Welcome to Retroman40's World!

Project RS92

Author's Note - I abandoned this project in December 2015.  The vehicle was on the verge of becoming a serious money pit.  I never did spend a lot on it (other than for some new tires and even that wasn't too much).  Anyone interested in doing some work on a 3rd generation Camaro might find this interesting though.

Welcome Project RS92 - This is a record of my (perhaps misguided) effort to take a somewhat neglected and rundown 1992 Camaro RS and turn it back into a reliable and fun vehicle to drive.  If you've gotten here via the ProjectRS92 web address I welcome you to Retroman40's World and hope you'll check out the rest of my site.  You can access the main page to learn a little more about me and my world by clicking on HOME above right.  You can also check out my other vehicle projects using the navigation buttons above.

While this site documents my experience with a 1992 Camaro RS, the general ideas can be extended to just about any older (20+ years) car that you might be considering as a restoration project.

The photos below were taken right after I acquired the vehicle.

ProjectRS92 1992 Camaro "Blog" – Updated 12/31/2015
Current Mileage - 197,600


 


Update (November 1, 2014) -
I really didn't do a lot with the car this in 2013 and frankly haven't done too much in 2014.  Of course, with what I have done the car is in decent enough condition that I trust driving it around the county. I guess that's the great thing about this project; I am in no particular hurry to get it done.  I put new tires on the car in August.  It sure is nice driving around not being worried about a blowout or other tire failure   As of this update I plan to do some suspension work by modifying the existing pieces (not buying high dollar after-market stuff) also as well as perhaps working a little on the interior.  Until I am quite sure the car will be around a while I am putting off getting the passenger side door fixed.

My Objective - Project RS92

I've always thought before you start on any journey you should know where you are going.  If you don't know where you're going then any road will do. 

The objective is to take a somewhat rundown and generally neglected 1992 Camaro RS (pictured above) with just a tick over 195,000 miles and see if it can be brought back to life for a reasonable cost (my definition of "reasonable may be different than other people's but that's a subject for another time!).  Of course along the way the true objective is to have a little fun and maybe even learn a little more about the vehicle. One might ask what exactly does “back to life” mean?  This is not a "restoration" project.  A 1992 Camaro RS is a long way from being a "classic" vehicle worthy of some total frame off restoration.  What it means to me is that I have a safe, reliable vehicle that performs as it did when new (or perhaps even a little better ;-).

I need to add a key requirement for the project - The car will remain a street car.  The car must remain both street legal and "streetable". This is not a chop it up job. Yes, it should be no secret to anyone who knows me that I can't look at a car like a Camaro RS without thinking "Race Car". For the record, I have enough imagination to see "race car" in a minivan (in fact, I knew a guy who somehow wedged a LT-1 engine into a Chevy Astro Minivan and actually raced it).  And yes, while I do want the car to be a better performer, I do not - repeat - do not - intend to turn it into a purpose built race car.  You can get into endless discussions about what constitutes a "street car".  I really don't want to debate anyone, but here is my definition of "street legal" and "streetable" (I know they are not exactly interchangable but for the purpose of this project they are one in the same):

First, the car must run on pump gasoline (not racing fuel - and not even premium - 87 octane) that I can buy at my local C-Store.  Second, the car must run through both a catalytic converter and mufflers - it should not, can that can not, be loud enough to rattle my neighbors windows (or their nerves) or attract the interest of local law enforcement (I'm too old for that!).  I don't know how many people have told me to get rid of the catylitic converter in the interest of gaining a couple horsepower.  Well, there's a good reason to retain it - IT'S ILLEGAL TO REMOVE IT!  You can check out my thoughts on emissions and inspections here.   I seriously doubt I could convince anyone that "I didn't know".  Third, it must be able to haul me around like a street car should.  That means that it retains a full radiator/fan, an alternator, wipers, functioning lights, horn, etc.  I shouldn't have to worry about overheating if I get stuck in traffic.  The car must retain "creature comforts" such as the heater and A/C as well as a sound system.  It must start using a key in the ignition. I won't be changing the factory lines (I will pound out some dents!).  Any engine modifications will have to fit under the factory hood (not some hideous cowl hood that I can't even see around) and the car must maintain a smooth idle and not rattle at stop lights.  It also means that it will run on real street tires (not DOT approved race tires) that fit in the factory wheel wells (not tubs).  The real bottom line is that if we had state inspections, this car would pass (without "knowing" someone at the inspection station - not that something like that ever happens lol).

