Restomod 1968 Chevy Camaro

By Scotty Lachenauer   –   Photography by the Author

The memories of our youth are much more vivid than the ones we log in our later years. Back then our gin-clear and receptive minds were firing on all cylinders, devouring daily data with senses as sharp as broken glass, our minds brimming with recollections that would ring true for years to come. These formative years are the ones that shape our lives in most every way.

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Jim McCullough fondly remembers the young and restless days of his youth, with his thoughts filled by pre-teen lust for American-bred muscle machines. “I was 10 years old when the first-gen Camaro was introduced as America’s new muscle car for 1967. Those memories are a slice of the story of my youth,” Jim states.

005 Rear three quarter view of a teal 1968 Camaro SS with black vinyl top

Read More: Jason Blain’s 1968 Camaro Carries a Lifetime of Memories

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Those vibrant accounts of the launch of Chevrolet’s F-body bruiser would constantly play in Jim’s head, especially when the time came to buy his first car. “When I was 18, I was lucky enough to purchase a ’67 Camaro RS. It was built with a 327ci powerplant and backed by an M20 transmission. It was a stunner put together with a black vinyl roof and skinned in Emerald Turquoise paint. It was the car that I always wanted,” Jim says.

Like most kids back then, Jim modified the Camaro immediately, turning it into a Day Two dream ride. First it was headers, then ladder bars, and finally finished it off with a bigger carb. Sadly, Jim sold it a few years later when he needed money to buy a house.

002 A teal 1968 Camaro SS with a black top parked by a brick building

Things stayed quiet in Jim’s garage over the years while life took its course. However, a few decades later the need to get another Camaro hit Jim out of nowhere. “I had always talked about how much I loved that Camaro, and how cool I felt while driving it. I needed that feeling back in my life,” Jim confesses.

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In 2015 a friend contacted Jim about a ’68 Camaro in Tripoli Turquoise that was for sale nearby. This was his chance to have the car of his dreams again. Coincidentally, the car was owned by a high school classmate.

After some light research on the car Jim drove over, gave it a thorough inspection, and confirmed his suspicions that it was in great shape. After a bit of negotiating, he became the new owner.

003 Front view of a teal 1968 Camaro SS with chrome wheels and SS badg

The original engine was long gone and replaced with a 383ci stroker, which had been built with a healthy cam. Backed with a three-speed automatic and 4.11 gears, the car was not what you’d call a road warrior. This combination was worth 5 mpg on the streets due to the low gear ratio. Driving 55 mph, it would wind up to 3,000 rpm. He switched the 4.11s for 3.73s but at just 55 mph it was still screaming above 3,000 rpm.

After seven years of ownership, Jim decided to make it a street machine capable of long-distance driving. A friend suggested contacting Roadster Shop for a new chassis. Roadster Shop in turn recommended Steel Town Garage in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, a Roadster Shop dealer, to handle the work needed to turn this straight-line Camaro into the Pro Touring machine of Jim’s dreams.

008 Close up of the engine bay showing a modern Chevrolet engine in a 1968 Camaro

Read More: Ray Thompson’s High-Mileage 1968 Camaro

In October 2021, Jim’s Camaro rolled into Steel Town for a mechanical makeover. “Starting with a nicely restored car, the goal was to keep the Camaro’s inherent good looks while adding to its overall performance. The choice of an LS engine was to improve gas mileage and reliability, and adding the new Roadster Shop SPEC chassis was to give this F-body sports car handling,” Mark Denlinger, head honcho at Steel Town, states.

The SPEC chassis comes ready to go with Fox RS SV single-adjustable coilovers, rack-and-pinion steering, and a parallel four-bar rear suspension. A bulletproof Strange Engineering 9-inch rear was included to handle the power built with a Truetrac posi and 3.90 gears.

009 Detailed view of the Chevrolet engine with performance parts in a 1968 Camaro

The Steel Town crew was impressed with the paint- and bodywork, however, some minor modifications were needed to fit the body over the new ’rails. To prepare for the fresh Chevrolet Performance LS3/4L65E drivetrain, the crew cleaned up the engine bay and smoothed the firewall. It was then refinished in Sikkens Pure Black satin paint to give it that vintage Chevy appearance.

Once the body and chassis were brought back together, the crew set its sights on the interior. The previous owner had completely refurbished the cockpit, which was reseated in stock-appearing houndstooth cloth and black vinyl. It was done exceptionally well, so the only thing added was a set of Dakota Digital RTX gauges to give it a more modern flair.

023 Close up of a chrome wheel with red line tires and BAER brake caliper

To give this Camaro the look of a true pro tourer, Jim chose a set of Billet Specialties Grinder wheels (18×8 front and 18×9 rear) shod in Diamondback EVO rubber. “The redlines add a classic touch, but are low-profile modern tires,” Jim states.

Steel Town fabricated a complete exhaust system, starting with Hooker ceramic-coated cast manifolds feeding a pair of Borla Pro XS mufflers through 2.5-inch stainless steel pipes.

013 Close up of the Camaro's dashboard showing glowing green digital gauges

Read More: A Simple Paintjob Turns Into an Extensive Build for This Killer ’69 Camaro

“Overall, the build went as smooth as ice. The Steel Town Garage crew took only eight months to complete the transformation. The car runs great and the gas milage has improved drastically. It’s everything I thought it would be and I’m able to take the car on long drives without issues,” Jim says.

018 The hood of the Camaro featuring distinctive chrome trimmed ventilation grilles

“Thanks goes out to Mark and the crew at Steel Town Garage. I would recommend those guys to my fellow car lovers. I’m so impressed with my car and very happy with the work they did,” Jim declares. “Of course, I want to thank my wife, Terry, for her support during this project. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

“When driving around in my vintage, modernized muscle car, it takes me back to my youth and that first Camaro I had in high school. It makes me feel 17 again and ready to race!”

007 Side profile of a teal 1968 Camaro SS with black vinyl top and chrome wheels

Tech Check:
Owner: Jim McCullough, Havertown, Pennsylvania
Vehicle: 1968 Camaro

Engine:
Type: Chevrolet LS3
Displacement: 6.2L
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Bore: 4.065
Stroke: 3.622
Cylinder Heads: Stock high-flow aluminum heads
Rotating Assembly: Stock nodular iron crankshaft, powdered metal connecting rods, flat-top aluminum-alloy pistons
Valvetrain: Stock hydraulic roller lifters, beehive springs
Camshaft: Stock Hydraulic roller
Induction: Stock intake, 90mm throttle body, 47-pound fuel injectors
Exhaust: Hooker ceramic-coated manifolds, Walker 2.5-inch pipe, Borla Pro XS mufflers
Ancillaires: Griffin aluminum radiator
Output: 426 hp

Drivetrain
Transmission: 4L65E
Rear Axle: Strange Engineering 9-inch, Truetrac posi, 3.90 gears

Chassis
Front Suspension: Fox RS SV single-adjustable coilovers, rack-and-pinion steering
Rear Suspension: Fox RS SV single-adjustable coilovers, parallel four-bar rear suspension
Brakes: Four-wheel Baer disc

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Grinder 18×8 front, 18×9 rear
Tires:  Diamondback Evo 245/35R18 front 255/45R18 rear

Interior
Upholstery: N/A
Material: Stock houndstooth cloth and black vinyl
Seats: Stock
Steering:  Stock
Shifter: Stock
Dash: Stock with Dakota Digital RTX gauges
Audio: Stock AM radio
HVAC: Stock

Exterior
Bodywork and Paint: N/A
Paint Color: GM Tripoli Turquoise

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Restomod 1968 Chevy Camaro.acp march 2024

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