There Was A Time When You Could Build A Tiny Camaro In Your Backyard

Illustration for article titled There Was A Time When You Could Build A Tiny Camaro In Your Backyard
Graphic: Jason Torchinsky, Samba, FB Marketplace

I don’t think it’s a secret about how much I love the Volkswagen Beetle-chassis-kit-car-era, which is good, because I do. The sheer amount of janky fiberglass bodies you and an equally drunk friend could bolt to an old Beetle chassis in your backyard was once staggering: dune buggies, things that looked like old MG TCs and old Bugattis, strange kinda Corvette-shaped things, strange little vans, campers, mini big rig trucks, anything. And, yes, it seems you could build yourself a tiny Camaro, too.

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A reader sent me this link to something called a KAR Funtastik Z-28 Mini-Camaro, and it’s pretty much exactly what the name says: a mini Chevy Camaro, but, you know, funtastik.

Illustration for article titled There Was A Time When You Could Build A Tiny Camaro In Your Backyard
Screenshot: Facebook Marketplace

As you can see, the car looks like an early ’70s Camaro was taken, shoved into a colossal microwave, which was then turned on to the “cartoonify” setting (just under defrost, next to popcorn) and left in for, oh, eight minutes.

Illustration for article titled There Was A Time When You Could Build A Tiny Camaro In Your Backyard
Photo: Price of His Toys

Sure, they’re nice and ridiculous, but they’re also quite well-designed. The proportions actually work, and they just seem like a hell of a lot of fun. I’m not sure how many kits of these were actually sold, but it doesn’t appear to be all that many.

These Funtastiks were built by a well-known fiberglass kit car maker back in the 1970s, KAR Manufacturing, and used a VW chassis shortened by a surprising two full feet! That made for an extremely stumpy little car.

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Illustration for article titled There Was A Time When You Could Build A Tiny Camaro In Your Backyard
Image: The Samba

The ad copy mentions that now with a wheelbase of only 70 inches, “even a tired VW beetle becomes something of a “bear” on the street,” and with a weight reduced to about 1100 pounds, I can believe that’s true. Even an old 40-horse VW engine would feel pretty quick in there, and by the time anyone building one of these bolted on some headers and twin carbs and the other common easy VW performance bits, I bet one of these Mini-Camaros could have been made nice and terrifying.

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For the more serious connoisseur of knockoff, rear-engined Camaros, KAR had you covered, too, with a full-size Fantastik Camaro:

Illustration for article titled There Was A Time When You Could Build A Tiny Camaro In Your Backyard
Screenshot: SMClassic Cars
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These used the stock, uncut VW pan with a generous 94-inch wheelbase, so now you can drive around a 3/4th-scale Camaro instead of a 5/8th-scale one. These can also be identified by their front chin spoiler and hinged and removable T-Tops that seem to be also called “Marlboro doors.”

Illustration for article titled There Was A Time When You Could Build A Tiny Camaro In Your Backyard
Photo: SMClassic Cars, Pinterest
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At a bit of a distance, the full-wheelbase one could pass for an actual Camaro pretty well. If you were wanting a Camaro in 1973 but really, really worried about the oil crisis, then this would have been the car for you.

Or if you had a religious reason to avoid radiators.

I can’t seem to find if GM ever came after KAR, though I’d imagine it wasn’t too happy about these Camaro lookalikes being on the roads, puttering around with that distinctive VW flat-four clatter.

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Even so, just knowing about the existence of these makes me happy, and sort of nostalgic for a time when you could make something like this with only basic tools and register it, legally, and use it as a daily driver.

It looks like these pop up on eBay and other places — like that Facebook marketplace one that started all this — so if you really, really need a much-shrunken, low-HP Camaro in your life, this looks to be an achievable dream.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

DISCUSSION

tcotrel
Thomas Cotrel

Uhhhh, Chevrolet actually DID build a miniature Camaro: