14 April 2015

What Drives You: Car love rebellion from Michigan

Elizabeth Treen has no desire to work on run-of-the-mill daily-driver cars, but she will gladly rip apart any collector car to rebuild it. For Treen, working on her 2002 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 is a labor of love — love for her car, the hobby, herself and other car gals like her. She was raised in an old-fashioned home where the thought of a girl getting dirty and working on a car was unthinkable, and whenever she tried, the tools were taken away. But her love for things that go “vroom” never left her.

Treen’s Dad always had a 1962 Ford Falcon in the garage that was originally intended for her younger brother to restore. Treen has childhood memories of playing in the car and pretending to drive it. “I remember the old car smell. I loved that car and always will. To this day I’ve never heard it running,” she said. Since the Falcon was meant only for her brother despite his lack of interest in the project, once she was able to drive, Treen set off to buy her own car — a 2002 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, which is the apple of her eye.

After four years of ownership and as soon as she landed in a place that had a garage, the build was on. Wasting no time, she immediately stripped down the car for upgrades. “I broke it down right before the 2008 Dream Cruise, but it took until Dream Cruise 2009 to button everything up,” she said. And Treen had no desire to take the easy route — no lifts or cherry pickers were used. “I’m a small girl; there was plenty of room to work with!”

Everything on the car was upgraded with the exception of the bottom end. Treen crammed the largest possible engine that would fit into the Camaro’s engine bay without modification — an LS1 — and it’s this heart-of-the-beast that received the most love, including these performance-enhancing additions: AFR 205s competition heads, a COMP camshaft, GM racing lifters to withstand the rigors of sustained high rpm usage, COMP Cams chromoly pushrods, Harland Sharp roller rocker arms, Kooks long-tube headers, a Borla 3-inch cat-back exhaust and a Vigilante 3600-3800 torque converter, among others.

With all of the extra power that these modifications offer, the following components were installed for supreme drivability: a Spohn Performance torque arm with driveshaft loop, a Panhard bar for suspension stability and sub-frame connectors to stiffen the chassis. And a nice set of Foose chromies were put on to wrap it all up into one sweet package.

This H/C LS1 car finished out as a torque-monster with 377 lb.-ft. and a tire-squealing 413 horsepower, and that is still including the emissions equipment required by the state.

According to Treen, being a female in the car world can be an awkward experience. “I’ll be driving my Camaro up to a gas station, and whoever is with me at the time — my brother, fiancé or a guy friend — will get out and pump gas as onlookers approach them to ask about the specs of my car.” Ironically, Treen also has pistons tattooed on her shoulders that make it fairly obvious that she’s a car gal. “I just watch them squirm under the pressure of all of the questions, and sometimes if I have to I’ll jump in to help. The facial expressions are priceless,” she said.

With some minor disadvantages come great advantages: Everyone wants to help a car girl with her build. This is a fortunate thing, because with Treen weighing just over 100 pounds, some of these parts weigh more than she does, not to mention that a bolt needing to be torqued to 95-lbs is a challenge to say the least. The most convenient thing, though, is that her small hands fit in tight spaces. In fact, at one point during disassembly she could fit her entire body in the engine bay.

Another advantage, Treen stated with a grin, is weight reduction. She hasn’t taken her car on a track yet because she’s afraid of being unable to afford repairs if something were to go wrong. “My heart and mind wouldn’t be able to handle that it’s broken without being able to fix it. I want to make sure I have enough money put away for any repairs before running her on a track,” she said. But someday, it will happen. She built the car as a weekend warrior and dreams about making it through the Hot Rod Power Tour.

“I will have my Camaro forever and ever,” Treen said. Someday she would love to put together an older model, perhaps a rat rod or traditional hot rod — her Camaro was only the beginning to a lifelong love of building things that go “vroom.”

6 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Azar ACE East Coast April 15, 2015 at 16:11
    Treen, you ROCK!!! I bought my Chevy Vega brand new, customized it and still work on it today -- it's been to many Rod Runs and Shows.
  • 2
    Candi Angotti Texas by way of Detroit April 15, 2015 at 17:29
    Kudos to Treen! Gotta love a girl that isn't afraid to get her hand dirty and get the job done herself!
  • 3
    Sue M Long Island, NY April 15, 2015 at 17:41
    Great article, so nice to see another female who loves cars and doing her own work! It is fun when people start asking the guy with you specs about your car and he answers, ask her its her ride. I was lucky to grow up with a Dad who shared his car love and knowledge. My current car is a 70 Monte Carlo and I cant wait to do some work on it. Final works for you Treen : Some girls chade boys, we pass them!!!!
  • 4
    John Sacramento, CA April 15, 2015 at 17:52
    Good job Elizabeth. I love it when girls are into cars and especially when they like to work on them. I'm glad you're planning on hanging on to that car, my second car was a 1968 Camaro SS 396 that I bought right before I graduated high school way back in 1977, and I still have it. Best thing I ever did was keep that car....well almost the best thing. I see your Dad had a Falcon. I happen to be building a 1963 Falcon panel wagon with a chopped top, full cage, narrowed 9" and a late model 4.6 32 valve engine. It's pretty much Rat Rodded out. Have fun working on those cars, your Fiance is a lucky man!
  • 5
    RJ West MI April 15, 2015 at 19:33
    Nice article - I hope she thanked her dad for holding back the Falcon. Made me think of Marisa Tomei's character in My Cousin Vinny.
  • 6
    Wendell Alabama April 15, 2015 at 21:01
    I know the look she gets from others. My dad made my sisters and I learn about cars when we learned to drive. Not so much that we fix them but so we won't get ripped off by a mechanic. One time I took my sister to pick up her car from a shop. The mechanic started explaining to me what was wrong and what he did to fix it. I stopped him and told him don't tell me, tell her. It's her car and she knows as much as I do about cars. The look he gave both of us was hilarious to us. I sometimes get a funny look from others when I explain my restored 70 Opel GT was purchased by my dad to teach my youngest sister engines. She rebuilt the engine in it years ago. Part of the attraction to the car for me. That and my dad gave me the car because it would cost too much to make legal in California. Besides my dad buying it from a family friend and we've known the car since new. Have the original sales paperwork.

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