Home-Built Hero: This ’68 Camaro Has Gone From Shell To Showstopper

When the ’67 Camaro was released to the buying public, the design was a great introduction to Chevrolet’s soon-to-be-dubbed “pony car.” However, like many firsts in a series, Chevrolet couldn’t leave well enough alone with its instant hit. Although the Camaro was quickly proven as a worthy answer to the Mustang, with sales numbers looking strong and wins racking up on the racetrack, a few subtle design changes were made from the 1967 to 1968 models.

These changes, for example, saw the disappearance of the vent windows that framed the A-pillars. I don’t know about you, but I for one like that small ventilation enhancer. Since there were no “smoker” windows, Chevrolet had to do something to keep airflow throughout the cockpit. Enter the under-dash Astro Ventilation system.

'68 Camaro

Wheels are from Asanti and measure 20×8 and 20×12. Sneakers are 225/30-20 and 305/20-20 Pirellis.

While the 1968 Camaro looked remarkably similar to the 1967 model, externally, there were other small body changes than just the elimination of vent windows. These included the addition of side marker lights (due to a new government mandate), a grille with rectangular instead of round parking lights and a more pronounced/protruding center, and divided rear taillights. These small changes didn’t affect the buying public’s feelings about the car, and sales numbers held true to predictions. Fast forward to the present day, and the early first-gen Camaro is still a favorite among hot rodders.

A friend of mine owned this car before I did. When I bought it from him, it was just a shell. – James Stewart

James Stewart of Haines City, Florida, is a diehard fan of all things Chevrolet muscle. In his garage, you’ll find a couple of first-gen Camaros (this one and a true COPO car), multiple C10 trucks, and various other hot rods. Yeah, he’s definitely a fan of the brand.

“A friend of mine owned this car before I did,” says James. “When I bought it from him, it was just a shell.” James began the rebuild process by fixing any sheetmetal that needed attention and then covering it with a mile-deep shade of PPG’s Burnt Orange.

Next on the agenda was updating the foundation upon which to create this masterpiece. This car was not destined to spend most of its life in the garage or on a trailer. No sir, James planned to drive this ’68 Camaro as much as he could. To make sure this pony car handled well and rode comfortably, the stock front suspension was ceremoniously removed from consideration, and the subframe was treated to a full complement of Hotchkis Performance suspension parts.

68 Camaro

With 572 cubic inches of tire-melting power under the hood, we would wager that frequent stops at fuel stations are part of the cruising plan. We would also bet the local law enforcement officers are just a blip of the throttle away.

Although the second-year first gen was available with the biggest big-block available at the time, James — like ay true gearhead — wanted more power for his ride. For that reason, 572 cubic inches of “factory stock” Chevrolet Performance crate engine now strains the engine mounts to the limit. The monster ZZ572/720 is a definite powerhouse with 727 horsepower and 680 lb-ft of torque.

68 Camaro

A ride this custom on the outside deserves an equally custom interior. The leather and suede orange stitching is a great modern-looking touch.

By utilizing a bore and stroke of 4.560 x 4.375 inches, steel crankshaft and rods, forged pistons, and 110 cc aluminum cylinder heads, the final compression ratio of 12.0:1 might not be conducive for surviving long cruises, but it does make for some serious red light to red light shenanigans. Under the 1,150 cfm Holley Dominator and single-plane Bow Tie intake, you’ll find a mechanical-roller camshaft with .714/.714-inch lift and 278/282-degrees of duration at .050-inch lift. To say this is a stout mill is a definite understatement.

Having a complete package makes a drivetrain upgrade like this quite easy. To that end, James chose to order his 572-inch big block as part of the Connect and Cruise package. That means it was available with either an automatic or manually shifted transmission. James is a grab-your-own kind of guy, so he ordered his mated to a TREMEC T56 Magnum. Talk about a combination built for frying tires! Finally, he kept with the heavy-duty theme and opted to install a Dana 60 under the rear frame rails. Inside the Dana are 4.10 gears and a positraction differential.

68 Camaro

Under that smooth exterior is a Hotchkis Performance suspension aided by QA1 coilovers.

Since the motivational duties are handled by parts other than stock, it stands to reason the interior would also enjoy some upgrades. “The seats are power-adjustable units from a late-model Chrysler 300,” says James. The Classic Dash cluster is not the only upgrade found in the factory dash shell. If you look to the right of the steering column, you’ll notice the Vintage Air A/C controls and the Pioneer stereo that also includes navigation.

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What James has managed to do is resurrect a car that was literally, a shell of its former self, and create something any gear head would love to have parked in their garage. The care and dedication he put into this hot rod proves there is no denying James’ loyalty to the Bow Tie brand. There’s also no doubt that he really likes to create hot rods that keep true to the muscle car heritage, but also take it up a notch. James’ first-gen monster definitely stands out at any show, which is a difficult task for a first-gen model.

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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