Family Memento 1980 Camaro Z28

Alex Deck’s 1980 Camaro Z28

By John Machaqueiro – Photography by the Author

When it comes to holding onto memories, we all go about it in different ways. For some folks the memories alone are self-sustaining while others rely on inanimate objects to help preserve them. Those objects can come in all forms. For Alex Deck, some of his fondest memories are preserved

in the form of a 1980 Camaro Z28. It is a tangible link to his youth and the memory of his father Michael, who died in 2015.

The Z was purchased new as a daily driver by the elder Deck and was given a plethora of ’80s bolt-on performance upgrades early on. Having been exposed to the car as a youngster, Alex recalls, “When I was a kid I couldn’t say Camaro, so it was always the blue car, and I would say that I wanted the blue car when I got older.” By the time he was old enough to get the blue car, it had an expired 350 and had suffered a Dark Blue metallic respray from Maaco. “When I was a senior in high school I put a crate engine in it from Year One,” he notes. That transplant allowed him to have a fully functional weekend cruiser during his senior year.

The one thing that Alex was never comfortable with while at the wheel of the Camaro was how it stopped. “Driving it around I realized that the drum brakes at the rear weren’t going to cut it,” He explains. “I spoke to the guys at Bent Metal Customs (BMC) and told them that I wanted some discs and maybe some wheels.” The crew at BMC dipped into their supplier’s parts catalogs and set the Z on the tarmac with some Forgeline wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin rubber along with some Baer six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors. As is often the case when having custom work done on a car, you go in for one thing and everything else just snowballs around it. Rolling and stopping needed a proper suspension to be fully appreciated. Another dive into the catalogs yielded some Detroit Speed suspension hardware and JRi springs and shocks.

The snowball kept rolling and the focus shifted toward a horsepower bump underhood. Alex notes, “Some of the engine conversation revolved around getting about 600 horses under the hood.” At that point he crossed over into blasphemous territory. “I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before,” he explains. “I wanted to drop a 2JZ engine in the Camaro. It would have made a few people mad having an old muscle car with a Japanese six-cylinder engine, but then I decided on an LS2.” For that piece of the expanding puzzle BMC dialed up Mast Motorsports and ordered one of their LS2 mills capped off with some Black Label LS3 heads, Cam Motion custom ground cam, and a TREMEC T56 six-speed from Bowler Transmissions. There was still some cash left in the budget, so things got kicked up another notch with the addition of a ProCharger blower.

While all the attention was given under the hood, the interior was, for the most part, left as it rolled off the assembly line in 1980, with only the addition of some Dakota Digital gauges, a Bowler Transmissions billet shifter, and a custom shift knob dedicated to his father. On the outside, it still wears that Maaco paintjob along with all the scars of regular use. That aspect was particularly important for Alex. He points out, “I remember it as the blue car. I didn’t want to lose the sentimental value of it. It’s the same car that I rode in as a kid, drove as a teenager, and now drive today. It feels like a new Camaro. Sitting in it now is the same as sitting in it when I was 5, which is why the interior wasn’t redone. It’s just a spruced-up version of what I remember, but a little faster and safer for the road.

Tech Check

Owner: Alex DeckVehicle: 1980 Chevy Camaro Z28

EngineType: GM LS2Displacement: 402 ciCompression Ratio: 9.5:1Bore: 4.005Stroke: 3.75Cylinder Heads: Mast Motorsports Black Label LS3 255Rotating Assembly: Callies crank, CP-Carrillo pistons, Mast rodsCamshaft: Cam MotionInduction: GM LS3Power Adder: ProCharger F-1AIgnition: Holley DominatorCooling: Ron Davis Racing aluminum radiatorExhaust: Ultimate headers, custom 3-inch stainless pipes, Borla XR-1 mufflersBuilt By: Mast Motorsports

Horsepower (at wheels) 698 hp

DrivetrainTransmission: TREMEC T56 Super Magnum six-speed by Bowler TransmissionsClutch disc: McLeod RXT Twin Disc 1,000hp ceramic clutch, McLeod pressure plate, Quick Time bellhousing, Associated driveshaftRear Axle: Moser 12-bolt with 3.73 Truetrac posi assembled by Moser Engineering

ChassisFront Suspension: Corvette C6 spindles, Detroit Speed tubular A-arms, Detroit Speed sway bar, JRi springs, JRi adjustable shocks, C6 Corvette spindlesRear Suspension: JRi springs, JRi adjustable shocks, Detroit Speed mini-tubs, Detroit Speed QUADRALink, subframe connectorsBrakes: Baer 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers front and rear

Wheels & TiresWheels: Forgeline Concave Series VX3C, 18×10.5 front, 19×12 rearTires: Michelin Pilot Sport 275/35ZR18 front, Michelin Pilot Sport 325/30ZR19 rear

InteriorSeats: Stock GMUpholstery: Stock GMGauges: Dakota DigitalSteering Wheel: Forever Sharp 14-inch Black Muscle with mahogany ringCarpet: StockShifter: Billet Industrial by Bowler Transmissions, custom tribute knob by Kool Knobs

ExteriorPaint: Maaco Metallic BlueHood: Stock GM Z28Grille: Stock