This 1967 Camaro Blends Original Styling with Drag Car Performance

By Tommy Lee Byrd   –   Photography by the Author

If you ever get bit by the drag racing bug, there isn’t enough ointment in the world to stop the itch. You’ll think about it day and night, and you might even spend your kid’s college fund trying to turn on a win light. If you’re lucky, your significant other will support the habit and your kids will join the fun, too. For C.L. Braden, a hard-working gearhead from East Tennessee, drag racing was a big part of his life, so anything less than a big-tire, tube chassis powerhouse is just a street car. Such is the case with this ’67 Camaro RS/SS, a car that he put together specifically for the street, even though most would consider this a pretty radical setup.

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005 Low angle rear quarter view of the Camaro showing off rear tires

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Going back to the ’60s, C.L. spent his weekends at local dragstrips, like Maryville Dragway and Harriman Dragstrip—two tracks that perfectly embodied the old-school outlaw atmosphere. Even though his local stomping grounds were unsanctioned tracks with their own set of rules, C.L. learned a lot and had fun. Somewhere along the way, his cars picked up the name “Avenger,” which stuck for many years. The local drag racing scene evolved quickly and so did C.L.’s racing program. By the ’80s, he was piloting a ’67 Camaro with a Don Ness chassis and serious horsepower underhood. He also built a Camaro drag car for his wife, Vickie, to drive, and they hauled them to the track in a crew cab ramp truck and open trailer. Later, C.L.’s son, Stephen, got involved in drag racing, competing in Top Sportsman and Pro Modified.

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009 Detailed shot of the engine's valve cover and master cylinder

As the years passed, C.L.’s racing days tapered off, but he still had a love for drag racing and early Camaros. He found a new project in 2020 and brought it home from Mississippi. It belonged to the previous owner for 18 years, and another owner for seven years, and it was believed to have been painted more than 20 years ago. C.L.’s best guess is about 28 years, but you’d never know it because the paint quality is great and the car has an awesome overall appearance. The combination of Rally Sport and Super Sport options is always a home run in the Camaro world, and the color scheme of Butternut Yellow with black stripes and a black vinyl top sealed the deal on this new project. The trim tag codes 3L confirmed it was a Rally Sport and 4N confirmed it came from the factory with a 396/325hp big-block, so it’s a pretty rare piece. Despite its factory options, C.L. wanted to update the car with his drag racing style and a healthy big-block while keeping the car’s original exterior appearance.

016 Profile view of the Camaro's front wheel and tire

C.L. started gathering parts and sent the car to Kevin Riffey’s Hot Rods in Knoxville, Tennessee, to bring the car into the modern era. Underneath, the car has a Speedtech Performance subframe complete with tubular control arms, Viking coilovers, and Unisteer rack-and-pinion steering. A narrowed 9-inch rearend fits nicely with a Ridetech four-link and another pair of Viking coilovers. Subframe connectors tie it all together. Wilwood brakes roll on all four corners, and C.L. finished off his new chassis and suspension setup with some serious rolling stock, which consists of Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels. Mickey Thompson 295/65R15 radials fill up the wheelwells perfectly and handle nicely on the street.

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008 Close up of the engine's air filter and carburetor

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Although C.L. wanted the car to be tame enough for street driving, he didn’t forget his drag racing roots. Stephen had purchased a turnkey ’68 Camaro drag car and wanted to make some changes, so the 496ci big-block came out of the drag car and made its way into the street car. Even though it has 12.0:1 compression with a ground-pounding Comp solid roller camshaft, C.L. has no hesitation in driving it on the street. The car runs cool thanks to a Griffin aluminum radiator and electric fan setup, and it even has Vintage Air A/C to keep cool on the hot summer days. He dressed the big-block in satin black and chrome and detailed the engine bay nicely with a smoothed firewall. The car’s intense fun factor comes from the TREMEC TKO five-speed transmission, which takes C.L. back to his early days of banging gears on the street and dragstrip.

011 Interior view of the 1967 Camaro featuring black seats and dashboard

The body and paint were in surprisingly good shape, considering the age, so he gave it some detail work, and freshened the interior. While he had it apart, he installed new tinted glass and added Dynamat to the floors and doors to keep the cockpit comfortable. He also installed power windows, Dakota Digital gauges, an ididit tilt steering column, and an MPI steering wheel.

008 Close up of the engine's air filter and carburetor

C.L. is still making small changes on the car but has taken it out to a few shows since it’s been road worthy. The Camaro gets a lot of attention because of its stock body and paint configuration, with race car equipment underneath. It’s even more popular when the solid roller starts talking through 3-inch pipes and stainless MagnaFlow mufflers. We spotted it at the inaugural Triple Crown of Rodding event in Nashville and loved the sanitary build quality and the fact that so much drag racing heritage was involved in bringing this Camaro to life. And while C.L. and Vickie Braden’s racing days might be in the rearview mirror, their street car brings back great memories of those late nights at the dragstrip, countless hours in the shop, and all the great friendships along the way.

006 Camaro's side profile clear view of the SS badge

TECH CHECK:
Owner: C.L. Braden, Seymour, Tennessee
Vehicle: ’67 Camaro RS/SS

Engine
Type: Big-block
Displacement: 496 ci
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Bore: 4.310 inches
Stroke: 4.250 inches
Rotating Assembly: Eagle crank, Eagle 6.385-inch H-beam rods, Mahle forged pistons
Cylinder Heads: Edelbrock aluminum, ported
Valvetrain: Stainless valves, Comp 1.625 springs, Comp roller rockers
Camshaft: Comp Cams 4-7 swap, 276/284 duration at 0.050 inch, 0.748/0.714 lift
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet distributor, MSD Digital 6AL box
Intake: Edelbrock RPM Air Gap
Carburetor: Quick Fuel 950 cfm
Assembly: C.L. Braden
Exhaust: Ultimate stainless steel headers, MagnaFlow mufflers
Ancillaries: Billet Specialties valve covers and air cleaner
Output: Estimated 650 hp

Drivetrain
Transmission: TREMEC TKO five-speed
Clutch: McCleod with hydraulic release
Rear Axle: Narrowed 9-inch, 4.11:1 gears, 31-spline axles, Eaton Truetrac

Chassis
Front Suspension: Speedtech Performance subframe with Viking coilovers
Rear Suspension: Ridetech four-link with Viking coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston
Master Cylinder: Speedway Motors
Pedals: Stock

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Street Lite, 15×4 and 15×10 with beadlocks
Tires: Nexen 165/80R15 and Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials, 295/65R15

Interior
Seats: Stock with PUI upholstery
Steering: Ididit tilt column, MPI Autodromo wheel
Console: Factory
Shifter: Hurst
Dash: Stock
Instrumentation: Dakota Digital
HVAC: Vintage Air Gen IV
Audio: Secret Audio
Wiring: American Autowire

Exterior
Paint: Butternut Yellow with SS nose stripe
Trim: Stock
Hood: Super Sport
Grille: Rally Sport
Bumpers: Stock
Door Handles: Stock
Hood Hinges: Billet

 

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of This 1967 Camaro Blends Original Styling with Drag Car Performance.acp april 2024

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