Jeff Kainz has owned this Camaro since 1982. He has never stopped improving its power and performance.
It’s uncommon for cops to know a teenager by name because of their volunteerism or academic excellence. In no way. For Jeff Kainz, it was especially true when he was operating his 1975 Camaro. While driving through his North Dakota hometown in the 1980s, his friends who had police scanners frequently overheard the police saying, “Kainz is out on Main Street.”
Yes, I made some bad decisions, admits an older and ostensibly wiser Jeff. I used to know all the local police officers by first name, but I like to think I’ve grown up.
It appears that he does. After finishing college, Jeff secured employment as an automobile engineer and moved to the Detroit region to work for Ford. He has also held positions with General Motors and a significant local OEM supplier. The fact that he still owned the Camaro after more than 40 years was a significant difference from the days when he drove it recklessly across icy lakes. Jeff purchased the Camaro in 1982 when he was 15 years old. Since then, it has undergone many modifications, including, in Jeff’s estimation, about ten engine swaps, but the keys have never left his pocket.
Even that occasion had a rebellious undertone. “My mother insisted I couldn’t buy a car with a V-8 engine,” explains Jeff. No, I didn’t. There were six pistons in the Camaro. I therefore maintained my word, but two weeks later I replaced the engine by removing a small-block from a junkyard. Naturally, Mom wasn’t too happy. “That was a long time ago,” Jeff replies. She overcame it and realized everything turned out just perfect. Different engines appeared and disappeared throughout the ’80s and ’90s, as did popular trends in vehicle styling. In those days, the automobile had it all, explains Jeff. “I had the snorkel scoop on the hood and the louvers on the back window for a while—all the popular stuff.”
In addition to causing trouble on Main Street, Jeff experimented in drag racing, which by the early 2000s turned become the main emphasis of the automobile. By that time, the vehicle had a large cowl hood, blacked-out trim, Z28 logos, and a teal-green exterior. The car was swift because to its genuine NASCAR small-block engine with 18-degree heads. He increased the compression ratio to a robust 14.5:1 and for a few years dominated the quarter-mile in the mid-9s. And then, somewhere in 2010, Jeff’s interests shifted. The Camaro underwent yet another metamorphosis as he grew less interested in racing and more interested in a robust pro-touring-style street vehicle. He started to draw up the design with suggestions from friends and coworkers, which would combine historic second-gen F-body signals with
“I wanted to tighten the look of the car—trim down those big bumpers and use a short rear spoiler like the early second-gen cars,” says Jeff. “I had my friend Keith Confer help visualize this in some sketches that really helped guide the project.” Tackling virtually every detail of the build himself, Jeff sectioned the front bumper and essentially cut it down by half, taking it down to three inches in height. He also pulled it closer to the body, which certainly improved the car’s profile, but a large gap was left below the bumper. To fill it, Jeff fabricated an all-new valance that incorporated the lower grille from a 1970-73 Camaro, along with lights that mimic the turn signals on those models. In fact, two lower grilles were cut and spliced together to create a single piece that matched the egg-crate pattern of the upper grille.
“I tried to stick with Chevy parts and tried Gen 5 Camaro and C7 Corvette mirrors, but they just didn’t look right on the car,” says Jeff. “The S550 mirrors did, and they also had added functions built-in, such as turn signals, heated mirrors, etc. They really look good with the lines of the car.”
The Camaro received another engine swap, as is evident from the images. This time, a Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed manual transmission is mated to a supercharged LSA engine. Along with a few minor modifications, a BTR camshaft and a Lingenfelter Performance underdrive pulley kit help the engine produce more than 800 horsepower. The twin-pump module for a Cadillac CTS-V, which is fitted in a specially made gasoline tank from Rock Valley Antique Auto, provides fuel.
Jeff remarks, “The horsepower is incredible.” “Power comes on now with roughly 20 pounds of surge. This car has never had more power, and at 60 mph, it will fire up those massive 335-series rear tires.