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1968 Camaro SS

1968 Camaro SS


Crazy glue couldn't grip corners any better. Grasp that and you'll understand the meaning of the words strength and balance. If you've ever wondered what it's like to fly through a curve with the magnetic force of a rollercoaster, Bob Frederick's '68 Camaro was a spectacular way to find out. The word Camaro in French means "friend" or "comrade," but in Spanis, it means "upset stomach," which in this case seemed far more apt. This is a car that makes you appreciate life because it can scare the hell out of you. Its horsepower translates directly into an immediate gut-wrenching rush unmatched by few other street production cars. But then, this isn't your average street production Camaro. It's built with one thing in mind - speed.

In the winter of 2003, Bob was driving with his daughter-in-law when she spotted the Camaro wasting away in a snow bank on a country road. After a perfunctory examination, Bob bought the car from the owner. "It had a good body, but mechanically it was shot," recalls Bob, "but that was the right fit for what my son and I wanted to do with a rebuild." With his son Jay, a mechanic and Bob, being an engineer, they stripped the intestines of the car out. "It had a decent exterior, but the rear package tray, back seat support and interior door framing had been butchered by someone that thought a big stereo system was important." Bob picks up his car keys while talking, "the car was originally a 6-cylinder automatic (on the column), that had been converted to a 327 4-speed (on the floor), but it was in sad shape. Let's go for a ride." When Bob turns on the ignition, the soundtrack crackle from the engine is as intoxicating as a Jimi Hendrix concert.

Today, this car is equipped with a hemi-vortex, dual carb centrifugal exclamation intake quad. And that just powers the door locks. Actually, together with Jay, they

sandblasted and cleaned up the frame and undercarriage and started a complete restoration once they found the ideal engine and that came in the shape of a modified LS6, converted from fuel injection to a carb (GM performance high rise manifold, Holly 770 and a blue electric fuel pump). Bob describes the transition like it is a new born. “It runs around 600 HP. We introduced a Tremec T56 transmission with Hedman 1.75 inch ceramic-coated headers. It is accompanied by Flowmaster dual exhaust, a heavy- duty drive shaft and a Corvette heavy-duty hydraulic clutch.”

Once we’re on the main road (and no cops in sight), he stabs the accelerator to the sound of screeching tires and I can suddenly feel the G-force pressed against my chest. “We installed Q1 adjustable rear shocks moved inboard to clear the tires and multi-leaf rear springs. We lowered the front spindles, used shorter coils, incorporated Global Western control arms and to compensate for the additional power, adopted 4-wheel SSBC power disc brakes (the original car had drum brakes).” Further additions were a Griffin cross flow, aluminum radiator with dual electric fans, completely new interior, including newer electric front bucket seats, Auto Meter gauges, custom console, and a Pro 5 shifter. The car wiring was completely replaced using a modified kit from American Wire. It all sits pretty on Nitto 555s (235 X 40 X 18 on the front and 275 X 40 X 18 on the rear) on Foose Monterey rims.” We find a spot to photograph the car and Bob lets it idle. I can hear it gurgle like it’s some exotic language. The car glitters in the sun. Its paint job is of an off charcoal hue by Will Robertson at Will’s Auto in Dunrobin.

The car took 5 years to get it stripped and sandblasted and 2.5 years to restore and license it. Bob tells me the hardest section was getting the drive train set up properly with new engine mounts, trans mount, T56, a Hummer oil pan, and a new drive shaft to ensure that all the various components became a strong and effective drive train. “We also had some problems with the SSBC brakes to adjust from the master brake cylinder to a Wilwood,” remembers Bob. When driving, the car is stiff but exact to the touch like a racing car. Bob and Jay switched the original power steering box with a Delfi 600 quick ratio power steering unit that offers a much heavier clutch and throttle set up. Jay loves it, but Bob finds it awkward and very stiff. “Regardless of how long it took to rebuild, it was a great opportunity for me to work with my son. I realized how much he knew about cars and, conversely, he found out how little I knew. He has his knowledge to work now running Powersports Garage and working on street and racing cars. Both of us spend a lot ot time at Calabogie Motorsports Park; Jay as a mechanic and I, as a marshal.”

“It’s funny,” states Bob, “this car has won a prize for a Best Restoration Modification class, but it gets people’s attention for its style (simple and clean) but does not attract those that like everything in chrome.” I ask Bob what the ultimate pleasure is in owning such a car? He answers without a pause, “knowing that Jay and I built this car from scratch. It cost a lot, but buying one already restored was never a consideration and still would not be.”

Racing legend, Mark Donahue, driving the blue #6 Camaro, won 10 of the 13, easily becoming the 1968 Trans Am champion. Consistently finishing ahead of Mustangs on the track, its main rival, the resulting publicity helped overall Camaro sales leap to 235,417 models sold that year. I can understand why Bob is so proud of his Camaro. Not only will this baby make a curve feel like a straightaway, it redefines the meaning of freedom. Nature may create obstacles, but this Camaro defies them.