Last but not least - The vehicle must remain operable during the project.  That means that it won't be spending weeks/months on jackstands.  That means that when I start something, I better be ready to finish it!  That doesn't mean there won't be periods where the car is undergoing some modification and can't be used; what it does mean is those periods will be measured in hours (or perhaps a couple of days), not months!

The bottom line is that I want this to be a nice car that is fun to drive and that I actually can drive and enjoy. That's not saying that if I do take it to the track just to see how it performs that I won't put it in my trailer - afterall, racing is a lot more fun when you can get out of the weather and don't have to worry if you break something.

I have broken the project down into several stages:

Stage I -     Getting Started
Stage II -    The Initial Tune Up
Stage III -   Getting The Vehicle Roadworthy
Stage IV -   Performance Improvements Phase 1 - These are "necessary" to meet the objective of the project
Stage V -    Performance Improvements Phase 2 - All optional jobs that in my mind enhance the vehicle
Stage X -    The Future (any beyond, or should I say "to infinity and beyond!")

You can look at each stage using the buttons above or clicking on the title.  I have also included a section on the "surprises" that have come up from time to time and how they were dealt with.  I should note that while the first four stages are essentially complete, Stage V will never really be complete and as far as Stage X - well, who knows what the future may hold, right?

Introduction (and a bit of a disclaimer)

Due to some fortuitous circumstances that really aren't germane to the project, I came into possession of a 1992 Camaro RS for 700 dollars.  Furthermore, because of the way the car was acquired, the car was purchased somewhat sight unseen.  Just as an aside, unless you are pretty confident in your repair skills (or really want to do some hands on learning), I wouldn’t recommend this as there are some serious risks in acquiring a vehicle in this manner.  Of course, when paying less than a grand for a vehicle, you need to expect to find (a lot of) little issues (and perhaps even some bigger “challenges”) along the way.  In my way of thinking, working through these little problems is a big part of the adventure.  I decided to keep a blog style summary of what was done along the way so I hope the reader will enjoy and maybe think about taking a crack at a project like this.  While it may seem overwhelming, I honestly believe that just about anyone with the interest can be successful at this type of project.  When I got into drag racing in the 90's, the most difficult vehicle servicing job I had ever accomplished was changing spark plugs.  Now I consider changing an engine to be a "routine" type job.  It just takes patience, persistance and willpower to get it done.

Before You Dive In

This is a really run thing to think about doing, but before going any further, you need to evaluate a couple things.  The first is your level of knowledge as far as the car you are considering.  I have over 17 years experience working on Chevrolet racing vehicles.  I previously converted a 1985 Camaro into a drag race only vehicle.  I already understand how the major systems work on a third generation (1982-1992) Camaro.  I have also built three other race cars, two of the essentially from scratch converting a street car to a race car (including installing full roll cages for both drag racing and circle track racing).  I have successfully rebuilt a number of engines including 4.3 liter V-6s and 305/355/388/406 V-8s.  Of course, we all have to start somewhere and getting a project car is the ultimate hands on experience.  Even if you end up spending a couple grand and scrapping the project, the amount of practical learning will far exceed the few bucks you might have spent.  Let’s face it, you can drop three grand or even more on a one week vacation and not even have a good time.  Don't forget however that while working on a car can be extremely frustrating, solving those little (and perhaps not so little) issues that come along is also deeply satisfying.

The second thing to think about is do you have the necessary infrastructure to undertake such a project.  I would not recommend undertaking a project like this unless you have a fairly complete tool set as well as a good place (like a garage or at a minimum a covered carport) to work.  At a minimum you need to have:

            A good floor jack and at least two good jack stands (four is better - ramps are ok, but it's hard to work on the suspension with ramps);
            An impact wrench, sockets and air compressor (you can never have enough air tools);
            A complete set of wrenches/sockets both standard and metric;
            A breaker bar (plan on a lot of stuck bolts!);
            Allen wrenches;
            A set of GM style “Torx” heads (if working on a GM vehicle);
            General maintenance equipment (oil catch pan, funnels);
            A decent selection of standard tools (screwdrivers, etc);
            Work lights;
            Brake bleeding equipment;
            Some kind of service manual - I highly recommend AllDataDIY that is available at Auto Zone or on the internet.  It is very specific to the model you have.

