This ’78 Z/28 was built on minimum wage and no candy bars!
Story and photography by Chris Gibbany, Harrison, AR
Ever since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with cars– mainly Camaros and Corvettes. I collected them in Hot Wheels and Mattel versions, I built models of them, and I dreamed of one day owning a Camaro.
When I was a kid we were offered a candy bar a day or the money equivalent. I always took the money, my brother always took the candy bar! I had a savings account as a young kid. I sold aluminum cans and took care of all of my clothes and toys so that when I got tired of them I could sell them at a yard sale. I put all of this money into my savings.
I went to college on scholarships and also worked full time. After my tuition and books were paid for, I stashed all of my extra money into my savings account.
I paid cash for my first car– a black ’78 Camaro LT, in 1992. The very next year I bought my ’78 Z/28. I was working at the local Ramada Inn, cleaning rooms, when I had found it in the classifieds section. I asked the owner if he would hold it for me until I got off work that day, and all day at the motel I was calling them to make sure they still had it. The car was 2 hours away and luckily they did– and my friend and I took my black Camaro down to get it.
It was pretty rough to say the least. The interior was trashed but it had a brand new paint job on it. I would later learn when I went to wash it that the rag would turn blue! The car also had big old truck tires on it. I bought it for $1800 cash, mainly because I wanted another ’78 and I liked the color. I made my friend drive it because it would only run about 35 with those tires on it. To this day she still remembers that!
After I got it home I made a two-page list of what it needed. After getting new tires on it and a new interior put in, I drove the car to college when I was not driving the other ’78. I was the only person who owned 2 Camaros while I was in college. I also got them published in “All Chevy” magazine in 1993. That was a total shock when I went into the local Harps, picked up the mag, and my cars were in there!
In the past 20 plus years, my Z has seen a lot of changes. The majority of the work did not come until I married my husband Gabe 11 years ago. When I met him I told him I only cared about cars and bikes and he was happy with that. I told him what I wanted in the car and we proceeded to making it happen.
I had been drag racing the Z for years when it had a 327 in it but it wasn’t fast enough. We decided to put a 383 in it, which I did all of the assembly work on. We added Dart 230 aluminum heads (that was a huge goal of mine), a Victor Jr. intake, 850 Demon carb, MSD pro billet distributor with 6AL and Hooker Comp headers. The motor has 11.5:1 compression, a 306 flat tappet Competition cam and 1:6 full roller rockers. It uses a Scat crank, flowing through 3″ exhaust with 2 chamber Flowmasters.
On the rear is Lakewood lift bars, sub-frame connectors, a 8.5 10-bolt with spool and 4.10 Richmond gears. It also sports 4 wheel disc brakes, since pushing 500 hp @ 6300 rpm requires a good braking system!
In 2005 I went to work at a local body shop. Before working there I had been sanding and preparing my car for paint. We were going to spray it, but in the end I paid them to paint it the original color. At the same time, my husband and I started a local club– the North Arkansas Camaro Club. We wanted to be able to get everyone together who loved Camaros. I applied and became the Arkansas State Rep for the Camaro Club through Eckler’s. While we were leading the Camaro Club, we took the members to the dyno and put on several events including burnout contests, which I came in 5th the year I entered. I only came in 5th because I had a manual fuel pump and it couldn’t keep up. I literally ran out of gas!
I continued to race the car for a few more years but it really just got too expensive. I drive it occasionally but since I only go to town (12 miles away) once a month, I usually use my other car– a 1981 Corvette (which we also built ourselves).
On a side note, we both ride vintage Harleys. Gabe is an ASE certified master mechanic. I am learning to weld and pinstripe. I have done a lot of the work on my ’78 and with his help, we have made it into the car I’ve always wanted. The only thing I have planned for the future of my ’78 is to drive it more and get it in Chevy Classics!
I call my Z Mean Streak because I am a huge AC/DC fan. Mean Streak is an awesome song and let’s face it, with almost 500 horsepower it does have a Mean Streak!
I would like to thank Valley Springs Quarry for letting me photograph my car there. They provide an awesome background!
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