Brad Erickson says he always wanted a “nice” Camaro. And since he’s been researching and collecting for this one, he’s gotten a pretty fair idea of what nice is. What wasn’t exactly nice was the way this Camaro came up. He bought the crate from a college pal who needed to fund his kids’ college years. His friend and his friend’s father had “restored it” when he was in high school.
“I always told him that if he ever wanted to sell it to call me. I said do you mind if I modify it. He said that was always his plan but he couldn’t afford to and that he needed the money for his kids’ college tuition,” Brad offered. “They’d done the restoration in their garage. It was very ’80s. It looked nice but the tiny V-6 would never cut it. I haven’t driven it much since it was finished, but it’s definitely a head-turner. It’s fun to see the jealous looks on the guys driving modern Camaros and muscle cars. Someday I’ll sell it back to him.”
To get what he wanted the very first time, Brad dragged the project southeast to join up with renaissance man Jeff Schwartz, who never cottoned to using catalog stuff because Schwartz likes to make his own stuff. He is also in league with some of the most prolific talent in the Woodstock, Illinois, environs, especially known for upholstery and paint. One phase led to another but none of it ever left town.
Jeff realized a long time ago that race-car performance no longer required purpose-built track cars. He went on to illuminate his point with a schizoid barge: an impossible Fleetwood Caddy, which won Car Craft’s Real Street Eliminator competition in 2002. He never looked back. He just went ahead and did it. He’s maniacal about ease of accessibility and the idea that things should bolt on rather than be trial-and-error, cut-and-pasted. To that simplicity, the foundation is a Schwartz G-Machine chassis encompassing square, rectangular, and round sections. Excellent handling emanates from a stiff sub-structure with minimal bending and maximum torsional rigidity.
To this hefty spine, Schwartz situates tubular control arms and tall spindles along with a 1 1/4-inch antisway bar, RideTech coilovers, and a rack steering system. For the business end, they put up a Moser full-floater 9-inch and located it with a triangulated four-link system and a 3/4-inch antisway bar. There are big brakes all around for Brad’s Camaro: Baer 14-inch plates worried by six-piston calipers that are plied by a Baer master cylinder backed by a Raybestos booster. For form as well as function, Schwartz included high-zoot Forgeline wheels lined with premium Michelin Pilot treads.
With the V-6 just an unpleasant memory, Schwartz and Erickson plucked a 2016 LT1 from the Chevrolet Performance hurt locker. Beyond its direct fuel injection it features Active Fuel Management (corp-speak for selective cylinder deactivation) and continuously variable valve timing to take full advantage of the direct fuel injection qualities. In the big picture, output is modest but reliable and in a mid-weight car like the Camaro, respectable fuel mileage is a given. And there’s this kernel to chew on: with 465 lb-ft of torque available at 4,600 rpm, the LT1 is nearly the equal of an LS7 (with a torque peak at a lofty 6,300 rpm). Schwartz fixed the breathing in Brad’s engine with custom headers sporting 2-inch primary tubes, a mandrel-bent 3-inch stainless system merging with humane MagnaFlow stainless-steel mufflers.
This lofty new engine begged for a just-as-modern transmission. Brad backed it with a 4L65E four-speed that was assembled by Advantage Transmission with a 2,300-stall converter.
With the drivetrain sussed out, the men moved on to the beautification stage. Among other things, Schwartz and Steve Nick (Nick’s Customs, Woodstock, Illinois) smoothed the firewall, shaved the rain gutters away, and filled the slots where the side marker lights once were. Nick then prepped the body and applied the PPG GM White and Laguna Blue graphics. Schwartz put new glass in all the holes, GM Sport mirrors on the doors, and sunk Dakota Digital LED taillights in the fenders.
As for accommodations, Brad specified Recaro seats, retractable Seat Belt Planet belts, tilt steering column, and German velour carpet. In Woodstock, Shane Cassin fitted the Recaros with leather and suede hides and covered the dashboard in black leather. To go with them, Schwartz built custom door panels and the console that coddles the Lokar gear changer. The passenger pod is calm and subdued, and not one bit suggestive of mayhem.
Though the gestation took a relatively short time (18 months instead of 18 years), Brad recalls that the waiting was the most frustrating part of the process. He says the most satisfying part of the process was the experience. “I loved the one-stop shopping at Schwartz.” CHP
Owner: Bradley Erickson, Edina, Minnesota
Vehicle: 1968 Camaro
Type: Chevrolet Performance Gen V LT1 crate
Displacement: 376 ci
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Bore: 4.065 inches
Stroke: 3.622 inches
Cylinder Heads: Rectangular port Direct Injection, 2.13/1.59-inch valves
Rotating Assembly: Forged steel crankshaft, forged powdered metal connecting rods, hypereutectic pistons
Valvetrain: 1.8:1 rockers
Camshaft: Billet steel hydraulic (0.561/0.531-inch lift; 242/244-deg. duration at 0.050)
Induction: OE, composite intake manifold, high-pressure fuel pump, 18-gallon steel fuel cell
Ignition: LT1 Controller Kit
Exhaust: Schwartz Performance headers, 2-inch primary pipes, 3-inch mandrel-bent system, MagnaFlow mufflers
Ancillaries: Wet-sump oiling, Dirty Dingo accessory drive, Be Cool radiator/fan, Powermaster alternator, American Autowire classic update kit, Eddie Motorsports fender braces
Output: 460 hp at 6,000 rpm; 465 lb-ft at 4,600 rpm
Machine Work: Chevrolet Performance
Built By: Chevrolet Performance
Transmission: 4L65E, 3.06:1 Low gear, 2,300-stall converter, built by Advantage Transmission (Woodstock, IL)
Rear Axle: Moser full-floater 9-inch, Eaton Truetrac differential, 3.70:1 gears, 31-spline axles
Front Suspension: Schwartz G-Machine chassis, spindles, and upper/lower control arms; RideTech single-adjustable coilover shocks; 1 1/4-inch antisway bar
Rear Suspension: Triangulated four-link with Teflon-lined spherical rod ends, RideTech single-adjustable coilover shocks, 3/4-inch antisway bar
Brakes: Baer 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers, front and rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline GT3C 18x9 front, 18x12 rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport 255/35 front, 325/30 rear
Upholstery: Shane Cassin (Woodstock, IL)
Material: Leather and suede
Steering: Schwartz Performance rack, Grant wheel
Instrumentation: Dakota Digital
Audio: RetroSound head unit, Alpine speakers, installation by Schwartz
HVAC: Vintage Air
Bodywork: Schwartz and Steve Nick, shaved driprails, filled-in marker lights, smoothed firewall
Paint By: Steve Nick, Nick’s Customs (Woodstock, IL)
Paint: PPG GM White and Laguna Blue graphics
Photos by Dominick Damato