The Silver Bullet: Ron Rhodes’ Sleek Big-Block 1967 Camaro

Ron Rhodes has built a legendary drag racing resume behind the wheel of his 1968 Camaro. While race cars like Ron’s Camaro are fun, you can only really enjoy them at the track. Ron wanted a fun street/strip car to play with, so he took a basketcase 1967 that was living in a shed and turned it into a killer ride.

For those who don’t follow radial racing, Ron has owned his infamous 1968 Camaro since he was 14 years old. Ron drove the Camaro when he was in high school and it was just a 13-second street car. Well, over the years the Camaro got much faster, and it has won just about every big X275 race out there. Recently, Ron smashed the nitrous X275 record with a 4.08-second pass at over 180 mph. To say Ron and his Camaro have come a long way is an understatement.

Whether Ron is working on a build for a customer at his shop Rhodes Custom Auto or his own projects, the goal is simple, perfection. Not a single corner is cut, and nothing is ever just “good enough” it has to look like a work of art. This particular Camaro was ready to challenge Ron and his approach to doing things because it was literally in pieces when he got it.

“I got this car, like, 25 years ago as a trade on some work I was doing for a customer. It was your typical restoration that someone started and didn’t finish, so it was just a pile of parts. Somebody had started the build and found out how hard it was to finish a project like this, so they just stopped and left it as a basket case,” Ron says.

Things got busy for Ron and the Camaro sat in a storage shed for nearly 15 years before his son, Ronny, became interested in the car. Ronny started to put the Camaro back together as his own ride until he scored his grandfather’s old race car. The Camaro once again was put on the back burner with no clear future. Well, the Camaro’s fortunes changed when Ron got tired of the unfinished project taking up space and began to work on the car once again.

Ron had a vision for the Camaro and he was ready to bring it to life.

“I wanted to build something like what you would have seen during my era of growing up and this is the kind of cars people had. The cool cars were running around with little tires on the front and big tires on the rear, they just looked tough. I always wanted a big-block car because I love the flag they had on the fenders, so of course this car was going to get a big-block engine of some kind,” Ron explains.

Ron followed his plan and started to create a car that fit what he had in his mind. The Camaro would have to look and drive like a street car, but also had to have the muscles of a race car. The car Ron ended up building isn’t a resto-mod; it turned out to be more of a street machine type of build. It really is a Pro Street car on small tires, if you will.

The horsepower for Ron’s ride comes from a 565 cubic-inch big-block Chevy that was assembled by Jensen’s Engine Technologies. A Dart block is the foundation of the Rat motor, and a set of Brodix heads were added to help the engine generate over 875 horsepower on pump gas. If that wasn’t enough, Ron added an Induction Solutions nitrous system for good measure. The Camaro has a full 3.5-inch stainless steel exhaust system with tailpipes to keep it street-legal.

Rick’s Tanks provided the fuel tank and designed a custom fuel system with Aeromotive parts to feed the hungry big-block. The ignition system uses a catalog of MSD components to keep fire in the pipes. Behind the engine, Ron decided to use an RPM Transmissions-built Powerglide and PTC torque converter to send power back to the rear wheels.

Ron left the leaf spring suspension under the rear of the car and augmented it with parts from Calvert Racing. Up front, TRZ suspension parts were bolted up and matched to Santhuff shocks. Together, this suspension gives the Camaro an amazing stance, while maximizing how it handles on the street.

Inside the Camaro, you’ll find a custom roll cage that Ron built himself. For the interior, Ron wanted it to feel like a real muscle car, so he didn’t go crazy with a lot of aftermarket parts. A RacePak dash was added to help keep track of the big-block’s vitals. For seats, Ron used a set of Kirkey aluminum units for safety. The final product is an interior that looks timeless but means business as well.

Don’t think that Ron’s Camaro is all bark and no bite. The car has in fact been to the track and ripped off plenty of passes in the 9.50s without the giggle juice being turned on. After seeing what the car could do, Ron decided to not push the car much harder. Since he already had one race car, Ron didn’t want to get too power-hungry with this 1967 Camaro and start making it less street-worthy. It’s easy to do when the car effortlessly cracks off a nine-second pass after being driven to the track.

There was a time when a big-block street car making over 800 horsepower would have been considered a unicorn, and it wouldn’t have been very fun to drive on the street. Times have certainly changed thanks to advancements in automotive aftermarket technology. This Camaro is more than just a short trip type of cruiser, Ron REALLY puts some miles on this car, on a regular basis.

“I drive this car, I mean I really drive it a lot. I’ll drive it over two hours one way and take it to the beach when the weather is nice. If I’ve got customers that I’m helping at the track, I’ll drive it there whenever I can. When I say this thing is a street car, I mean it. It will cruise down the freeway at 70 mph and keep up with traffic like a new car. It doesn’t get hot sitting in traffic, and I can just take it out and not worry about how it will behave,” Ron says.

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Ron brought the Camaro to the Goodguys Summit Racing Nationals in Columbus, Ohio in 2023 and it didn’t look out of place at all. We saw Ron and Kim riding around in the Camaro all weekend, like the rest of the classic muscle cars, so the car certainly backs up his claims about being easy to drive. The Camaro does a great job hiding its true nature just sitting in a parking lot, and that’s what makes it so cool.

Ron Rhodes’ 1967 Camaro is an absolute sledgehammer dressed up as a street car, and that’s exactly what he wanted. The car looks like any other muscle car that you’d see at your local ice cream shop, but it has the power under the hood to outrun a lot of cars at the track. So, if you see Ron driving down the freeway in this silver bullet, don’t challenge him to a race or you’ll probably get your feelings hurt.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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