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Totally Custom, Top-Notch Pro Touring 1968 Camaro

Pro Touring Reactor: How a little exposure to the nuclear world gave this ’68 a bit of Gloe

Chris Shelton Nov 22, 2017
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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to build a phenomenal car. After meeting Jim Gloe, we think it takes a nuclear engineer.

Yes, that’s right; Jim’s a real nuclear engineer. And that’s his real name. But what’s important here is that he built a 1968 Camaro to basically reactor specs. Like 316-series stainless—it’s all over the car in the form of brackets and tabs. Ever seen welds in a car done to ASME XI specs? Well now you have.

The affair began in 1972 with another ’68 that he bought at the ripe ol’ age of 14. “It had an LS6,” he says. “Which, frankly, stands for Long Straight 6, which in my situation, was a 230ci straight-six.” But he traded that one for a Vega, which he at least built to Pro Street specs. But the first-gen Camaro that got away was always in the back of his mind.

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“In the year 2000, my wife and I decided to build a ground-up 1968 Camaro,” Jim begins. And this time he swore to do it the way we always promise ourselves. As in, “This time, it shall be without the limits and financial constraints I endured as a young kid.” Only unlike most of us, he actually did it.

That Jim fabricated his own rotisserie then commenced a program of bagging and tagging everything that came off the car, documenting the disassembly with more than 600 photos, should set the stage for how this build went.

After he disassembled the car, he delivered the major components to Detroit Speed Inc. There, the car got all N.O.S. beltline sheetmetal. Then it underwent modifications dictated more by function than simply form. For example, a cowl-induction hood would’ve accommodated the tall-deck big-block but at the expense of a higher center of gravity. So the DSE crew sectioned the crossmember for pan clearance and relieved it for header and pulley space to mount the engine lower.

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A trip to DSE is usually what defines a car’s nature. And make no mistake; this car’s all the better for it. But it was the work by Jim and Tony Goodrich from Tony’s Rod and Custom that really sets the car apart.

For example, the 316-series stainless mentioned before has most of the tensile strength of 4130 and the corrosion resistance of stainless. They’re properties that make the material abundant in the reactor world (and expensive everywhere).

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Reactors have redundancies, so Jim built it into various components. Like the car has a key switch in the event that the pushbutton starter fails. To hedge his bets, he even used gold-plated terminals. This kind of caution inspired him to do something kind of unheard of in the weight- (and style) conscious world of street machines: he carries a spare tire. The dude even created the fuel filler in the likeness of an ASME Class I flange, a design used in leak-sensitive assemblies. You know, like nuclear reactors.

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Speaking of leaking, the headers won’t. Ever. Dissatisfied with production header gaskets, Jim contracted Percy’s High Performance to build six-layer gaskets from dead-soft aluminum. Of which, you and I can now buy at Summit Racing (PN PHP-66089, if you’re curious).

The engine is even one-offed for function sake. Jim runs a Ram Jet manifold, which fits only short-deck engines. He had Wilson Manifolds’ shop foreman Tony modify it to fit the engine and shorten it to fit under the hood. He also shaved the redundant bosses, webs, and center fuel rail.

Ever pragmatic, Jim participated in a kind of apprenticeship with his own car under the tutelage of Tony Goodrich at Tony’s Rod and Custom. They employed custom techniques to refine the car mechanically. For example, they cut and modified the sheetmetal to eliminate the body shims that the factory used for expediency. Rather than being a bolt-on, the rear spoiler is now an integral part of the trunk thanks to Tony. Though the lid is admittedly heavier than stock, Jim took it as an opportunity to fabricate stronger springs in the form of stainless gas struts that he had made in Germany. He kept the stock hood hinges, replacing the coils with similar struts that attach directly to the hood. The philosophy being that it’s the load path rather than the hinges themselves that cause panel-alignment issues.

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And rather than spending a bunch of money to hide things like plumbing, Jim spent a bunch of money on Swagelok components. Components he encounters daily in reactors. Components that will never fail in the course of this car’s activities.

Naturally, he used top-shelf fasteners, even making a few from ARP components where production ones didn’t exist. Oh, and get this: where torque specs didn’t exist, he created them.

And it wasn’t just mechanical stuff that he went overboard on. For example, rather than invest a ton of time perfecting pot-metal faux hood vents, he worked with Dean Rodgers and Baumgartner Race Cars to design and whittle functional ones from billet aluminum.

