Frank Ward’s 1972 Camaro
By Wes Taylor – Photography by the Author
Material things come and go in life, but the memories you share with friends last forever. Frank Ward’s ’72 Camaro bounced around his friend group before winding up back in Frank’s hands, as he’s loved the second-gen Camaro since his senior year of high school.
Like many car enthusiasts, Frank learned many of his skills at a young age from his father and uncles. He took that knowledge and traveled up the ranks from tire changer to part owner at a local auto shop called Mock Tire & Auto.
Originally Frank bought the 454ci crate engine out of the premiered ’72 shell from his neighbor Jonathan Annas; Frank thought to buy everything together but had too many other projects going on and changed his mind. It wasn’t until some years later that the Camaro ended up back with Frank.
Over the years, Frank grew close to his neighbor Ron Landry who had a 396 he’d pulled from his ’68 Chevelle years ago but now had nothing to put it in. With the Camaro sitting stagnant, Frank decided to give it to Landry who then built himself an SS clone wrapped in a beautiful factory black paint with a 2-inch cowl hood and factory chrome bumpers. Frank regretted seeing the car exchange hands through two of his friends; enough so, he bugged Landry to let him buy it back. Landry obliged and, finally, Frank became the proud re-owner of the second gen.
Frank was a helping hand through both transactions of the ’72 and a considerable help to Landry, so he knew the ins and outs of the car quite well. But, while Landry had done a fantastic job with it, Frank wanted to add his own spin to the car.
Upon meeting Frank at a local cruise, this author soon realized he wasn’t the typical “muscle head.” I could tell by the styling cues on the car and through our conversation about cars that he had an appreciation for all makes and models. He invited me to his house and showed me his Nova project, Nissan 370, and a Ducati motorcycle—he’s definitely a diverse enthusiast.
To Frank the second gen stands out among the first gens, which is precisely what he was after, but instead of the American muscle drag racing roots, those wide fenders deserve a nice, broad set of front and rear wheels, giving it the Pro Touring look. Frank wanted to stick with the SS roots and keep the old-school 396 engine to make his Camaro a little different from all the other Pro Touring builds out there done with LS engines.
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Underhood rests the burley L78 396; for those who aren’t familiar, it’s one of the most potent factory big-blocks of its day with a claimed 375 hp. Actual numbers were higher, and displacement scales 402 ci; engineers kept the famous monocular “396” name, keeping corporate heads and insurance companies happy. Frank’s big-block uses 0.060 over Wiseco pistons in the factory 11:1 compression ratio. Other than a Crane cam, the engine remains stock. The fantastic thing about these L78s is the tech inside them; that compression ratio was unheard of in a production-built engine back then, as were forged rods, forged crank, and the beefy four-bolt main we all love and enjoy to this day. A chrome 4-inch K&N filter tops the Holley 750-cfm carb, drawing an appropriate air/fuel ratio into an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold. Sanderson headers pipe exhaust fumes through a custom 3-inch exhaust to Flowmaster mufflers.
Frank ditched the factory four-speed for a TREMEC TKO600 five-speed transmission complete with a Centerforce clutch and Billet Specialties shifter. He continued beefing up the driveline, changing from a 10-bolt to a shortened 12-bolt rearend with 4.11 gears, Moser 33-spline axles, and Truetrac posi from GearFX.
Performance suspension, braking, and overall stance are what Frank was after, so he converted the rear suspension to a Detriot Speed QUADRALink and used Corvette-style spindles up front for correct geometry and high-performance handling. Detroit Speed springs and JRi coilovers reside on all four corners to comply with the Camaro’s lateral-g demands. For improved braking ability, Frank upgraded to Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners and went with Forgeline CF3C Concave wheels for just the right look (18×9.5 up front and 18×12 out back). The Camaro rides on Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires, 275/35R18 front, and a massive 335/30R18 for superb traction. Camaros of the time came with relatively puny tires, so mini-tubs were weld in to clear the gigantic meats.
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Frank liked much of the interior that Landry installed, but he’s always loved ’70 Camaro seats, so he went with a pair of those. Landry also made a center console, wired the car, and went with Dakota Digital factory-style gauges. He installed the Vintage Air A/C, the RetroSound radio with Infinity speakers, and a Billet Specialties steering wheel to finish the otherwise stock-appearing interior.
Some people leap at opportunities and some are more patient. Frank paused and made the right choices regarding his high school dream. Though Frank does wish he’d painted the car silver with black stripes and used a 632ci mill instead, both could still happen at some point—proof that most muscle car projects are never really done.
Owner: Frank Ward
Vehicle: ’72 Camaro
Displacement 396 ci
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Bore: 0.060 over
Cylinder Heads: Stock
Induction: Edelbrock Performer intake, Holley 750 carburetor, K&N 4-inch polished air cleaner with a custom machined drop base
Exhaust: Sanderson Headers, custom 3-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers
Ancillaries: Be Cool Radiator, MSD ignition and wires, Billet Specialties breathers on stock chrome valve covers
Output: Estimated 375 hp
Transmission: TREMEC TKO600
Rear Axle: Rebuilt GearFX 12-bolt rearend, Moser 33-spline axles, Truetrac, 4.11 gears
Chassis & Suspension
Front Suspension: CPP C6 Vette-style spindles, JRi coilover shocks, Detroit Speed 500-pound springs
Rear Suspension: Detroit Speed QUADRALink, JRi coilover shocks, 200-pound springs, Detroit Speed sway bar
Brakes: Willwood 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers front, Wilwood 14-inch rotors, four-piston calipers rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline CF3C Concave 18×9.5 front, 18×12 rear
Tires: Continental ExtremeContact Sport 275/35R18 front, 335/30R18 rear
Installation Ron Landry
Seats: ’70 Camaro
Steering: Billet Specialties steering wheel brushed by Tony Edwards
Shifter: Billet Specialties
Instrumentation: Dakota Digital gauges
Center Console: Ron Landry custom built
HVAC: Vintage Air
Audio System: RetroSound head unit, infinity 6×9 speakers
Bodywork and Paint: Steve Scearce of OAS Custom Classics
Paint: Factory black with white stripes
Front Bumper: Stock
Rear Bumper: Stock