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1991 Chevy Camaro - A Penny Saved

Patience Pays off for Shane McEllhenney and his ’91 RS

Jun 26, 2013
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Saving up enough dough in order to purchase your first car can be a seemingly endless task, especially when your main source of income comes from a paper route. Add in the fact that you are only 13 years old and won't be able drive the thing for another two and a half years, and that's what we'd call a big bag of patience. And if that's not enough, early on Shane McEllhenney knew the car he was saving up for would be a Camaro.


"My dad had two Camaros while I was growing up: a split-bumper '70 and an '85 IROC-Z, which he still has, so I always figured my first ride would be a Camaro," remembers Shane. "Having a V-8-powered car was going against my mom's wishes, but my dad felt I could handle it and was on the lookout for a respectable third-gen."

By the time Shane was 15 he'd saved up a good chunk of money to go towards a car. Repeated sightings of a '91 parked on the side of a garage in town got Shane's dad to stop by and inquire if it was for sale. It wasn't. In fact, the woman who owned the car was proud of its reliability, especially for the fact that the A/C still blew ice-cold. Somehow Shane's dad talked her into taking $2,000 for the metallic green '91.

"It wasn't exactly what I had in mind," Shane comments. "The paint was faded and peeling, and it had pink pinstripes. What it did have going for it was a strong-running 305 with 143,000 miles on the odometer. Even though I wasn't legally old enough to drive it on the street, I parted ways with my savings and ended up with the car. My buddies and I must have gone through two tanks of gas driving back and forth in my driveway."

A few weeks post purchase, Shane had the car torn apart in his dad's garage and was prepping it for new paint and weatherstrip. The pink pinstripe wasn't going to cut it and the overall paint had to go, too.


Once Shane finally got to driving age, the car was painted and looking good. It did duty as his daily driver all through high school. "It wasn't long after high school when I got the itch for more power, so I purchased a rough '84 Camaro that came with a ZZ4 350 crate engine."

Once again the car ended up apart in his dad's garage, only this time an engine swap was the chore at hand. During the process Shane came across some rust in the quarters, which led to some serious bodywork. More on that later.

While going through the engine Shane figured a street machine build would suffice. Nothing too over the top as he enjoyed driving it on the street now and again. He kept the mill street friendly with 10:1-compression pistons. He assembled the 350 using GM aluminum heads; COMP Cams Magnum pushrods, Pro Magnum rockers, then stabbed it with a Mutha' Thumpr hydraulic roller. A Holley 750-cfm double-pumper establishes the proper air/fuel mix while the Edelbrock Air-Gap intake manifold distributes the explosive concoction. An MSD 6AL lights the fire while ceramic-coated Hedman Elite Hedders dump waste through twin 2 1/2-inch Dynomax exhausts capped off with a double dose of Race Bullet mufflers.

Paradise Automatic beefed up the 700-R4 trans and dialed in a TCI Street Fighter 3,000-stall converter and shift kit controlled by a B&M Pro Stick shifter. Although a posi and 3.73 gears reside in a 10-bolt case, Shane's reserved the spot for a 12-bolt. A power-adder is also in the works. He's leaning towards a supercharger, but that's a good amount of scratch he'll need to save up for.


"Recently buying a home has put Camaro upgrades on back burner for the time being," Shane confesses. "But if I had unlimited funds, this car would be busting out over 1,000 horsepower."

Shane has yet to dyno the combination, but estimates the horsepower range to be around 420 to the tires. Still enough grunt to have a good time and grab a little attention when he takes the car out on the town.

The mildly upgraded suspension includes a BMR tubular K-member, A-arms and adjustable coilovers up front, while BMR tubular control arms and 2-inch drop springs reside out back. For additional chassis stiffness, Shane went with a set of S&W subframe connectors. SSBC slotted and drilled disc brakes handle stopping duties up front while the stock drums remain out back ... for now.

With the aggressive stance firmly in place, Weld RTS wheels (15x6 up front, 15x8 out back) wrapped in M&H Racemaster rubber (165/75-R15 front, 275/60-R15 rear) complement the drag-style scene Shane invoked on the RS.

Beyond the Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges, the interior adheres to a mostly stock appearance, although an Alpine head unit manages the Infinity speakers lodged in the kick panels and 10-inch Kicker subs in the rear.


A bodyman by trade, Shane handled the bodywork and prep after-hours and on weekends at the shop he works at, so we had better mention Superior Paint & Collision in New Holland, Pennsylvania.

While in the body prep process, it was discovered the quarter-panels had an overwhelming amount of rust. Shane was able to locate a fresh set and got busy.

"I worked on the car for about a year and a half," recalls Shane. "This was my first really involved build and I learned a lot. It was all worth it, though. Now the car looks great and is totally rust-free, and I get tons of compliments when I take it out."

Fellow employee Matt Hoover applied the PPG Dark Bright Teal Metallic and black stripes while Duane Mellinger knocked out the wet-sand and buffing portion. The result is a deep, liquefied appearance making for an outstanding show-quality paintjob.

Being this is Shane's first car, he's proud of the fact that he's been able to restore it to where it is now. Yes, there was a time or two when selling it crossed his mind, but fortunately he stuck with the car, and after seven years, he still loves getting it out to shows as weather permits.

"I'm really looking forward to doing more upgrades on the car," said Shane. "Besides a 12-bolt and rear disc brakes, I want to add a rollcage, mini-tubs, and of course, like mentioned earlier, a lot more power."


As with most projects taken on by young guns, it sometimes takes a little extra support to get to the completed stage. "I want to thank my dad for allowing me to take over his garage on not one, but two occasions," said Shane. "And also my grandparents for their generous donation towards the project."

It may be a while before Shane does any major upgrades to this gorgeous third-gen, but that's OK with him. He's cruising the baddest '91 Camaro on the streets of Ephrata, Pennsylvania.



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