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LS3-Powered 1968 Pro Touring Camaro

Second Coming: Having loved and lost, Jack Staricco made good on the Camaro he sold so many years ago

Chris Shelton Sep 30, 2016
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You never forget your first. “I bought my first one when I was 15 with my own money and fixed it up until I had a license to tear up the streets,” he says. “And that’s where I lost my license.”

It’s the type of story that defines cars like the 1968 Camaro Jack had 30 years ago. Naturally, a bunch of things imposed upon life that made that car go away, but one thing remained: the memories. Those nagging, wistful memories. Memories so powerful, in fact, that they made him sell his chopper and look for another first-gen like the one he had so many years prior.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Side 2/54
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Rear Side 3/54

But he didn’t find another Camaro. Instead, he found a video of one, a sinister-looking, coal-black ’67 called Project Overclock. “I loved the car’s features and look so I reached out to the owner and asked if he builds cars,” Jack says.

Who he found was Justin Smith, owner of Smithy Customs in Houston. At Jack’s behest he found another ’68. This ’68. “Then the process of my dream started to come to life.”

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Front 4/54
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Front 5/54

What Justin found was a bit of a rust bucket, typical of a coastal Texas survivor. Naturally, the body underwent an extensive rust-abatement program.

Meanwhile, the chassis underwent fortification. Smithy Customs replaced the front subframe with one from Chris Alston’s Chassisworks. A Chassisworks canted four-link setup replaced the leaf springs. Those bars locate a Chassisworks FAB9 axle with a Strange Engineering 3.89:1 cog on an Eaton Posi limited-slip carrier. A ball-end antiroll bar offsets any understeer induced by the front bar. Both ends ride on RideTech Select Series ShockWaves. Each corner has its own Wilwood 13-inch vented rotor and four-piston caliper.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Engine 6/54
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Engine 7/54

The inspiration for the more robust chassis came from the LS3. Not all that long ago any enthusiast would’ve jumped at the chance to get the honest 430 hp that the 6.2L makes, but Jack wanted more. This one boasts a number of modifications, the centerpiece being a Mast Motorsports LS3 SS cam.

A 102mm FAST throttle body feeds the engine more air. Mast’s injection and M90 ignition package replace the stock components and it pushes exhaust out of 1 7/8-inch Lemons headers that route to 3-inch pipes, each with its own Stainless Works muffler. After it’s all said and done, the engine churns out 120 hp more than it did stock.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Wheel 8/54
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Door 9/54

An aluminum Spec flywheel and Stage III clutch transfer that power to a six-speed trans. Tick Performance prepped the TREMEC TR-6060 to Stage II spec. A McLeod shifter assembly engages the gears. That trans in turn spins a Driveshaft Shop driveshaft.

The car rolls on a set of 18x8.5 and 18x12 Boze Tach wheels. They wear Michelin Pilot Sport tires, the fronts measuring 245/40 and the rears 335/30. But to get that much tire in the rear wells meant not only tubbing the rear wheelhouses but also extending the quarters a touch. Externally, the body remains largely stock with a few bolt-on changes like a 2-inch cowl-induction hood, an Eddie Motorsports grille, Marquez taillight housings, Vision Hot Rods VF4 rearview mirrors, and Kindig-It door handles. Kevin Willis, Danny Kirwan, and Justin Smith collaborated on the PPG base/clear black spray job.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Interior 10/54
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Interior 11/54

Aaron Davis at Smithy’s oversaw the interior transformation. He modeled the cockpit around a pair of modified BMW M3 seats. The door panels lightly reflect the trim design of the ’69 panels, albeit in high relief. The dashboard emerged with a similarly blocky style.

Restomod Air’s climate-control system justified shaving the stock firewall. It blows through a set of the company’s billet vents. An American Autowire harness distributes power throughout the car and a Ringbrothers’ Terminator touch-start kit energizes the system.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Steering Wheel 12/54

A set of Dakota Digital VHX-series gauges—gauges that natively tie into the drivetrain’s harness—replaced the analog ones. A Momo Trek R steering wheel replaced the thin-rim plastic tiller. It mounts to a Flaming River tilt column. Once finished with the fabrication, Aaron Davis then trimmed everything in black leather with a white top-stitch motif. To draw further from road-racing practice, he vented the seat inserts with grommets.

Suffice to say, Jack Staricco’s ’68 far exceeds the one he owned before. Never mind that it exceeded his budget; he says it exceeded every one of his expectations. “I always wanted another one that rode and drove like a new car,” he says. “This is my dream car come true!” Now if only he gets to keep his license this time around.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Rear View 13/54

Tech Check
Owner: Jack and Michele Staricco, Brentwood, California
Vehicle: 1968 Camaro
Engine
Type: GM LS3
Displacement: 376 ci (6.2L)
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Bore: 4.065 inches
Stroke: 3.622 inches
Rotating Assembly: Nodular-iron crankshaft, powdered metal rods, hypereutectic cast pistons
Camshaft: Mast Motorsports LS3 SS Package (PN 963-103) 230/237-deg. duration at 0.050, 0.609/0.615-inch lift, 111 LSA
Ignition: Mast Motorsports M90
Exhaust: Lemons 1 7/8-inch headers, stainless 3-inch pipes with Stainless Works mufflers
Induction: FAST 102mm throttle body, LS3 plenum, Mast Motorsports SS injection package
Output (est): 550 hp
Cooling System: Autorad radiator with dual electric fans
Ancillaries: Concept One accessory-drive system, Powermaster Motorsports 105-amp alternator, Nasty Performance rocker covers
Drivetrain
Transmission: Tick Performance Stage II TREMEC TR-6060
Clutch: Spec aluminum flywheel, Stage 3 clutch
Rear Axle: Chassisworks FAB9 housing, Strange Engineering 3.89:1 gear, Eaton Posi limited-slip carrier
Chassis
Front Suspension: Chris Alston’s Chassisworks clip
Rear Suspension: Chris Alston’s Chassisworks canted four-link
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers front and rear
Fuel Tank: Rick’s Tanks VaporWorx
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Boze Tach 18x8.5 front, 18x12 rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 245/40 front, 335/30 rear
Interior
Upholstery: Black leather by Aaron Davis
Seats: BMW M3
Steering: Momo Trek R
Shifter: McLeod
Instrumentation: Dakota Digital VHX
Audio: Kenwood DNX892 head unit; Digital Designs signal processors, amplifiers, and speakers/subwoofers installed by Aaron Davis at Smithy Customs
Wiring: American Autowire harness, Ringbrothers Terminator touch-start system
Exterior
Bodywork: Extended quarters, wheel housings, and mini-tubs; shaved firewall
Body Prep/Paint: Kevin Willis, Danny Kirwan, and Justin Smith, Smithy Customs
Paint: PPG two-stage urethane
Hood: 2-inch cowl-induction
Grille: Eddie Motorsports
Rearview Mirrors: Vision Hot Rods VF4

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