Car Review: Third times the charm…or maybe.

The modified car world is a tricky place. Everyone wants something unique but the simple fact is, it’s rough trying to be a trailblazer. In order to build a fast and reliable car, many car people realize that they must follow previous concoctions. It’s a sad truth, but one that is not too difficult to overcome. One local Knoxville man, try as he might, has held on to his non-conformist ways by refusing to build his third gen Camaro the way that everyone would expect him to. It’s been a long time, but Mike Julian doesn’t seem to be given up.

Purchased in May, 2006, his 87 Camaro was, in all honesty, nothing special. Powered by the original 2.8 V6 and 700R4 automatic, his Camaro cost him a lowly $800. “I wasn’t a car guy when I bought it. I broke so many things on that car,” said Julian. He is honest when saying that about two months into the ownership of his third gen, he did an oil change in which he continued to fill it until he got a hunch he should stop. “I put in 12 quarts. It took 4.5.”
After that incident, Julian was determined to learn. He gives full credit to his Camaro for turning him into a car guy. At the time, he was blundering around Arizona, researching and learning as he went. As the months turned to years, it was time in his life to make his way over to Tennessee. The Camaro, still on it’s original engine, made the 2400 mile trip without hiccup. “It got 40mpg at 120mph across the state of Mexico,” said Julian. After arriving into Knoxville, Julian’s bond with his Camaro began to grow even more. “The EGR system went bad, so I replaced it. It was the first major thing I did to the car.”
Things were going well until the summer of 2008. “I damaged the engine beyond repair by setting the timing wrong. A trip to Jelico caused it overheat. I called my dad, gathered the parts, and swaped the engine within a weekend.”
Julian and his dad pulled a used 2.8 out of a third gen Firebird. To make sure nothing would go wrong, the engine was sent of to the machine shop. The bores were honed, the heads rebuilt, and a custom ground cam from Delta Camshaft shop was added to give the 2.8 more torque. All was well until it all went wrong. “We, due to miscommunication, installed undersized main bearings for the turned crank. It made it 400 miles before it became a problem.” That was it for Julian. He wanted something different but he also wanted something with power. Never really a fan of the typical Camaro build, V8 power, Julian wanted his Camaro to stay a V6. “Everyone can do a V8; it’s just not interesting. The V6 has near perfect weight distribution and it’s different.”
So began Julian’s search for his V6 build. He began by seeking out a 60 degree 3.4 V6 out of a fourth gen Camaro. According to Julian, this is best V6 to swap into a thrid gen. The 3.8 V6 would have required a new transmission (due to it’s 90 degree configuration), so the the 3.4 was the biggest V6 that would mat up to his 700R4. After weeks of searching, he found what he needed at a local junkyard. In a matter of four hours, he had his 3.4. It was then time to start building.
He sent his engine off the the machine shop again, this time ordering proper sized bearings. He even had them assemble it, in order to play it safe. In also went his Delta Cam and one off, prototype headers from Pacesetter. Not too long after, he went out on a sunny afternoon, and pulled the trigger… and it was loud. Without a welder, his custom exhaust was open. A loud trip to a local exhaust shop gave him back his backpressure. It also gave him back his friend.
A long list of cars filled the void while Julian’s Camaro was on the operating table: a 300zx, third gen Firebird, and 87 4×4 pickup just to name a few. As most builds go, this one is not finished. Julian still drives his old truck because a strange fuel problem has put his Camaro back in the E.R. Once he works out that problem, the Camaro will be getting new suspension, tires, and work will begin on a custom turbo kit. According to Julian, the 3.4 has a very strong bottom end and good compression for forced air. It spent a short time running, but it spent it with a smile. “I’m never going to sell it. I’ve even had a few offers, but I never followed through.”
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