Go to any car show or cruise night, and you’re sure to see a lot of Camaros. It’s not surprising, as they are great cars. Generally, what you see are a myriad of first- and second-gen cars and occasionally, even some late models. However, not many fourth-gen cars are typically in the mix. Although this 2002 Camaro might not be what you’re used to seeing, the fact it can run 9-second quarter-mile times and go get groceries on a whim makes this one seriously cool hot rod.
I first laid eyes on Matt’s fourth-gen Camaro when he came driving by the local downtown Williamsport, Pennsylvania, “hang out” one particular Saturday night. Although I had previously heard he was building a fourth-gen Camaro, I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw as it was pulling in to the parking lot. It sounded like a healthy hot rod, and although I had heard a few rumors about the car, I hadn’t physically seen it until then.
A Shell Of A Start
Matt relayed to me that when he found the car, while he was looking for a project, he certainly wasn’t planning to take on anything this in-depth. “I found the car on Facebook Marketplace,” he says. “It was a shell. There was no interior, engine, transmission, or wiring. The owner was getting ready to scrap it if it didn’t sell. I paid $1,000 for the rolling shell.”
In actuality, buying something that needed so much in the way of parts might not have been a bad idea. You see, he already had plans to build something like he had never built before, and many of the stock drivetrain parts would have been tossed aside anyway. Matt, his dad, and brother operate RMJ Restorations in Williamsport, and the car was not only going to showcase the family’s capabilities in regard to paint and body, but also, the trio’s mechanical skills.
While Matt is used to fixing rust, this time, he would be able to focus on making the shell as smooth as glass without replacing any rotted metal. “Once I had the exterior stripped and smoothed, I took the time to weld shut any unnecessary holes in the engine bay,” he states. When everything was welded and the years’ worth of shopping-cart dings removed, a VFN Fiberglass hood was installed and Matt then covered the car with an eye-searing shade of Calypso Coral Orange.
The car went through a number of different hands before I go it. Each person took off what they wanted then passed it onto the next. – Matt Lantz
Since the car was minus most of what was needed to make it… well… a complete car, Matt began by figuring out what to do about the absence of wiring. There are many avenues he could have chosen to add wiring, but in the end, he opted to utilize an A-Team Performance fuse panel and wiring kit to control the lights and other accessories.
The interior was next on the hit list, and to get the needed parts, he once again turned to Facebook Marketplace. All the parts—except the front seats—are original GM pieces that have been cleaned, re-dyed, and then put back into service. Knowing the car would be making some seriously quick trips down the quarter-mile, a set of race-inspired NRG Innovations bucket seats were mounted upfront. With the good looks and driving-comfort handled, it was time to focus on performance.
Underneath, Matt installed a UMI Performance tubular k-member with all the goodies like tubular control arms and QA1 double-adjustable coilovers. The rear suspension supports a Quick Performance 9-inch with the help of QA1’s rear suspension parts and Viking double-adjustable coilovers.
When anyone attending a cruise-in or car show gets their car parked, the first question they usually get asked is, “what’s under the hood?” Matt is no exception. When he parks, he gets to explain that under the hood is a Texas Speed-built 383ci LS engine. The 4-inch bore, 6.125-inch connecting rods, and Wiseco pistons create a very streetable 9.5:1 compression ratio. The camshaft opens the valves .595/.598-inch and holds them there for 232/234-degrees of rotation when measured at .050-inch lift. Up top is a pair of 225cc cathedral-port heads and an MSD Airforce intake. Finally, a Holley Terminator X ECU controls the engine and 4L80E transmission. When Jeff Cartwright of Williamsport rebuilt the shift box, he incorporated a reverse-shift valvebody and a 3,800-rpm stall converter.
“The car went through a number of different hands before I go it. Each person took off what they wanted then passed it onto the next,” states Matt. “Now it has gotten a second chance at life. The car’s name is actually fitting for both of us. This is kind of my second shot at life since I put down the alcohol. I knew the name had to go on the car.”
More Than Good Looks
But, don’t think this car is just a great looking hot rod. The first time Matt took it to Beaver Springs Dragway, the car launched harder than he planned, and as you can see, the result was a photo-worthy wheelstand. Luckily, he had the wherewithal to not lift while looking skyward and actually set the car’s frontend down gently. Finally, Matt’s Second Chance Camaro has propelled him to a best quarter-mile e.t. of 9.03 with a 200-shot of nitrous in the mix.
Matt shows us why, when any of us get a second chance, we need to grab ahold of it and make the best revisited-situation we can. Matt and his Camaro have done exactly that, and the altered path they now travel is one anybody can be happy with.