Some of you may remember Ray Thompson’s 1968 Camaro as the subject of a feature we did back in 2008. Even though his car was rather complete then, Ray had no trouble making several predictions concerning its eventual outcome. That tired saying about never really being finished with a project seems to hold true and is especially so when the car was the original, the one first celebrated. After a time, it has assumed a personality, exudes history, and has become part of the family.
Ray found his cherub in 1979 and he exchanged $600 for it. It was basically a good car and straight but had a few spots of rust and a little bit of rash. Though originally equipped with a 396 and four-speed, it had been stolen and stripped, so it came to Ray with a three-speed stick and a sleepy 350 underneath. It languished like this for several years. Ray then began to drive his prize. Perhaps more important was that he met his future spouse Lori when he was cruising in it.
Fifteen years ago, Ray aligned with Detroit Speed when it was based in Michigan. The Camaro assumed a six-point rollcage, frame connectors, Hotchkis 1 1/8-inch antisway bar, upper control arms, and Koni adjustable coilovers with a 550-lb/in spring rate. DSE finished the install with mini-tubs, more Koni shocks, and house-brand spring bundles. The team used 13- (front) and 12-inch Baer Track brakes on a 12-bolt axle and included 17-inch diameter rims and 245- and 315-section Michelins. For the power and its transfer, Ray developed a 383 small-block in concert with a single-element Centerforce flywheel/clutch assembly and a wide-gear M20 four-speed. A bunch of years and on-track experience would dictate the inevitable changes.
For its second occurrence, Ray wasn’t shy. He went big time. He mopped the house. He changed out the suspension, rolling stock, brakes, and all the Camaro’s motive gear, as well. See what can happen when you read too many issues of CHP? The main thing here is that Ray was in no hurry to finish the work and that he and Lori did a lot of it together.
Ray then shuttled the Camaro to DSE once more, now way south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Kyle and Stacy’s crew responded with a hydroformed subframe assembly, tubular components, and JRi adjustable coilover dampers that maintain remote fluid reservoirs.
The back half was livened up with a QUADRALink assembly. In light of the current Pro Touring recipe, the frictional coefficient was clearly not up to par. DSE responded with 18-inch Fikse Profil 5 modular hoops in widths of 10 (front) and 12 (rear) inches and shod them with two versions of Falken Azenis tires: 255/45 RT615K in front and 315/35 PT-722 on the drive end. DSE applied a subtle gunmetal gray coat to the Profil surfaces and polished them to finish. The larger wheels accommodate bigger Baer Track brakes all around: 14 inches in front and 13 in back.
As with the original incarnation, Ray was more interested in a reliable, smooth-running plant with a penchant for economy than a balls-to-the-wall berserker with more power than the chassis and tires could ever exploit. DSE replaced the stroker small-block with a GMPP LS3 crate that stayed pretty much stock but they swapped out the stock bumpstick for a GM ASA cam (0.525-inch lift on both valves, 226/236-degrees duration at 0.050). An Aeromotive A1000 pump sluices the juice. Since the engine would experience elevated lateral-g forces, DSE installed a GM Muscle Car oil pan kit and the accompanying baffle. To maintain a temperate demeanor on the tarmac, the LS3 relies on an aluminum C&R radiator incorporating an engine oil cooler.
DSE included a Vintage Air Front Runner accessory drive. They applied off-the-shelf stainless steel headers with 1 7/8-inch primaries, channeled the exhaust flow into a 3-inch diameter system, and finished them off with a crossover pipe and a dollop of Jet-Hot. Power to the planet is estimated at 467 hp at 6,200 rpm and 435 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. During the reclamation, the Camaro was supplanted with a torque-hungry Legend SS700 five-gear transmission, a Centerforce DYAD twin-disc assembly, a Quick Time bellhousing, and a DSE-built propshaft. The 9-inch axle was equipped with a limited-slip device and a 3.89:1 gear ratio.
Ray has surely kicked the crap out of it, loud-peddling around the Daytona oval and banging the esses at Road America, Mid-Ohio, Pittsburgh, and GingerMan in Michigan. But the Camaro is a bona fide street car so Ray usually drives to the venue and would not abide the absence of critical creature comforts. Aside from Vintage Air refrigeration, he included a Kenwood head accompanied by 3-inch speakers in front and a pair of 6x9 tri-axial Alpines in the back. Ray liked the Auto Meter gauges and he didn’t want to maul the original instrument panel so he crafted a dedicated space. Year One got the door panels and side panels looking like new while Curly Brannon in Tallmadge, Ohio, worked the 1988 T-Bird Turbo Coupe seats with Bright Blue leather and snugged the ACC carpeting neatly in place.
Ultimately, Bob Swarm in Youngstown, Ohio, excised all of the dead stuff and applied the Glasurit LeMans Blue, an original color (GM code 71), followed by services from Akron Anodizing (plating), chrome by Paul’s, and powdercoating by FBR Industries.
Once Ray’s strapped down in that five-point Simpson belt, he applies digits to the Corvette wheel (connected to the DSE 12.8:1-ratio steering box) and the Hurst joystick. The important thing is that Ray really likes the results. “It’s easy to drive,” he quipped. “And I love the blue interior. And the fact that it was my first car.”
He was excited, but he wasn’t in a hurry. His zeal didn’t interfere with the facts. He didn’t just throw the RS/SS together. He did his homework. He enlisted an exclusive builder and got what he was after. And certainly, there was another squad that did its part with just as much aplomb, care, and respect for the project as the highly paid professionals. It was their signature, their ownership, and their investment so they made sure of it.
Now the car is finished, isn’t it? Sure it is … for now. But the question remains: what will round three bring, Ray?
|Owner:||Ray & Lori Thompson, Tallmadge, Ohio|
|Vehicle:||1968 Chevrolet Camaro|
|Cylinder Heads:||GM LS3 rectangle-port aluminum castings|
|Rotating Assembly:||GM nodular iron crank, powdered metal rods, hypereutectic pistons|
|Valvetrain:||Factory GM roller lifters, rockers, and timing set|
|Induction:||GM LS3 intake manifold, Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump|
|Ignition:||GM coil packs, plug wires, spark plugs|
|Exhaust:||Detroit Speed Inc. stainless steel headers, Borla mufflers, 3.0-inch system|
|Output:||467 hp and 435 lb-ft at wheels|
|Transmission:||Legend SS700 five-speed, Centerforce DYAD twin-disc clutch|
|Rear Axle:||DS 9-inch, 31-spline axles, limited-slip differential, 3.89:1 ratio|
|Steering:||DSE rack, 12.8:1 ratio|
|Front Suspension:||DSE hydroformed subframe, tubular control arms, JRi coilovers|
|Rear Suspension:||DSE QUADRALink, JRi coilovers|
|Brakes:||Baer Track 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers front; 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers rear|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Fikse Profil 5; 18x10, 18x12|
|Tires:||Falken 255/40 RT615K front, 315/35 PT-722 rear|
|Seats:||1988 T-Bird Turbo Coupe|
|Upholstery:||Leather, Curly Brannon, Tallmadge, Ohio|
|Carpet:||ACC Bright Blue|
|Body Prep and Paint:||Glasurit LeMans Blue, Bob Swarm, Youngstown, Ohio|