Wayne Jackson’s ‘73 Camaro

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This beautiful 1973 Camaro was Wayne Jackson’s first car. The 2nd Gen has gone through several iterations since Wayne first got it in 1987. From its smog motor small block start, to its big block drag strip build, and now to its fantastic Pro Touring iteration, Wayne’s been turning the wrenches to implement his visions of what he wants the Camaro to be.

Wayne was in high school when he got the Camaro. It was his daily driver for a long time. Detroit was still trying to figure out the new emission standards back then and Wayne guesses that the 350 two-barrel was making about 180 hp.

That wasn’t enough for Wayne. Even after some hot rodding, the small block wasn’t putting out the kind of power he wanted.

“I did some work for a buddy of mine,” Wayne told me, “and we traded my 350 and the work I did for a 454 he had. But it didn’t have the power I thought it would, so I sold the 454 and bought a crate 502.”

This was during the Camaro’s time as a street / strip car. Wayne used to race it at tracks around the Northeast, doing some bracket racing and time trials.

And the Chevy looked the part back then. It was jacked up and had fat Mickey Thompson tires out back, with the drag racing appropriate skinny tires and wheels up front.

That 502 was making some good horsepower and Wayne needed to upgrade the transmission. He was looking for an automatic with overdrive so he could continue to run steep gears (4.56 initially, then 4.11) in the rear end for the strip, but still keep the car somewhat streetable.

“Back then it was only the 700R4, 200R4, and Ford AOD transmission,” Wayne said, “that had overdrive and could hold the power.”

Freddy Brown Performance Transmissions on Long Island was able to fix Wayne up by mating a Ford AOD to a Chevy bellhousing which then bolted to the 502. They also installed a trans brake for the drag strip. “It had everything I wanted,” Wayne said.

The trans swap was so easy, Wayne didn’t even need a new crossmember. “I was able to cut the mounting tab off,” he said, “flip it, and reweld it on the other side. It fit perfectly.”

Wayne was enjoying the street / strip version of the car, but as sometimes happens, other things started taking time away from him working on it. One major distraction was the 1970 C-10 pickup that he was starting to restore. So the Camaro sat in storage in a garage for a few years.

About two years ago, Wayne turned his attention back to the Camaro. This time he was worried less about his elapsed times and more about driving and enjoying the car on the street. He decided to make it a Pro Touring car.

Wayne started with the suspension. Tubular control arms up front work with Viking adjustable coil overs. The four wheel disc brakes use Corvette C5 and Classic Performance Products components.

The rear suspension has leaf springs and Ford 9” rear end. Wayne’s friend Joe at Thriftway Auto & Chassis did all the work on the rear end himself. He narrowed the 9”, relocated the springs, and expanded the rear wheel tubs to allow the Camaor to sit lower while still having the rear wheels and tires under the fenders.

Those 4.56 and 4.11 gears in the rear were great for the track, but even with the AOD Wayne said that driving to the track was “an exhausting day”. With the new goal of enjoying the Camaro on the street, he’s now running 3.90 gears.

Joe also narrowed the Chevy’s gas tank to fit the new rear set up. But Wayne explained that it was not done in the conventional way.

“I was on this kick,” he said, “even though the car looks nothing like original, I wanted to keep certain things as original looking as possible. A lot of guys cut off the ends of the gas tank. Joe cut out two of the grooves in the tank and welded it back together in the grooves. You’d be hard pressed to find the seams. Nobody will ever notice because it just looks like a stock tank. It’s little things like that I like.”

All that narrowing was necessary to fit the 19 x 12 US Mags wheels and 325/30 tires Wayne’s now running. There’s a matching 19 x 10, 255/35 combination up front. Wayne was originally going to use 18” wheels, but he found out there is a larger variety of tires in 19″. The tires he’s running now are the same size that come on the new Corvettes.

One chassis component that was installed back in the Camaro’s street / strip days was a 6-point roll cage. Wayne says the cage makes the Camaro pretty stiff, but he doesn’t want to take it out because he feels it helps the unibody car.

Even though it’s a bit nose heavy with the big block, Wayne says the suspension is tight and the Chevy handles well.