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Even the 572 emblems were designed with a custom typeface then cut from brass stock and hand-shaped before being chrome-plated.

This car is made special by things one just can’t buy. Like rather than send the car for upholstery, Jim and wife, Geralyn, invited Scott and Gary Long to stay at their house, erecting an impromptu sewing room in their living room and a workshop in their basement.

And it’s not just their work that makes the cockpit stand out. Jim used a Hurst shifter to fabricate his own shift housing. It’s actually a Powertrain Control Solutions Simple Shift that selects gears.

Is Jim Gloe’s Camaro overkill? Of course it is. But so are a lot of cars that we feature.

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The subtle difference here is that this car’s overkill testifies to its creator’s interests and skills. This is a build that follows the design axiom: form follows function, where the look of something is dictated by its components. Also following high-design principles is the honesty; Jim didn’t hide anything. “We wanted the guts to show,” he observes. What makes it extra interesting is that Jim kept various components that most people replace with fancier ones (hood hinges, for one), investing the savings in places where they mattered more to him (the Swagelok stuff, for another).

The rest of us won’t build a car to reactor specs. Nay, we shouldn’t. Because that wouldn’t be true to us. And honestly, it’s probably not true to us to do things to a car just because other people do them.

But we can all take away something from Jim Gloe’s build. Primarily, that we should do things that reflect our own interests and skills. Because it really doesn’t take a nuclear engineer to build a car that stands out; it just takes someone who’s willing to put a little bit of themselves into whatever they do. CHP

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Tech Check
Owner: Jim and Geralyn Gloe, Fulton, Missouri
Vehicle: 1968 Camaro

Engine
Type: Chevrolet Performance big-block
Displacement: 572 ci
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Bore: 4.560 inches
Stroke: 4.375 inches
Cylinder Heads: Edelbrock rectangular port
Camshaft: Lunati grind RRB1-234-244 (0.575-inch lift, 234/244-deg. duration at 0.050-inch)
Induction: Ram Jet 502 modified by Wilson Manifolds, Arizona Speed & Marine throttle body, FAST XFI ECU, 60-lb/hr high-Z EV1 injectors in full-sequential mode with 10-degree opening retard
Ignition: FAST dual-sync distributor, MSD 6A digital ignition
Exhaust: Custom-built 2-inch primary headers with 3.5-inch collectors with stainless 0.065-wall 3-inch pipes and Borla mufflers
Output: 638 hp

Drivetrain
Transmission: 4L80E built by Gordon Stoney, supervising engineer of Hydramatic Division
Rear Axle: GM 14-bolt with Torino-style axle ends, Truetrac limited-slip, 3.55:1 gears, Moser 33-spline axleshafts

Chassis
Steering: DSE 600-series Saginaw
Front Suspension: DSE with stock drum spindles and Addco 1 1/8-inch antiroll bar custom bent to clear Milodon oil pan
Rear Suspension: DSE QUADRALink
Brakes: Baer/Alcon drilled/slotted 13.5-inch rotors with six-piston, staggered-bore monoblock calipers, front; Baer SS4+ 13-inch drilled/slotted rotors with polished hats, four-piston calipers, rear

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Budnik Tiller 5 (custom cut for caliper clearance) 17x8 (4.875-inch backspace) front, 18x12.5 (7.25-inch backspace) rear
Tires: BFGoodrich G-Force Rival S, 245/40 front, 335/30 rear

Interior
Upholstery: Luxor II Ultraleather
Seats: Fourth-gen Camaro, custom trimmed
Door panels: Fesler, modified with speaker bosses
Steering Wheel: Budnik
Instrumentation: AutoMeter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite II with warning lights
Shifter: Custom-fabricated assembly by owner, Powertrain Control
Audio: Alpine head unit with JL signal processors and amplifiers, Focal Slimline front speakers and 165KF rears. Installed by owner, tuned by Eric “The Entertainer” Pyle (Jefferson City, MO)
Built By: Scott and Gary Long, SEANAE Interiors (Grovespring, MO)

Exterior
Body Prep & Paint: Tony Goodrich, Tony’s Rod & Custom
Modifications: Rockers extended 2 inches with ground effects added to backs of rear fenders and leading edges of fronts
Hood: Stock SS with billet aluminum vents designed by Dean Rodgers, machined by Baumgartner Race Cars. Milled for vent function

Photos by Robert McGaffin

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