1967 Chevy Camaro SS - Jiggs' Rat

Jenkins Competition Rides Again!

Ro McGonegal Apr 1, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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That's what people who were close to Bill Jenkins called him in the early days, Jiggs or Jenks, not Grumpy. That was before he became a celebrity and didn't come until he'd over-extended Jenkins Competition to the point of wanting to slam his forehead into the point of nail. He was grumpy. He was intolerant. At one point, he was responsible for the care of 35 NHRA record holders. "I went on an ego trip," he admitted.

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There was no time to do anything, and when people bothered him with incessant questions, he'd usually turn them off with a gruff demeanor and verbal spit. His technical explanations often went way above most heads-just his way of ensuring that he'd glaze his listener's eyes and make them think twice before asking again. What else would you call somebody like that but Grumpy? If Dave Leisinger of Hartford, South Dakota, has indeed followed Bill since the beginning and has developed a downright fetish for the Pennsylvania country boy, always keen on what he was doing and what he was driving, he obviously never suffered one of Bill's tangy discourses. But maybe he'd have loved it anyway.

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One of Leisinger's favorites was the '67 Camaro that Bill and Joe Tryson assembled for SS/C (375/396) to run the Indy Nationals that year. They repowered it with a 427 and ran SS/Experimental at the '68 Super Stock Nationals and the AHRA Spring Nationals at Bristol. The Camaro soon morphed into Bill's first match race car and that was the impetus for Leisinger to build this acknowledgment.

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Hooking oneself to a well-known quantity is not new. Engine builder Ben Smeding at Smeding Performance got with Bill to schmooze a 572ci package with proprietary cam specs and a custom pump-gas amenable piston dome/combustion chamber design. That's the hook, anyway. Leisinger wanted the body as a slicked-down, stretched-out silhouette devoid of frills, chrome especially, but reeking of subtle detail. To change the pace, Leisinger put his future in the hands of street rod builder Roger Burman at Lakeside Rods and Rides (Rockwell City, Iowa). Burman's minimalist take on the usual Pro Touring/g-Machine ethic is refreshing and recalls lots of old-days how and equal measures of modern-day why not.

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The Camaro was to be a driver all along, an edgy one to be sure, but a driver nonetheless. A big motor and an autocross-eating suspension system require a chassis with lots of torsional rigidity for maximum performance and impact. Leisinger went to The Roadster Shop (Mundelein, Illinois) for a fully boxed 2x3 custom-designed framerails endowed with stock body mount, bumper, and core support locations. The Roadster Shop continued the configuration with a tubular center crossmember and an adjustable drop-out transmission mount in league with mid-brace crossmember with provision for pass-through exhaust pipes. RS also included its Stage III three-position rear ride height feature. In total, the suspension is light years ahead of the leaf-spring-based junk Bill used back in the day. Extreme Custom Powder Coating (Blooming Prairie, Minnesota) preserved the frame for posterity.

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All this provides a sterling platform for the Detroit Speed components that include C6 steering knuckles, rack steering, tubular control arms, a hollow, splined antisway bar, and coilover shock absorbers that provide the 4-inch drop in front. The Roadster Shop guys balanced the assembly at front with a 9-inch housing in the middle of a DSE Quadralink four-bar system abetted by coilovers. The brakes and wheels got big 14-inch Wilwoods with six- and four-piston clamps that blend in behind painted spiders on the 18x8 and 20x12 Billet Specialties SLC85 spokes that Leisinger slathered with Michelin Pilot Sport 2 225/35 and 335/30ZR rubber.

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Bill would absolutely have shat his briefs for the 572 under that Yenko Stinger hood, because the biggest thing available in the day was 494 inches, which was based on an aluminum Can-Am cylinder block. The Jenkins/Smeding project grows out of a Dart Big M cylinder case with a 4.630-inch bore. Into those sacred holes, Smeding poured tight-fitting, high-silicone content-forged pistons that have cooling trusses on their underside. The Jenkins-prescribed mini-dome is marked for a 10.2:1 compression ratio (the GMPP 620hp 572 crate operates on 9.6:1) and installed at zero-deck height for maximum combustion quench. The ring pack features a moly-faced ductile iron 0.043-inch top, a reverse taper 0.004-inch second, and a stainless steel light-tension 3/16-inch oiler. Pistons come to the connecting rods with full-floating wrist pins. The rods are 4340 steel H-beams and fitted with bronze pin bushings.

