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1968 Chevrolet Camaro - My Reason

When Rob Chandler Drives, He Likes to Hear the Engine Ring

Ro McGonegal Jul 8, 2011
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Have you heard the one about the long-time commercial roofing consultant who lost his employment via the current recession but ultimately became a fabricator at Marquez Design? Yeah, sure he did. But it’s the truth. How’d this happen? Proximity. It would appear as if Rob Chandler has good karma; he was in the right place at the right time.

chp 01 O  1968 Chevrolet Camaro Front 2/13

“I found this ’68 up in Cameron Park, California [Rob is a resident of Roseville, just north of Sacramento]. I wanted to make sure it was a West Coast car to avoid major rust issues. Bought it August 7, 2007, drove it to my garage, and left it for about a year. I mapped out what I wanted to do and purchased everything I would need all at once (thankfully). I was just going to take my time and tinker on it at night after work,” Rob says.

“Well, in February 2008, I lost my job,” he says. “I’m a commercial roofing consultant and construction in California came to a screeching halt.” Rob spent the next few months looking for work, going on endless interviews, and becoming more and more frustrated by no action. His wife could see him giving up. She encouraged him to take a break. He plunged headlong into the experiment, working 10 to 12 hours a day in his garage. Were there a fly on the wall, it could have seen the approach of the perfect build: properly motivated owner, a wall of support from his wife, Michelle, the certainty of a father-son collaboration, and collects all the right aspects with some other brilliant indicators. It was a time for testing fortitude and devotion.

chp 02 O  1968 Chevrolet Camaro Engine 3/13

His son, Ryon, stepped up for the initial deconstruction but soon lost interest. “He is of a different generation,” Rob says. “He owns a Mitsubishi EVO and has friends who are into drifting. Ryon later joined the force as pit crew, making sure everything is in place or at the ready for the next road challenge, wherever it may unfold.

“I was a bit apprehensive when I made the first cut for the tubs, but after that it all started rolling into place. I like things clean and simple, so I hid the wiper motor and the radiator hoses in the fender and moved the Optima battery to the trunk, resulting, I think, in a very clean engine compartment.” Know that Rob did all the work at home (tubs, suspension/chassis, complete assembly) save for the engine build and paint and body. The car was more or less complete in December of 2009. Rob and crew took it to a few car shows. Then, they did their first SCCA Autocross. Rob was hooked.

chp 03 O  1968 Chevrolet Camaro Belts 4/13

Since the original “paint” was coming off with the tape Rob had used to tarp the car, the job went to Mario and Bill at Novelli Rod & Custom in Loomis. The deeper the Novellis dug, the more discrepancy they found. When all the panels were cleared of suspicion, meticulous Mario made all the seams and gaps reasonable and tight. After only five months on its head in paint jail, Rob was thrilled with the result.

He wanted to instill some detail through the use of Marquez Design jamb vents, door strikers, and 3-D taillights. He went to the Marquez shop and got to know the guys there. About a month later, he was cruising and saw that Marquez was looking for a fabricator. “Again, my wife encouraged me to apply. With my build book as my résumé [the car was in paint at this time] I showed up and said ‘I’m your guy.’ ” Strangely, Rob got the job.

“I wake up every day excited to go to work,” the 52-year-old says. “I wish I’d pursued this 30 years ago! They say that things happen for a reason. Well, this car became my reason. Now, I plan on enjoying and driving the heck out of it and would like to finish it one day with a cool Marquez interior. Oh, and my son? He loves it, too.”


The crate engine has become ubiquitous; it’s the motor of reason. You don’t have to twirl a wrench; you just plug it in. Rather than a familiar GMPP offering, Rob chose an Edelbrock Performer RPM E-Tec engine. Based on a new four-bolt main bearing ZZ cylinder block, the new form wears E-Tec 170 aluminum cylinder heads and an RPM Air-Gap hosting a Pro Systems 780-cfm carburetor. The lower end is composed of a forged crankshaft and powdered metal connecting rods, supporting hypereutectic pistons with a compression ratio of 9.5:1. A 2204 Edelbrock hydraulic camshaft produces the following table: 0.539/0.548-inch lift and 234/238 degrees at 0.050 inch. Edelbrock naturally inserted as much of their product as possible (mechanical fuel pump, water pump, 1.5:1 roller rocker arms, pushrods, fasteners, rocker covers). Other vendors are represented by the Milodon six-quart oil pan (Chevy pump and pickup), Griffin aluminum radiator, and Powermaster 100-amp alternator. All Edelbrock small-block crates sport an MSD Pro Billet distributor and usually specify the following exhaust: 15/8-inch primary pipes on the Patriot ceramic-coated headers channel into a 2.5 collector and onto 2½-inch stainless steel system (after passing through a crossover pipe and Flowmaster 3 chambers)—all of it constructed by Rob. According to Edelbrock, the output is 435 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm and 435 hp at 5,500 rpm. Transferring torque to the rear axle falls to the LuK (say “luke”) clutch assembly and Tremec TKO 600 five-speed transmission. An Inland Empire prop shaft shuttles grunt to a 9-inch housing offering a 3.89:1 gear ratio and a sturdy Detroit Truetrac differential.

Wheels & Brakes

Foot-wide alloys and tenacious rubber are just as much a part of a Pro Touring car as chrome reverse wheels and baby moons are on an early street rod. They somehow sanctify the deal, and the sharpened suspension allows them to do their best. Rob mounted ZX3P Forgeline modulars (19x9 and 19x11) fitted with 275/30 and 305/30 Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position tires. Spots of red behind the spokes are Baer 14-inch rotors at the front, trailed by fully prepped 13-inch rotors. Calipers are six- and four-piston, respectively.


Rob says the interior mimics the stock setting save for the Corbeau LG1 seats. “I plan on doing a Marquez interior when the money tree in the backyard starts growing,” Rob says. Concentrating on function rather than form and to help achieve the roll stiffness he’d need, Rob installed a four-point Art Morrison rollbar. He also updated the wiring with an American Auto Wire harness and Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges. The Hurst shifter is finished with a DSE knob. “We added the stereo as an afterthought, really, nothing outrageous just something to listen to at car shows. When we drive we just like to hear the engine. I fabricated a custom box within the glovebox, wanting to keep the stock stereo look. It even has a pocket for the iPod.” The audio portion of Rob’s program comes from a CDA 105 Alpine head chopping through 6x9-inch front and rear Alpine speakers.


Rob didn’t mess around here. He got it right the first time. He went with a DSE subframe, coilovers, Koni adjustable shocks, antisway bar, and rack steering. He did the turnaround with the matching DSE Quadra-Link rear suspension. Then he joined both ends of the car solidly together with the requisite DSE subframe connectors. That way, when Rob installs a more powerful engine (LS9 is favored), he’d be able to use this fine setup to its max. Another season nurturing the money tree ought to do it.


Since money was becoming short time, most of the effort thus far has been lavished on the original shell. No custom work. Mario Novelli spent a good portion of the rehab making sure that the panel gaps and all the other parallel lines came in die-straight. He then proceeded with the spanking fresh PPG Speedway Blue. Rob painted the stock grille black. CHP



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