Gary Buckles’s pro street 1971 Camaro – flashback

With its raked stance, super-sanitary style and wild all-metal interior, Gary's Camaro bucked the lairy 90s pro street trend

Photographers: Warwick Kent, John Jackson

WHEN Street Machine featured the 1971 Camaro of Dayton, Ohio resident Gary Buckles in our March 1994 issue, the US pro street universe was ruled by wild, over-the-top graphics, mile-high metal mountains poking out of hoods and wall-to-wall tweed.

First published in the July 2021 issue of Street Machine

Gary’s Camaro had none of that. Completely smooth and slick, it boasted a radical stance and an even more radical all-metal interior. There wasn’t a hint of tweed or exposed engine hardware in sight. Instead, it was ultra-clean, and the razor-sharp styling elevated this Camaro to icon status.

Gary has owned the car the entire time, and it still looks just the same as it did at the ’93 and ’94 Du Quoin Street Machine Nationals – where it won Best Engineered Pro Street. We caught up with him to get his take on this groundbreaking build.

As far as pro streeters of the era go, your Camaro really was something different.

Years ago, Hot Rod magazine ran an article along the lines of ‘10 rules of pro streeting’. Had to have a blower – nope. Had to have a full ’cage – nope. Had to have a trailer – nope. All these rules, and we broke just about all of them. Yet the car still gets huge interest wherever we take it.

Where did the idea of the full-metal interior come from?

Well, I built the car with Chris Tietge from Tietge’s Hot Rod Garage – his fabrication skills are awesome. I didn’t want any sharp edges, so we smoothed out the frame and the engine bay. When Chris started on the interior, all the metal looked so good it seemed a shame to cover it up. Besides, I was young back then – I had a lot more time than I had money, and a good interior costs ya. So I said, “Why don’t we just paint it all?” Chris liked the idea and set about making the dash flow into the firewall, then into the floor and tunnel, before flowing up into the tubs. It was a lot of work, but it’s held up all these years. After being painted, it was obvious it needed something. I thought, “What’s the one thing you’d never expect to see sitting inside? A wrench.” So I got Bob Maynard to airbrush that into the driver’s floor. Bob reckons of all the airbrush work he’s done, it’s the one people comment on all the time.

What’s changed on the car since the 90s?

Nothing! The car has been repainted on the outside a couple of times from rock chips, small scratches and stuff. I know many people tear their cars apart and change everything, but this car was cool in 1994 and still turns heads today – why change something that works, right?

What’s one thing no one ever notices about it?

No shifter. Like the stereo, the Vintage Air controls and all the switches, the shifter is mounted up under the dash – it’s actually mounted upside down, but it works fine. I used to be able to reach under there to operate it. Now that I’m over 50, I pretty much stick my foot under there and hook it into gear. The other thing is, the young ones asking me what type of car it is. Then you realise that GM built this car 30 years before they were even born, so I suppose I can’t be too hard on them.

What’s it like to drive?

We drive it everywhere to heaps of shows – we’ve done over 50,000 miles in it and had a blast. For one show, we drove it from Dayton, Ohio across to Sedalia, Missouri – 10 hours each way – no problem. The front is hydraulic, over coils. I raise it up four inches for driving and it rides like a Cadillac. The tyres are really tight on the quarters, so the rear is somewhat stiff. The ride is firm, but far from terrible. The shaved and raised front crossmember takes a beating – there’s no paint left on it – and it was reinforced for this reason. But as I like to say, “It’s not a party ’til the crossmember scrapes!”


Colour: PPG Bahama Blue
Engine: 1989 Corvette 350ci Tuned Port
Transmission: 700-R4
Front suspension:Hydraulic rams and springs, custom A-arms
Rear suspension: Coil-overs, stainless-steel four-link
Rims: Boyd Coddington billet; 15×6 (f), 15×14 (r) 
Rubber: 205/60R15 (f), Mickey Thompson 33×21.5×15 (r)