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The rod bolts are 7/16-inch diameter and rated at 190,000 psi. They're attached to the micro-polished and chamfered journals on a forged arm that cranks up a 4.250-inch stroke. For lightness, the number one and four crank pins are hollow. Bearing surfaces have a nitride treatment and the unit is internally balanced. For oiling, Smeding uses a windage tray under the 7-quart pan with a full kick out on the passenger side to help sling oil away from the crank.

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When those pistons rocket northward, they are challenged by aluminum cylinder heads carrying 2.30/1.88 stainless valves that nestle down in five-angle seats in 120cc combustion chambers. The ports are CNC-prepped, and the intakes flow a 335-cfm volume at peak-all the better for the custom-ground COMP hydraulic cam. It opens wide, 0.699-inch on the intakes and 0.666-inch on the exhaust side. As Bill no doubt advised, Smeding keeps duration and lobe-center specs to himself. On top of the head, aluminum roller rocker arms working on extra large trunnions hump at a ratio of 1.7:1.

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Smeding capped the volcano with an Edelbrock single-plane Victor intake manifold hosting a 4510 series 1,050-cfm carburetor as calibrated by Quick Fuel Technologies. Fire shoots from a modified HEI distributor to ACDelco spark plugs, and the trash resultant is sucked away by Lemons' ceramic-coated custom headers equipped with 21/2-inch primary pipes and 4-inch collectors. The remainder of the system is 3-inch stainless steel interrupted slightly by minimal but mellow Magnaflow mufflers. Ancillaries include a PRC aluminum radiator/support and March billet aluminum accessory drive that includes a Vintage Air Gen IV A/C compressor and a Power Master 140-amp alternator. The whole schmear is topped by an engine cover custom built by Lakeside and incorporates a K&N filter element.

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As a balls-out cruiser, the engine absolutely feasts on an overdriven top gear as found in the Gearstar Level 5 4L85E (2.42:1 low, 0.75:1 top gear) transmission. It's under the influence of a GMPP controller and is fitted with an 11-inch Yank converter, a Cheetah Tranz brake system, and a custom billet pan. Leisinger changes up with a B&M Street Bandit shifter. To get the grunt to the blacktop, Drive Line Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, spun up a custom aluminum prop shaft. With 4.10s in the third member, the hefty transmission provides a realistic 3.00:1 cruise gear for the 850hp/840 lb-ft Rat.

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In another sphere, the body was taking shape. To achieve the key to the visual impact the Camaro provides, Lakeside frenched the front and rear bumpers (painted silver), shaved the drip rails, installed '68 doors (to omit the vent windows), removed the outside mirrors, recessed the taillights with Marquez LED billet pieces, molded the spoiler into the trunk and rear quarters, deleted the window moldings, and brought the glass out almost flush with the body. The result is a sleek envelope that appears longer and lower than it really is.

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Dean and Roger from Lakeside corrected the bodywork, fabbed the full-length center console, applied the PPG Dover White and completed the Yenko-style hood in PPG Silver. They ghosted "Grumpy's Toy" and "Jenkins Competition" on the doors and quarters and did the tail panel and the hockey stick stripe in the ultimate contrast. The adornment is a mix between the Dover White and the stripes, neither of which were available until the '69 model year. That grille is a gennie '67, painted black and silver to match the bumpers. The valance got a '69 vibe with the addition of Marquez driving lights.

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Before the car was shipped to Dan Weber's Custom Interiors in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Roadster Shop guys installed an abbreviated DSE rollcage to tie the rails together even tighter. If anything, the interior is as plush and as elegantly understated as the body. The Corbeau Sport seats, door panels, headliner, and the console are sheathed in leather, and the blackness is punctuated by Marquez billet handles and locks. Electric Life solenoids enable the door locks and the window lifts. Leisinger squeezes a Budnik Sport wheel on a Flaming River adjustable steering column and hawks a pair of Classic Instruments 5-inch diameter all-inclusive gauge packs, tachometer and speedometer included.

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It took eight months to complete Leisinger's seriously nasty affectation. In effect, he's created an heirloom for sons Josh and Jared who will hopefully enjoy it for the rest of their lives. Wonder what Jiggs would think?

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