On the first day the front end was struck by a careless driver, on the second it was given a salvage title and purchased by a new owner, on the third it was meticulously restored, and on the fourth day it rose again. This is the story of Cliff Corwith's 1998 Camaro SS.
Cliff is all about second chances having already restored three Third-Gen Z28s and four Fourth-Gens, prior to his current '98 SS, under similar circumstances. In fact, doing so can prove to be quite profitable if, like Cliff, you have the know-how and means to do your own bodywork. The Sag Harbor, Long Island native had a leg up on most growing up around his father's shop, Corwith's Autobody, where he has worked for the past 15 years. So when the SS was towed to his shop in March 2001, Cliff looked beyond the missing front bumper and headlights, crumpled fenders and bumper supports, smashed windshield and hood. All he could see was potential, and the opportunity to try out DuPont's new Chromalusion color-changing paint.
"The car came in to be fixed, but it wound up being totaled by the insurance company. It belonged to a friend of the family who was super meticulous, so I knew the whole history. It only had 27,000 miles on it and was in perfect condition before the accident. I knew it would be a good project and I was just itching to spray something with that new Chromalusion paint," said Cliff.
The majority of the black paint was in perfect condition and required little prep work. However, since the entire front end would need to be replaced with fresh sheet metal (or should I say plastic), it would need two layers of black basecoat. On top of this basecoat was laid three coats of gray to form SS style stripes leading from the front bumper cover to the rear. After the five coats of Blue Steel Chromalusion and two coats of Spies Hecker clearcoat, not only did Cliff achieve a color-changing effect but subtle ghost stripes as well for something truly unique.
"On the first coat it gets kind of scary because it comes out all blotchy, but I just kept spraying until it was smooth, even, and had the depth I wanted. The prismatic paint is transparent, so it uses the black basecoat as a ground except on the ghost stripes where gray is the ground. I made sure to spray as even as possible, even doing all of the door jams, firewall, and edges after taking the car completely apart."
The finishing touch was progressive wet sanding starting with a 1500-grit 3M paper then going to 2000 and 2500 before polishing to a smooth, clear finish. Cliff also took the liberty of removing the antenna and keyholes beforehand, filling them in along with the Camaro letters engraved in the paneling in between the taillights to give a smooth look to the overall appearance. He also smoked out the taillights and side markers using a mixture of single stage black paint and clearcoat.
Since the entire process would require removal of the motor, it was as good a time as any to swap out the stock heads and cam for TPIS hi-po versions. The Stage II ported heads retain pretty much stock valve sizes, but with titanium retainers and increased flow in the intake and exhaust ports. Meanwhile the ZL11 cam uses a more aggressive 215/220-degree duration and 0.559/0.557-inch lift. Jay Poremba did all of the wrenching at his nearby shop in Southampton, Poremba's Auto. A BBK 80mm throttle body, SLP smooth bellows, Granatelli Motorsports 78mm MAF and airlid were also added to complement the new heads and cam. As the newly refreshed motor was returned to its rightful place it was met with a set of TPIS 1.75-inch long-tube headers and Y-pipe with a Flowmaster American Thunder 3-inch catback. TPIS reprogramming was required to tune in the new cam and more efficient motor.
Sticky tires with even the stock LS1 have been known to tear the wimpy 10-bolt apart, so Cliff invested in a Moser 12-bolt with a set of 4.10 gears. Traction is supplied by BFG Drag Radials and helped along by an RK Sport Torque Arm, SLP panhard bar and lower control arms. SLP weld-in subframe connectors and a Hotchkis strut tower brace help keep the refurbished chassis rigid. Baer Eradispeed rotors and pads help keep Cliff in control.
With the closing of Long Island Dragway, one of the few times he goes to the track anymore is at the SLP Customer Appreciation Day where we caught up with him. His best time to date is 12.4 at 113mph, but the improvements in power and handling are also what makes it such a fun car to drive on the road. He also doesn't mind the positive reactions he gets on the street from the wild paintjob. "Little kids (especially) can't believe they are seeing a car change colors as it passes them." It just goes to show, you should never give up on an F-body.
Careful attention was paid...
Careful attention was paid so that the engine bay, firewall and every crevice on Cliff's SS was as attractive as its mystifying exterior.
The interior is kept almost...
The interior is kept almost entirely stock except for the Katzkin medium gray leather covering the seats and door panels. Heaters were also added in the front seats.
Replica Alloys Chrome Z06...
Replica Alloys Chrome Z06 wheels measure 18x9.5 up front and 18x10.5 out back, revealing the cross-drilled and slotted Eradispeed rotors.
From angle to angle it hardly...
From angle to angle it hardly looks like the same car. DuPont says the Chromalusion paint "can be thought of as a metallic flake sandwiched between two pearls," and that the pigment actually has no color of its own. Color is created as you look at it by refracting or bending light. This paint also requires a special "Activator" (also made by DuPont) like Michael Jackson's old jerry curl.
DuPont Chromapremier 99K Black...
DuPont Chromapremier 99K Black base coat was applied over the entire front end, then the Chromapremier Gray was painted over top to create ghost stripes.
That hurts just to look at;...
That hurts just to look at; the hard hit to the nose damaged the dash and caused the airbags to deploy. In addition to these items the radiator and A/C condenser, radiator support, right frame rail, right inner structure of the fender and wheelhouse had to be replaced with the new GM parts.
| DATA FILE: 1998 Camaro SS|
|Owner: Cliff Corwith|
|Block:||1998 LS1, 346 cubic inches|
|Heads:||LS1, ported and polished by TPIS, 2.00-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust valves|
|Cam:||TPIS 215/220-degree duration at 0.050, 0.559/0.557-inch lift, 112 LSA|
|Rocker arms:||Stock, 1.7 ratio|
|Crankshaft:||Stock nodular cast-iron|
|Rods:||Stock powdered metal|
|Throttle body:||BBK 78mm|
|Fuel injectors:||Stock, 28 lb/hr|
|Ignition:||Stock, coil on plug|
|Engine management:||Stock, tuned by TPIS|
|Exhaust system:||TPIS 1.75-inch long tube headers, Y-pipe and Flowmaster American Thunder 3-inch catback|
|CLUTCH:||McLeod dual disc clutch, pressure plate and iron flywheel, Hurst shifter|
|Rear suspension:||SLP lower control arms and panhard bar, RK Sport torque arm|
|Rear end:||Moser 12-bolt, 4.10 gears, 30-spline axles, posi|
|Brakes:||Baer Eradispeed vented, cross-drilled rotors|
|Wheels:||Replica Z06 18x9.5 front, 18x10.5 rear|
|Front tires:||Dunlop SP Sport FM901 265/35R18|
|Rear tires:||BFG G-Force Drag Radial 295/35R18|
|Race weight:||3,400 pounds|
|Best ET/mph:||12.4 at 113 mph|
|Best 60-ft. time:||N/A|
|Miles driven weekly:||60|