It’s hard to beat the level of enjoyment that comes from driving a rag-top muscle car on a summer evening with the top down. It makes the experience even more powerful when the car is an iconic 1967 SS Camaro. This beauty is sure to top anyone’s list. It’s powered by an LS3 engine, and is built to cruise. When we first spied this car, we immediately loved the look, style, and sound of this classic Camaro. Of course, we had to talk to the owner and find out more about this amazing car.
Dale Krehbiel of Seattle, Washington, has owned the car for 30 years. “It was in pieces, in someone’s yard when I found it,” Dale explained. “It belonged to a state cop in Central Oregon. I still have the original engine and everything back at home.” What initially caught Dale’s attention about this car was that it was a convertible with a very small amount of rust. That meant it was a great start to a project that could evolve over the years as he spent time driving it.
Learning By Doing
When Dale found the Camaro, he was living in Corvallis, Oregon, and he was actually looking for a Corvette. This Camaro, however, was a deal too good to refuse. “I asked the guy at the parts store if he knew where there might be a Corvette,” Dale told us. “He said no, but his dad had a Camaro convertible. Since I couldn’t find a Corvette, this Camaro was the next best thing.”
It had little rust, and Dale believes it was originally a California car, because the upholstery had seen a lot of sun. There was a lot of UV damage and dry rot, but the steel was all there. Overall, it was as clean as one could ask for in a car of this vintage. To find a convertible in Oregon, with little rust, was a pleasant surprise.
The rebuild was handled in an unconventional manner. Linn Benton Community College (LBCC), in nearby Albany, Oregon, had classes at the time that focused on auto restoration. “I used the classes offered by LBCC to restore this car,” Dale explained. “This was my project for four or five terms. I had already done that with a different Camaro, so I knew it was a good way to do this one.”
“They had racks, lifts, a paint booth, and everything else I would need to fix the car,” Dale told us. Using the class at the community college meant he had access to every tool he could possibly need, a place to store and work on the car, and access to experts that could offer assistance and input if he needed any. Wouldn’t it be nice if all community colleges offered classes like that today?
During the rebuild, Dale never planned to use the original engine. When that first rebuild was complete, he used a small-block 400 cubic-incher to power the car. “I liked the 400 small-blocks,” he said. “To me, that’s just a great engine. They’ve got a lot of power packed into that small size.”
A Modern Heartbeat
Putting the LS into the Camaro wasn’t the original plan, and it really wasn’t even Dale’s idea to begin with. Dale has a few car-guy friends who had done it to their cars, and were the ones that talked him into it. “My friends sort of wore me down and convinced me to do this,” he told us. “They had the expertise, and doing this with their help was a great way to improve my car while spending time with friends.”
“This is new-school technology,” Dale continued, “It’s fast, but more than that, it’s also economical. It’s just the best. Why mess with a carburetor, when this is so simple and works so well.” With the LS engine, you get the power, efficiency, and convenience of a modern fuel-injected, computer-controlled engine.
After the LS crate-engine showed up at his door, it only took three-weeks to assemble the car with the new engine. All he had to do was buy the shallow-sump oil pan to fit the Camaro, headers compatible with the car, fuel tank, fuel pump, and the new wiring. Everything else was just little stuff.
In addition to the LS3 engine, Dale made use of a 4L70E automatic transmission for cruising comfort and reliability. He had to have the driveshaft shortened to work with the new powerplant and transmission. All that power feeds into the 3.73-geared, 12-bolt positraction rearend.
Dale wasn’t planning to build an ultra-high performance machine, he just wanted a good-cruising reliable engine. The power, however, does come as a nice bonus for sure. “At the track, I raced a newer ZL1 Camaro,” Dale said. He couldn’t remember the exact year of it, but it was early model. “He had me at the line because I have to take off slow, but after that, I passed him and left him in the dust.”
Beauty Inside And Out
The upholstery was replaced during the original rebuild, but as you can imagine, after enjoying the car for so long, even the stuff he put in was starting to show wear. The upholstery you see now is the second-go-round for Dale, and it looks spectacular. It’s the original light green color, and a beautiful combination with the dark green exterior.
“This is the third iteration of the upholstery. The original stuff was shot, and after nearly thirty years, even the new set I put in was starting to show it’s age. That’s why I redid it again,” Dale said. One thing he did change when he redid the upholstery the second time, was adding heated seats. They’re really nice and warm you right up.
“At the start of the rebuild, I wanted it to be mostly stock, and the paint on the sills had flattening agent mixed in from the factory, so they were a little dull. During the repaint, we decided to leave the flattener out, which makes the color glossier, really helping the interior pop,” said Dale.
It’s the Little Things
Along with the massive change that came in the form of an entirely new, updated drivetrain, Dale added a few other cool features to improve its performance. One of the most safety-conscious additions were the disc brakes he added to the front of the car.
The brakes themselves are a junkyard find, taken from a third-gen Camaro. The brake booster system is something a little more unique. “It’s a Bosch braking system that uses an electric motor to pump up the vacuum reservoir and give the brakes power assist,” Dale said. “It doesn’t care about having a vacuum or not.”
Dale also wanted better handling, so he installed a steering box he got from an IROC Camaro. “It’s 2.4 turns lock-to-lock,” Dale told us. “It’s much quicker than the factory steering box.” Along with the IROC steering box, Dale installed a 1 1/8-inch sway bar. With those two steering enhancements, the car handles like a dream.
He started the project with the intentions of keeping it as close to stock as possible, but Dale’s glad he allowed himself to modify it the way he did. “It’s funny how your mind changes over the years as your car evolves,” he said. In the end, Dale is left with one cool cruising Camaro convertible.
It’s reliable, gets good gas mileage, and has plenty of power to spin the tires at will. “It’s also great if you’ve got a wife that doesn’t like to fool with carburetors,” Dale continued. “This car is perfect. You can let it sit for a month and it’ll still start right up.”