Text and photos by Steve Temple

To misquote Shakespeare, “Doth mine eyes deceive me?” While not correct in a literary sense, this expression is certainly fitting for the new Bueno ZS7, for it is indeed deceptive. While it has the lines of a European supercar, combining some familiar design elements, it’s not a replica of any specific model.

It also appears to be a mid-engine configuration, but when you open the rear deck, and instead of a V12, you’ll find a large trunk area. Go to the front end and underneath the hood there’s a red-blooded American V8, GM’s LT1 to be precise. That’s because the platform for this innovative body design is a fourth-gen Z28 Camaro (1993 to 2002).

We give high marks to this body conversion’s creator, John H. Bueno, for breaking fresh ground by using a new donor-car platform. While the fourth-generation Camaro is certainly plentiful and affordable, and well supported by the performance aftermarket, it’s been more often used for hot rodding than re-body projects. And those few body conversions that we’ve seen have been more along the lines of aero treatments at most, rather than a radical reworking. But even as he’s leading the way, it hasn’t been an easy task.

While the drivetrain, mechanicals, electricals and all interior dash components remain that of a stock Camaro Z28, here’s the rub (more accurately quoting Bill Shakespeare):

Recalling the kit’s initial development, “I had to first research which donor car had the appropriate specs/dimensions to get me as close to the shape and size that I wanted,” Bueno explains. Not only that, “I would have to build this car four times.”

The first time would be in his design process to build a buck using any materials available to him, such as wood, clay, foam, body fillers, and even some existing automotive body panels if they had a particular look and shape that he desired. Fortunately, he was able to draw from his training and experience running a professional bodyshop, along with various automotive restorations.

“Our biggest challenge was to make the car look evenly designed throughout its entire length while keeping the engine in the front and maintaining the appearance of a mid-engine design,” Bueno admits. We feel he’s succeeded in this aspect, as the shape has a nice flow to it, even though it’s much larger than the various exotics it emulates to some degree.

“Once I had my buck completed, I then had to cut all the individual pieces and prepare each to make a mold,” he adds. “Once each mold was completed, I then had to prepare the mold to make each part. After all the molds and parts where completed and laid up, I bought a driver that would be my final build.”

Some modifications to the donor chassis were required, to ensure that all parts would align and fit. These included the roof,  front radiator support, and outside rocker panels. Getting more specific, the roof was lowered three inches, with additional bracing added for support. After the radiator support was removed, it was replaced with engine compartment bracing and bracket systems. In addition, Bueno converted the interior to a two-seater with a custom center console, along with panel behind the seats. Lastly, he applied PPG Global’s “Ruby Red” from its vibrance paint line.

The car shown here was still in its final stages of construction, so we had to shoot around a few loose ends and rough edges, but it does demonstrate proof of concept. As of this writing, a basic panel kit is not available, as Bueno only offers turnkey cars starting at $79,500 (with a Z28 donor included with that price; but discounted if the customer supplies a car. A Camaro SS version is an optional upgrade).

While by no means inexpensive, that price is well below what a mid-engine exotic sells for these days, not to mention its typically higher maintenance and repair costs. In contrast, a Camaro can be serviced by any GM dealer, and parts are readily available. So all told, by any other name, this rose would smell as sweet.