Lonely dudes often commiserate about the one that got away. In many instances, she was a lady way out of the dude's league who got past her low self-esteem phase, then ended up with a wealthier, more charismatic, and far better looking mate. There isn't much you can do about that-outside of moving onto the next young lady with more looks than self-esteem-but hot rodders always seem to have similar tales about project cars they should never have parted ways with. Considering that cars don't care about how poor, boring, or ugly their owners are, this scenario is quite peculiar. The story usually ends with a hot rodder who pays way too much money for a jalopy just because it reminds him of the car from his youth. That's not necessarily a bad ending, but like comparing real sugar to Sweet'N Low, the new car is merely a substitute that's almost as good, but not quite the same. That doesn't apply to Randy Johnson. He sold his '70 Camaro, bought the same car back several years later, then transformed it into the supercharged LS-powered g-Machine he was too naïve to build the first time around. With how thoroughly this Camaro gets abused on the road course, it's the real deal in more ways than one.
Before you ask, this Randy Johnson-the one from Kewaskum, Wisconsin-isn't the retired MLB pitcher who won 303 games and five Cy Young awards. It turns out that it's a somewhat common name, and Randy's mom used that to her advantage. "As a kid, I loved Hot Wheels toys, and was always building model cars and drawing pictures of cars. My mom wanted to get me to read more, but I didn't want to read boring stuff," Randy says. "One day a copy of Motor Trend showed up in our mailbox, and I was confused. I never ordered a subscription but it was addressed to 'Randy Johnson.' My mom said there has to be more than one Randy Johnson in the world, and they probably sent it to our house by mistake. I wasn't exactly the brightest kid, so I believed her, not realizing that she subscribed to the magazine just to get me to read."
Although the paint and body...
Although the paint and body was already in good shape from Randy's first resto attempt, he stripped the Camaro down completely and installed new quarters, mini-tubs, and a new tailpanel. He did the bodywork himself along with the help of his buddies. When he's not busy with his day job, Randy builds high-end restomods out of his shop, D&Z customs (www.dandzcustoms.com).
The trick worked, and Randy consumed a steady diet of car magazines all through high school, drooling over the muscle cars featured in their pages. As soon as he could start driving, Randy went through a slew of project cars and started turning wrenches. His early rides included an '81 Olds Cutlass, a '76 Camaro, and several T-Type Buicks. Then in 1997, Randy picked up a '70 Camaro that would prove to be his life-long infatuation. Like any proper Midwesterner, Randy insisted on doing everything himself. He built and blew up several big-blocks, and while they served as a great learning experience, it got tedious after a while. "My '70 Camaro was the first frame-off restoration that I did. I had to pull the motor every winter for five years fixing things that broke," he says. "I did a half-ass rebuild the first time, and broke a ring going down the track. Next I put a bigger cam, ported heads, and a ProCharger on it, and the motor dropped a valve and cracked the cylinder walls. After the next rebuild, the lifters got stuck in their bores, clogged up the oil flow, and seized the blower bearings. Trying to figure out the blow-through carb setup was a real pain too, so I got sick of constantly working on the car and traded it for a '99 Camaro SS in 2001."