You can take a car off the drag strip, but you can’t take the drag racer out of the car. And like any good drag racer, Wayne wanted more horsepower. Even upgrading the 502 with a Holley 750 double pumper wasn’t enough.

So he had a friend Dave Rook (who unfortunately has passed away) work on the 502. Updates included Air Flow Research heads, an Edelbrock intake, and a 950 cfm Gary Williams carb. A pair of 2″ Hooker headers feed into the 3″ dual exhaust.

The control box for MSD ignition is under the dashboard because Wayne wanted to keep the engine compartment as clean as possible. A Be Cool aluminum radiator cools the big block. And now Wayne makes sure to keep fresh antifreeze in there.

“I learned my lesson on antifreeze about a year ago,” he told me, “what it does to an aluminum radiator when you don’t change it. I didn’t change it for over 10 years.”

What he found out is that antifreeze gets acidic and attacks aluminum. Eventually it pitted the radiator where the cap attaches and caused a leak. Now Wayne keeps a book of everything he does – and more importantly – everything he needs to do, including a regular flush and fill of the antifreeze.

The big block hasn’t been on a dyno, but Wayne estimates it’s putting out over 600 hp, on pump gas. The Ford AOD is still handling all those horses.

Wayne has completely rewired the car, and spoke very highly of the American Autowire kit he used.

“Every wire has been replaced,” he said. “The American Autowire kit comes with main, front, and rear front harnesses. The wires are coded every 6″ to let you know what they’re for. All the accessories are accommodated, and step by step instructions are included. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

The Camaro has new front fenders, but the rest of the body is original sheet metal. His friends Chris Sr. & Chris Jr. at Hempstead Auto Collision applied the yellow paint back in 1998. When Wayne started reworking the car in 2020, he had Joey & Chris Gaynor at Gaynor Brothers Detailing give it a once over to restore the paint to its original luster after sitting in the garage for a while.

The friends also had an interesting time with the Camaro’s hood. Wayne was on his way over to help Chris Sr. with some work on his house. He hopped in the Camaro and headed out. When he got to a stretch of open road he punched the gas. The hood popped up. He had forgotten to put the hood pins back in. Wayne immediately got off the gas but the hood went flying over the car.

Amazingly, the hood did not touch the car on its way out, and it landed right side up in the street, facing in the direction Wayne was traveling. Chris Sr. showed up in his pickup truck to help and Wayne resigned himself to having to buy a new hood.

But when they looked at the hood, they saw that it broke right where the hinges mounted, but there was no other damage. “We can fix this,” Chris Sr. said. “It’s fiberglass. We’ll glue it back together and do some body work. You won’t even know.” Amazingly, that’s the hood that’s still on the car.

Wayne’s completely refurbished the interior, starting with DynaMat insulation. He had to replace the original dash earlier this year. He wanted to keep the factory dash, but it was peeling. There’s a new gauge pod in the dash.

There’s a set of Corbeau seats up front and the rear seat has been reupholstered with Corbeau leather to match. A 5th Gen Camaro center console fits perfectly in Wayne’s 2nd Gen. The factory air conditioning was removed back during the drag racing days, but Wayne’s considering installing a Vintage Air unit.

The Camaro’s time as a street / strip hot rod was great, but Wayne’s really enjoying the current Pro Touring edition.

“During the last couple of years I’ve been doing work to make it more drivable,” he said. “More streetable and fun again. I take it out as much as I can during the week – a couple of cruise nights and some shows on weekends.”

One place Wayne is not planning to drive the Camaro is back to the drag strip. “I have no desire really,” Wayne said. “I don’t want to break anything. The big block, trans, and rear end – that drivetrain has been very good to me. I don’t want to abuse it.”

As much as he loves wrenching on it, Wayne is also very appreciative of the help he’s gotten from his friends. “To get it in the shape it’s in now,” he told me, “you lean on a lot of people.”

Wayne’s been hot rodding his Camaro for 35 years now. He’s taken it from a smog motor daily driver, into a street / strip drag car, and now to a beautiful and fun to drive Pro Touring car. I wouldn’t be surprised if the two of them spend another 35 years together.

Photos courtesy of Wayne Jackson
Click here for more photos of the Camaro
You can follow Wayne and his Camaro and C-10 on Instagram via @wayne.jackson.98

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