There are many givens associated with this automotive addiction of ours. You think a project’s going to be easy? Chances are it won’t. You say you just want to freshen her up? Be prepared for things to snowball. You say this one’s a keeper? Before it’s all said and done, you’ve probably already got your eye on the next one. None of that makes much difference, however, as the only thing that really matters is that we continue building, continue buying and selling, and most of all, continue feeding this addiction by simply enjoying the cars.
Jim Keith is an addict. He admittedly enjoys the building aspect the most, thus, he’s hard-pressed to keep finished projects. He also recently found himself in the category of being snowballed with his latest project, a ’68 Camaro that started out with the intentions of simply “freshening up.”
“After many years of bracket racing the family’s ’71 Chevelle, and several years immersed in the custom motorcycle world, I bought this car in 2006. Over the years as I’ve built cars and motorcycles, I seem to enjoy the planning and build more than the end result. My friends and family razz me about that. They say I’m never satisfied. I think they’re right. I usually spend more time creating them than enjoying them, and sell them with little or no miles on them. Only to begin another project. And so on.
“I set out to find a clean muscle car. After a few months of scouring the Internet and rags, I narrowed the search down to two cars: a ’69 Chevelle and this Camaro. I opted for this car because it was unmolested, and my favorite color: silver. I put cash in my pocket, hooked up the trailer, and drove to Sandusky, Ohio, with my dad to buy the car if it was as nice as it appeared. It was, so I took it home.
“With the Camaro, what began as a simple plan to replace the ZZ4 crate engine with a more powerful 408 small-block quickly became a never-ending journey. When I bought the car, it ran 12.20s with the ZZ4 engine in a mostly stock car. The first combo I installed was an 11:1 408 with mostly used parts from the family’s ’71 Chevelle bracket car, including old iron Crane Fireball heads (remember those?) and a TH400 transmission. It ran 11.30s with that combo and I drove it everywhere. My intentions were to keep the car as OEM appearing as possible. I raced it for money, mostly against nitrous cars, so it was important to keep it subtle at all times. Two years later, I upgraded the rotating assembly with a Shafiroff 13.5:1 kit. That combo resulted in e.t.’s of 10.20s. A year later I stroked it to a 15:1 436 and replaced everything except the old reliable GM block that had made over 1,200 passes in the Chevelle and had been in my Camaro for four years. That combo went 9.69 at 138 mph at 3,250 pounds. At that point, I decided it was time to install a ’cage. I’d never wanted to cut the car up, but it was time. So I installed the tightest possible cage to give the appearance that it didn’t have one from the outside of the car. Heck, even the sunvisors are still functional.
“After a year of cruising (and yes, I cruised it all over with 15:1 compression and 5,500-stall!), I got bored with it and decided to do a blower combo. Since a few of my friends had ProCharger F-2 small-block combos (one is Jay Biondo’s ’67 Nova featured previously in CHP). I figured that was the right choice. So I put together a parts list, and pulled it all together in two years. Basically, everything except the body and frame got replaced. Being subtle and streetable has always been important with this car from day one. My goal was to build a clean, subtle, super street car that could be driven to the track and run a 7-second e.t.”