Tori Lindemann is rebuilding her 1983 Camaro Z28, which is pretty impressive considering she’s relatively new to hot rodding. Tori grew up around cars, but she did not grow up working on cars. She’s taking advantage of the online hot rod community, her family, and her own hard-earned experience to restore the Chevy.
Tori’s love for classic American cars came from hanging out with her grandfather. “I grew up around my Grandpa,” Tori told me. “He’s always been into cars. Throughout my childhood, he took me to a lot of car shows, which is where I got into it. I really fell in love with the older American cars.”
About a year ago, she had the opportunity to get this 1983 Camaro Z28. “I’ve wanted one of these cars since I was 12 years old,” Tori said. The fact that the Z had a T-top clinched the deal. She acquired the Chevy and trailered it from Illinois back to Wisconsin.
She’s learning how to hot rod from working on the Z28 herself, from YouTube videos, and with help from her brother and the hot rodding community she hangs out with. “Within the last year,” she said, “I’ve met quite a few people who know these cars.”
She’s got lots of plans for the Camaro, but her first year with the car has involved a lot of fixing rather than hot rodding.
The Camaro was her first car with a stick shift, and she learned to drive it last May. Then, just two days after she started driving it, the fusible links for the starter went bad. It took Tori a little while to chase it down the problem, but she did.
And then the Z28 was back on the road… until the clutch went bad.
The previous owner had put in a heavy duty clutch. Tori knew it was on it’s way out, but she didn’t expect it to go so quickly. So her next job was to replace the clutch. Right now, the Camaro has a fairly stock 305 small block, so Tori went with a clutch just slightly stiffer than stock. And since she’s still learning to drive a manual, she’s enjoying the fact that this clutch is a little more forgiving.
While she was working on the clutch, Tori removed and painted the torque arm. She also replaced the front and rear seals on the transmission, and replaced just about every nut and bolt she touched with new, Grade 8 hardware. “I wanted to make sure that when it went back together, it didn’t come back apart,” she said. Very smart.
And then the Z28 was back on the road… until the Wisconsin winter arrived.
When spring rolled around this year, Tori turned her attention to the Chevy’s brakes. “I knew the rear brakes didn’t work that well,” she said. “I didn’t know they didn’t work at all.”
Tori found that the brake line that came off the proportioning valve to the back brakes had become completely separated and rusted out. (The previous owner had just stashed the broken brake line out of sight.) No brake fluid was getting back to the rear wheels. This realization made her really happy she trailered the Chevy back from Illinois instead of driving it back. Tori’s finishing up the brake work now.
The 305 under the hood is largely stock. The 1983 models were one of the last years that Chevy equipped the small block with a Quadrajet carb. The previous owner had replaced it with a Holley carb, and Tori’s replaced the Holley with a 600 cfm Edelbrock four-barrel sitting on top of an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold. A set of Hooker shorty headers connect to the stock Y pipe, which is then connected to a Hooker cat-back system.
Aside from the new clutch Tori installed, the drivetrain is pretty much like Chevy made it. Tori’s shifts the 5-speed Borg-Warner manual transmission using the stock shifter. The trans drives a 9-bolt solid axle rear end with a limited slip differential and 3.27 gears. Tori reports the trans and shifter are very smooth, but she has been doing some research on what it would take to swap them out for a T-56 six speed.
The interior has had very few modifications. Tori’s installed a new steering wheel and radio, but otherwise it’s like it was when it came off the showroom floor. The dashboard has the full complement of Z28 gauges, including the dual needle speedometer. Amazingly, the factory dash pad has not cracked even after 37 years of use. Tori’s added a Covercraft dash mat to make sure it stays that way.
Lately, Tori’s been putting a lot of attention into repairing the body. She found some rust on the Camaro, hidden behind the ground effects on the back portion of the quarter panels. She is in the process of reskinning the quarters to take care of that. The rest of the body is all original and is in good shape.
At some point in the future, Tori wants to repaint the Z28 using the Midnight Purple color of a Nissan R33 Skyline GT-R. “It’s darker than the 1991 color Camaros came in,” Tori said, “but when the light hits it it makes it lighter and has some red in it. I think it’ll look good.”
And of course, Tori loves her Camaro’s T-top roof – the quintessential 80s option. “Everybody who wants a 3rd gen Camaro wants T-tops,” Tori told me, “except for the fact that T-tops bring rust.” And her Z28 is no exception. There’s some rust on the driver’s side floor that has to be fixed. But Tori expects it to be a one-time fix because she’s not planning on driving the Camaro in those Wisconsin winters.
I was impressed that Tori’s taking a very common sense approach to hot rodding the Z28. “I’ve been trying to,” she said, “but believe me it’s been hard. Yesterday I went on eBay and was looking at wheels. Before I even got the car I had decided what wheels I wanted on it. I would love to buy those right now, but it’s probably not a good idea.”
So far she’s been able to stick to her game plan of getting the car in great shape before she starts modifying it. She always thought her Camaro would have a big block in it, but she found out from her research that they don’t fit well into a third gen. She hasn’t ruled out an LS swap one day in the future, but for now the small block will do just fine.
She loves the looks of the third gen Camaros, and she also loves how the car handles. She’s looking forward to driving it on mountain roads and might take it autocrossing as well. “Going fast around a corner is a little more fun to me,” Tori said. “I like taking a fast turn.”
And Tori’s Grandpa didn’t just take her to car shows. They also hung out a bit at the drag strip. Tori thinks her Camaro will make a trip or two down the quarter-mile as well. “I’ve been to the drags,” she said, “and I love watching it, but I’ve never actually been behind the driver’s seat on the race track. I’m definitely going to do that. I think that would be fun.”
Tori has posted on Instagram about the fact that she’s anorexic. When we were done talking about her Z28, I asked Tori if it would be helpful to talk about how she deals with anorexia.
“It does help to talk about that,” she said. “It’s an on-going issue. The car has helped me a lot. Just getting out of my own head. I’m able to work on the car instead of worrying about food. My family and friends and coworkers have said that the car has kind of turned me around in some ways. My uncle said he hasn’t seen me smile the way I have in the last year and a half until I started working on it.”
Horsepower, mag wheels, and car shows are great, but the fact that hot rodding is helping Tori is even better.
Maybe hot rodding isn’t really about what we do to the cars. Maybe it’s about what the cars do to us.
Photos courtesy of Tori Lindemann
Click here to see more pictures of her Camaro
You can follow Tori’s Z28 build on Instagram via @LosingNirvana