete.  Strangely I found a 2000 and a 2001 3.8l V6 convertibles available for around $4,500 and did consider both.  The 3.8l V6 is a strong engine and would be a pleasure to drive.

I located a 1995 Chevy Camaro Z28 Convertible 5.7l V8, 6 Speed, power windows and locks on eBay.  It had some problems,  the top leaked and didn’t operate properly, the rear window leaked, the driver’s window was sluggish and didn’t seal right, the radio was missing, the paint on the hood and trunk lid was peeling and both the front and rear bumpers had crazed paint from being hit.  Prior to bidding on any of the cars I looked at I ran a report from www.carfax.com I found the car I was interested in was originally from California, then Washington state.  It then went to Kansas and finally to Pennsylvania.  Based on that I knew it was not exposed to the horrendous amounts of salt used in the Northeast for snow removal for much of its life.

I bid. I won.  Surprisingly, the price didn’t run up as high as I expected, I guess the various problems with the car had scared away the buyers.  I made arrangements with the seller to meet at a PA Title transfer agency to complete the sale and allow me to get temporary plates to drive it home.  Total cost with fees, taxes, registration, title and payment to the seller came to just over $3,000.

The photos below make the car look better than it actually was but it was is very good condition other than the earlier noted problems.  The drive home was a blast, this was my daughter’s first ride in a convertible and she loved it.

Checking over the Camaro

Once home the car was checked over and the various problems repaired.  The power convertible top was an easy fix, since 1995 the fluid had seeped out, likely caused by the fact it was removed from its mounting bracket by a previous owner to install a power amplifier.  Remounting it, filling the tank and bleeding the air out solved the problem.  Cost $1.88 for mineral oil and 20 minutes work.  The driver’s window was sluggish and rattled when down.  Pulling the interior door panel off allowed inspection.  The top guides were loose and someone replaced the power window motor but didn’t tighten it down properly.  The motor mounting bolts were loose which allowed the motor to shift and elongate the mounting holes.  This put the motor out of position causing it to bind and lift the window at an angle.  A couple new bolts and star washers to prevent slipping in the holes solved the problem.  Cost $0.50 and 1 hours work.  The rear window had been duct taped in such a way that the water was directed in to the car.  The top and window needs to be replaced but for now cleaning up everything and applying tape in the proper place solved the leak for now.  Installing a radio was very easily done by using a GM wiring adapter purchased along with the radio.  The new radio was in and operating in less than 30 minutes but revealed problems with the speakers.  Four new matching 6 3/4” speakers took just over an hour to install.

Once I was confident the car was in good shape I placed my order for the Belaro kit and would take care of the any other problems during the 4 weeks I had to wait for the kit to arrive.  After driving the car for a week a couple other problems revealed themselves.  The first was the low coolant light wouldn’t stay off.  I found that to be a common problem that is easy to fix but does no harm.  I decided to replace the sensor.
  A persistent oil puddle kept appearing under the car... The LT-1 engine has a couple places it tends to leak.  The valve covers were fine, the passenger side rear intake was dry and the oil pressure sender was good.  So much for the common places.  The oil pan was wet but didn’t appear to be the source. 
Oil was dripping from the bell housing and oil filter.  The filter was tight but the adapter between it and the engine was loose.  Whoever did the last oil change had loosened it when removing the filter.  Changing the oil and filter allowed tightening the mounting tube nut.  The oil from the bell housing was slight and could wait... or so I thought.

A quick run to the deli for lunch goes wrong...

My daughter and I took the Camaro out to see if the repairs we made were good and decided to get lunch.  As we pulled in to a parking space the engine shuttered and stalled.  I figured I must not have had the clutch in far enough.  Lunch was good but we couldn’t leave.  Starting the car resulted in loud grinding when the clutch was applied and I couldn’t get it in gear.  I shut it down and checked the clutch fluid level.  It was very low so I added more.  Now it wouldn’t turn over at all, just a loud clunk each time the key was turned.
  A quick tow home so the car could be put on jacks and checked over.  Removing the clutch slave cylinder revealed the end had blown out.  Looking at the bell housing showed the clutch fork was stuck all the way in and metal chips were present.  The clutch would have to come out.

To get at the clutch the transmission has to come out.  On a 4th generation Camaro there are many things that have to removed before even getting that far.  A bunch of electrical connectors, a body cross brace, the torque arm to the rear end, driveshaft, console, gearshift and the tranny fluid.  Having the factory manual on hand was a great help except the illustration that shows the transmission bolts to be removed shows 6... there are 8.  I wasted almost an hour thinking the damage to the clutch had somehow locked the tranny to the bell housing.  Nope, it was two invisible bolts located on top of the tranny.  They weren’t visible from underneath.  I could feel them and finally figured out I needed to tilt the tranny down and use a very long extension with a socket to get at them.  With the tranny out of the way the problem was obvious, the throwout bearing flang had failed. 
I have never seen that happen before and no one I talked to ever hear it happen.  Having invested 6 hours already I choose to have the flywheel turned and replace the rear main seal that was leaking slightly along with the clutch, pressure plate and pilot bearing.

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