If you don’t have all this stuff already, plan on making a lot of trips to the hardware store (and spending a lot of money in the process - I would conservatively estimate that to really set up a garage with just the basics you're into four figures and the first figure is at least a 2) to get tools or making a pain of yourself with your neighbors who might already have these tools.  I would especially recommend having the air compressor and impact wrench as it takes a lot of torque to loosen some bolts on older vehicles (a breaker bar is fine but sometimes you just can't get to what you need to with a long bar).  Besides, like I said earlier, you can never have too many air tools.  I remember some time ago I worked briefly for a guy who thought he was pretty smart.  I did too until he started dissing air tools.  I guess he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was!

I should mention that I have a engine hoist, engine stands and a full engine test station.  None of these tools are really necessary for the initial scope of this project.  Should we get to the point where an engine change is necessary, of course a hoist will be necessary.  I will cover that way later however.

The third thing to think about is do you have the ability to overcome little setbacks and move on?  This can’t be overemphasized!  I will tell anyone thinking about a project like this that you are probably at some point going to snap off a bolt or have extreme difficulty in getting to some parts (or worse).  If you don’t have the mental fortitude to work through these things, do yourself a favor and avoid getting involved in this type of project.  You must have the confidence in yourself to do the job.  If you are a give up artist this type of job isn't for you!

The final thing to think about is resources – mainly money and to a certain degree time.  It takes both to bring a neglected vehicle back to life.  Doing the work by yourself can literally save hundreds if not thousands of dollars, but you still need the money to buy the parts.  If money is going to be an issue, wait until you are in better shape financially to attempt something like this.  Spending money on a marginally functioning auto project while at the same time telling you spouse/significant other that you “can’t afford” something is a formula for disaster.  The same thing goes for time.  Make no mistake, working on a project car can be quite addicting.  If you can get your partner involved that's great but don't count on it.  If you become obsessed (which isn't too hard) and start to neglect other duties (like cutting the grass, etc) that too is a formula for disaster.  Lastly, you need a place to work like a garage.  Sure, there are a lot of things you can do outside, but there will be times when you have to leave the project and it sure helps to have it out of the weather.

A Little About The Car

I've always been very fond of third generation Camaros.  The 1992 Camaro RS came from the factory with a 5.0 liter (305 cubic inch) small block Chevrolet engine and a GM Turbohydramatic 700-R4 automatic overdrive transmission.  The factory engine designation is LO-3.  The car is rated from the factory at 170 hp.  These engines are workhorses that were built to last.  The induction is a throttle body injection (TBI).  This system resembles a 2 barrel carburetor (in fact, the previous owner thought the car had a carb - he wasn't a car guy!).  It's a somewhat dated technology, but has proven to be very reliable over the years (in fact, NASCAR went to this type of system in 2012).  One good thing about TBI is that GM put the system literally on millions of vehicles.  It is not a particularly complex task to change the size of the fuel injectors should you go to a bigger engine.  The car has a 2.73 "open" rear end.  It's actually a pretty good combination.  The TH-700R4 has a pretty low 3.06 first gear that gives a 8.3-1 starting ratio.  It also has a 0.7 overdrive which really keeps the revs down under stable conditions on the highway.  Unfortunately, it isn't the easiest car to work on and it's a little tight under the hood.  The car is also a bit on the heavy side.  One of the things I will be doing is trying to trim a little weight wherever possible without compromising the ride. 

One Final Note

This entire section is based solely on my experiences working on this particular vehicle.  Any third generation Camaro is at a minimum 20 years old.  That's a long time.  Don't be too surprised if you find things that aren't exactly as the car came from the factory.  There is an excellent chance that someone along the way has fooled around with the car.  Since I have no idea what has or hasn't been done and have absolutely no ideas as to the skill level of anyone reading this in no way do I accept any responsibility for any problems that might occur.  If you're going to work on a car like this you need to put on your big boy or big girl (that's right guys, girls can work on cars and I encourage it!) pants and roll with whatever comes your way.  In spite of a project like this being fraught with potential disaster I would recommend anyone who really wants to try something like this to "go for it" before you're sitting around one day saying that you should have.


 

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