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Friday, November 7, 2014

How one Camaro SS owner transformed his car into the only Z/28 droptop


Meet the world's first Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 convertible
Tony Gaples, the owner of Illinois-based Blackdog Speed Shop, builds race Camaros, sells hot-rodding parts for Camaros and daily drives a 2014 Camaro SS Convertible. He loved his SS, but secretly yearned for more power and better handling.
 So, when the new Camaro Z/28 was introduced, Gaples became one of the first to purchase the track-focused muscle car. But even with its 505-hp V-8, carbon-ceramic brakes, special dampers and near-slick tires, he was still left wanting more.
Only this time he wasn't lacking in performance; instead, Gaples missed the openness his SS convertible provided. This was a problem, because Chevrolet doesn't make a soft-top version of its $72,000 Z/28.
 So, Gaples took his old SS, stripped it down to the bare chassis, and rebuilt it with the components from his Z -- everything from the aerodynamic package, the LS7 motor, right down to the wiring harnesses and the tiny Z/28 emblem on the grille.
What Gaples did is build the world's first 2015 convertible Z/28; or more to the point, his perfect ride.
Tony Gaples works on converting his Camaro SS into a convertible Z/28
Tony Gaples works on converting his Camaro SS into a convertible Z/28.
Along with selling various performance parts, Gaples' Blackdog Speed Shop fields Camaros in the Pirelli World Challenge race series, winning the 2014 GTS championship for the second straight year with Lawson Aschenbach at the helm.
 Simply put, the man understands performance, making this daunting challenge far more feasible: "We've built three Camaros this year from the ground up," Gaples told The Block. "So we know Camaros inside and out, and from the start we were pretty familiar on what needed to happen to accomplish this."

The Z/28's front fenders and hood were transferred over to the SS, with a custom hard shell boot cover built to house the convertible top. Inside, the trick DSSV Multimatic shocks were installed, as were things like the Z's sports seats and steering wheel. Finally, a two-tone paint scheme was applied, just in time for Gaples to showcase the car at the 2014 SEMA show. 
Naturally, losing a car's lid significantly affects stiffness, and Gaples doesn't say whether any additional strengthening was added. Perhaps a better question to ask, however, is why? Why go to the trouble of building a convertible Z/28 from an SS rather than, say, buying a 580-hp ZL1 Convertible and massaging its performance numbers?
The answer is likely lined with a desire for exposure, but true gearheads like Gaples enjoy getting their hands dirty, regardless of how crazy an idea may sound.