Don G 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta 2dr Sport Coupe

Generation 2 F-body. Always a good idea!

In 2008, I wanted to get a car for my son's 16th birthday. Though I had little mechanical skill and never rebuilt a car before, I really wanted to get him a classic instead of a newer car, so we could spend time together restoring it and have something unique when we finished. I mean, how hard or expensive could it be, right? The answer took two and a half grueling years and apparently everyone in the world knew but me.

My first choice being a first generation Mustang or Camaro, cars I had owned several of in my day, where quickly dismissed due to cost. My second choice was a generation 2 F body. I've always liked these cars and owned a half dozen or so, which appeared much more affordable because they were a distant second from a popularity point of view from their first generation predecessors.

We got a line on a '72 Firebird Formula and raced out to California to pick it up, only to find out it had been mistakenly crushed in a clean up project. Totally dejected, we got back to town only to find a gentleman down the street had a running 1979 Berlinetta he was willing to part with for a reasonable price. Showing signs of a hard and mismanaged life, it wasn't much to look at and barely ran, but it was straight, rust free and easy to get parts for. A friend of mine who had worked on cars his whole life offered to assist which, as anyone who's ever restored a car will tell you, turned out to be a huge blessing. We had no idea what we where in for, and if it wasn't for him, this project never would have succeeded.

Long story short, after 2 years of scraping, sanding, wrenching and most of all spending, we had what turned out to be, both in quality and expense, more than I had ever expected, With a new power plant and drive train starting with a fuel injected GM crate 350 going through an upgraded 5 speed transmission and ending with 3.73 posi gears, completely restored suspension, interior and 2 stage paint, we finally had a car that was as reliable as a newer car, but turned heads like these cars did in the 70's. Something few newer generation car can compete with.

Though the car wasn't ready when we had originally planned, he was able to drive it his senior year of high school and actually won the most popular car award for his graduating class. Just the cherry on top for a car that he can be proud of for another thirty five years.

7 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Bruce Opachinski PA, USA April 8, 2015 at 17:57
    My first car in 1972, was a 1964 1/2 Mustang which I bought from my sister-in-law for $200. I used it all through college for the next four years. I sold it for $2000 and thought I made a killing.
  • 2
    john new jersey April 8, 2015 at 21:06
    I was lucky enough to get a 1963 Lincoln from my Grandad. He bought a Versailles and kept the slab side for me. Still have the old girl.
  • 3
    NewtyNewt 3rd rock from the Sun April 8, 2015 at 21:13
    Very nice story about your sons first car. Everybody looks back at that great first car and memories of the past. His best memories will of building it with dad & the skills he learned. My first car at age 16 was a 55 Chevy 2dr post. It had a 265 4brl, 3speed overdrive column shift with 373 posi rear. It was so rusty that I just couldn't keep it. Who knew they would reproduce everything needed to keep & restore it today way back then. Man I miss that unsafe first car. No seat belts, rust everywhere, am radio, no A/C. It never left me stranded and was fast , to me back then, and more fun to drive than todays cars. KEEP THAT FIRST CAR YOUNG MAN YOU WON'T REGRET IT!
  • 4
    Stu Eade Chatham,Ont. Canada April 9, 2015 at 01:23
    Somehow i just don't understand why these cars do not appreciate in value.I have an original 1979 Camaro Z28 and i was tempted to sell it a few times but i couldn't even get a proper offer on it at any time ,despite this thing being in excellent condition.It matches the white on and in the same condition as you guys had in an article not to long ago even down to the rims and being in canada B F Goodrich tires.I've asked 8500 for it in the past , and not even an offer.Can you guys explain to me why there is no value to these generation 2 Camaros.Thanks..
  • 5
    Glenn McColpin Katy TX April 9, 2015 at 08:54
    I also wanted to get my son an older car that he could work on with me and understand how the basic mechanical systems worked before going off to college. We found a rust free 1971 AMC Javelin that had been sitting in dry storage since 1981 and proceeded to spend 5 months tearing the car apart and rebuilding everything. My son complained through the process but once it was done he had the coolest car in his high school. People would follow him home and offer to buy the car, leave notes on the windshield telling him how beautiful it was and old guys would corner him and tell stories about one that they had back in the day. He was actually proud of that car and it made him feel special every week. His friends father's would come out of the house and ask for rides. You just don't get that kind of attention with a Subaru or Smart Car. The funniest part of the process to me was seeing my son's initial reaction to the car's amenities or lack therof. Dad, why doesn't it have automatic door locks? Dad, is there a remote to open the trunk? Where are the cupholders? What is an 8 track and why doesn't the radio have FM or an iPad port? I think the cupholders question is the best. It's hard to believe that nobody thought of a simple cupholder back then. I remember that you had to buy a little plastic thing that hung from the door and rarely stayed put. It was only good for a coffee cup. A big gulp would have snapped it!
  • 6
    Dan South Bend, IN April 10, 2015 at 08:52
    After owning a 69 Camaro for 12 yrs with a similar drive train (mine came with a 350 Turbo Hydra.) I put a 350 HO crate motor and 3.73 posi rear end in it. So I can say these guys did it right!
  • 7
    Randy Markham April 12, 2015 at 09:26
    Nice story. The Gen 2 fbody cars are starting to go up as you can see on the Hagerty evaluation page. I have a 1975 trans am which I bought 40 yes ago. I stored it away for over 35 yrs. I got married had kids and didn't have time for it till now, man am I having fun now especially people's reaction so go and enjoy.

Join the Discussion