Patience is certainly a virtue, as the well-worn maxim points out, but one that we’ve never learned to fully embrace. Not that we can’t appreciate the fruits of forbearance, especially when we see the payoff before our eyes in black and … red. Rick Klein’s 1968 Chevy Camaro RS/SS is a Pro Touring warrior that took eight years to complete. That’s a long time for a guy to wait for his muscle car payoff, but the approach has its benefits. Rick built much of the car himself—a source of satisfaction and a good way not to go broke. Also to that end, the big-ticket items needed to execute that plan were purchased only when he received his yearly bonuses. The long build time allowed Rick time to research and plan a direction for this car. He was rewarded with a machine that works even better than planned, and what bigger bonus can you get than that? It may not be particularly exotic, at least by today’s Pro Touring standards, but it is a well thought-out formula that just plain works, driving to So Cal autocrosses and road course events, and then ripping through them with aplomb.
Of course, our man Rick was already used to digging in for the long haul, waiting close to 25 years for his adult Camaro go-round. As a teenager, Rick had owned two ’67 F-bodies: One was a 327/automatic trans RS car that he drove for a couple of years. As for the other one, Rick recalls it as “a bastard of a car” that had pearl paint, a diamond-tuck interior, and flared fenders. “It was actually quite hideous,” he told us with a laugh. We say hideously valuable now, if he had hung onto it. About his long-term F-body infatuation, he simply says, “I was attracted to them.” As with many first attractions, this one lingered, and he returned to the Camaro owner ranks in 2001, when he bought our subject ’68 from a former co-worker for $5,000. The car had seen duty as a drag car and street racer but had to be towed to its new home. The good news was that it was returned to driving status within a few weeks of the purchase. The not-so-good-news? At some point in the process, Rick noticed the car had a previously undisclosed salvage title. Angry at first, he quickly realized that while salvage status was a hindrance to doing a full restoration, it gave him the freedom to build the car like he really wanted it to be.
This project started just as a proper resto job would have: with a complete, down-to-the-bones teardown. Rick—who works as the general manager of an aluminum foundry—built a stand in his garage to support the body, then proceeded to pick the bones clean. Once bead blasted, the body proved to be rust-free; Rick tells us he got offers for it at the blaster. This thorough disassembly also made it easy to confirm that this Camaro was indeed an original RS/SS car, as indicated by the RS parking light configuration and the presence of SS brake and gas lines. It also provided a sound base for shimmering coats of two-stage ’04 Lexus Red that would eventually be sprayed on. The exterior touches were completed with a Classic Industries “STK” grille and steel 2-inch cowl hood (supported by custom cast aluminum hinges), Spaghetti Engineering “Digi-Tails” rear and marker lights, and several nice pieces from the Detroit Speed catalog: RS headlights, electric wiper motor, and the body-matching core support closeout under the hood.