Despite being the birthplace of so many iconic vehicles, Michigan is notoriously hard on cars. The winters are long, the roads can be harsh, and the salt used to clear snow-covered streets can wreak havoc on sheet metal. The severity is only magnified when you take your machine off-roading, as Roger Turpening used to do with this ’70 Camaro RS Z28.
That’s right, after taking delivery of his new Z in December 1970, Roger used it as a setup car for off-road rally racing in Michigan’s northern wilderness. For five years in a row, he ran the Camaro hard on the 1500-mile course, exercising the 360hp 350c.i. engine and Muncie M-22 four-speed to their limits. We can only imagine the sight of this bright yellow F-body blasting through fields and down narrow tracks in Michigan’s rugged backcountry.
Roger disassembled the Camaro in the early 1980s, letting it sit for more than 30 years before bringing the pieces to Dan Kemppainen at Kemp’s Rod & Restoration for a thorough and accurate restoration. Fortunately for Dan, Roger had kept virtually all the car’s original parts. “I would say 98 percent of the original car was there,” Dan said. “We were able to literally clean up and save all that originality.”
Dan and his team rebuilt the drivetrain, replaced the exhaust with a correct Gardner system, and re-assembled everything using correct fasteners, clips and markings. Even the 15×7-inch wheels are original to the car, and were fitted with the appropriate Goodyear F60-15 tires after being restored.
Surprisingly, the body was in remarkably good shape, with only a few minor areas of rust. Dan fixed what was necessary and applied a fresh coat of Sikkens single-stage paint in the original Daytona Yellow hue, finishing it off with correct black Z28 stripes. Roger had ordered the car with the rare Deluxe Cloth upholstery, which is not available in reproduction interior kits, so Dan had to find original material and have new seat covers stitched in the original pattern. Other parts, like the gauges, only required disassembly and cleaning. Even the date-coded Hurst shifter is original.
Roger and Dan’s dedication to authenticity and originality in the restoration paid off with a score of 4970 points (out of 5000) in the Legends class at the 2017 Camaro Nationals – that’s 99.4-percent! The Goodguys Muscle Car of the Year Finalist pick at the 2017 Heartland Nationals in Des Moines was icing on the cake. Looking at it now, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine the hard life this Camaro lived in its first few years. These days, when Roger and his wife, Janet, cruise around Hancock, Michigan, they keep it on the pavement.