Many times, finding the car of your dreams can be as easy as taking a leisurely drive down the street. Other times, it requires an exhaustive and timely search that might drag on for several months, or even years. Jerry Neumann of Batavia, Illinois, spent several months looking for the car of his dreams, but he was fortunate finding this ’68 RS/SS Camaro was just what he needed. Not only did it take a while to locate, he also had to travel quite some distance to actually gain possession.
“I had been looking for a big-block Camaro convertible for several years. I found this one when looking through a classic car flyer. It was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” Jerry said. He felt the 3 1/2-hour trip from his home in Batavia, wasn’t too far away to eliminate the Camaro as an option. “I called the owner to get some information, and then decided to drive out to see the car. I bought it on the spot,” Jerry stated.
The Camaro had a 396ci engine under the hood and a Turbo 400 bolted to that. The car also came from the factory with air conditioning, which was not something found on many convertibles. “I have tons of documentation, including the Protecto-Plate and a copy of the original order form. The car came from Johnson Chevrolet in Dallas, Texas. It was originally Sequoia Green with a Parchment top and interior. According to the paperwork, it cost the original owner $3,812.27,” Jerry said. The car was in need of a restoration, but according to Jerry, was apparently well-loved over the years.
When asked why he chose this car, especially since it was a 400-plus mile round trip, “It seemed to be everything I was looking for. I wasn’t crazy about the colors, but it had everything else I wanted. Also, I had found a couple of other big-block convertibles during my search, but I had taken a day or two to think about my options and they sold. I bought this one while I could.”
That was way back in 1999, and Jerry says he drove the car in as-acquired condition until 2004. That’s when it got a serious scratch on the fender, and he decided that it was finally time to give the reliable drop top a facelift. “That’s when I contacted Muscle Car Restorations (MCR) about a new paint job. I had seen their work at a car show I attended, and had even talked with John Balow [proprietor] about my car,” Jerry said. Like many simple project plans, the dominoes started to align and then fall. That’s when a simple repaint took another direction. “One thing led to another, and once the car was apart for paint, things got carried away and you see what we have today,” Jerry quipped.
When the crew at MCR stripped the car for paint, they found that some serious metal work was needed. As you can tell in the images, the quarter-panels needed to be replaced, other small areas of the body had some issues with rust, and the doors and fenders needed minor repairs. Once the rust was eradicated, the body shell was dipped and E-coated, a process that coats and seals every nook and cranny of the car. With the body ready for color, a slathering of a deep black hue was applied.
With the body completed, a full-tilt Detroit Speed Engineering (DSE) suspension was bolted onto the front of the shell. The fabricated control arms, Baer brakes, and Koni and QA1 shocks, combine for a lowered the ride height. With the front suspension installed, new reproduction parts were used on the rear to hang the 3.73-geared 12-bolt. According to Jerry, “Kyle and Stacy Tucker from DSE were a big help with parts and advice on putting this car together.”
A Bigger Big-Block
When it came time to decide what would motivate the F-body, Jerry had to decide whether to rebuild the 396ci big-block or go a different route. The decision was made, and he had the crew at MCR install a new 502-inch Chevrolet Performance crate engine. Some might ask why he chose a crate engine over rebuilding the mill that came with the car, but we’re sure he enjoys the reliability and extra power the crate engine delivers. Behind the big-block is not the Turbo 400 that was in the car when Jerry purchased it. Instead, he chose to upgrade the drivability, and added a TCI-built 700R4. The upgraded TCI unit delivers the quality and strength of the Turbo 400, but adds a highway-friendly overdrive.
Jerry told us the car was restored 10 years ago and he is more than happy with the lasting result. “It was in pretty good shape when I found it. It had several problems like a bad water pump, alternator, etc., but nothing major. The paint was a bit faded but passable. It was a nice driver,” he said. Now, he not only has a car that looks better than the one he started with, but one that looks better than the factory could have ever imagined. What’s more, it’s been upgraded with a few items that make the ride even more enjoyable than a stock big-block-powered Camaro convertible can deliver.
“The car was built to be a cruiser for me and my three sons. For years, there was always a car seat in the back. We’ve gone to a lot of cruise nights and shows over the years,” Jerry happily stated. “The car has given me plenty of excuses to spend time together with my sons, whether we are going someplace with a plan in mind, or just going for an evening ride.”