One year into the project, Nelson Racing Engines (Chatsworth, California) was selected to “freshen up” the Rat the car had been carrying. “Tom Nelson ended up being the guy,” says Rick. “He was very reasonable and helpful, though I think at that point he was being very nice to help me out, as he was getting very busy with his turbo motors.” Nice help out, indeed. The end result is a 407ci powerplant (4.154 bore x 3.76 stroke) built around a forged Morrison Racing crank, Chevy rods, and Speed Pro forged pistons coming in at 10.5:1 compression. It’s topped by Chevy iron heads (now with an NRE valve job) that are activated by a Chet Herbert solid-roller cam spec’ing out at .625-inch lift/250 degrees duration at 0.050 lift, intake and exhaust. It’s all fed by a 750cfm Quick Fuel carb that draws from an Edelbrock mechanical fuel pump and breathes through a Performer intake. Lube duties are handled by Milodon 9-quart pan with a high-volume pump. A MSD Pro Billet Ready to Run distributor lights the fires, while ceramic-coated Doug’s headers team with a custom 3-inch stainless steel exhaust with crossover and Edelbrock mufflers built by “a nice guy named Corey from Canyon Country (California).” A Vintage Air Frontrunner setup handles the pulley duties. Engine builder Nelson estimates that the re-vitalized Rat is putting out 500 hp at 5,800 rpm; experience tells us that with these specs, it should be making well over that in the torque department at a nice and usable engine speed, perfect for the ‘68’s street/track mission.
To fully exploit the car’s big-block power, Rick added another one of his bonus-bought, big-ticket items, specifically a Keisler TKO 600 five-speed setup. “My wife freaked when I ordered the TKO,” he recalls. “She just didn’t get it.” We’d hope that by now she’s been for a ride and has a better understanding of the situation; in any case, Rick assures us that tranny sticker shock aside, wife Lisa was supportive during his endeavors. The Camaro’s new gearbox setup was augmented by a Centerforce clutch shielded by a McLeod bellhousing. Rick used his fabrication skills in this area as well, creating a custom bracket for the clutch reservoir. Continuing down the line, the abundant big-block grunt is fed through a Keisler driveshaft to a stout 12-bolt diff assembly. It’s the one the car came with, albeit rebuilt by Hooper’s Rear Ends (Sun Valley, California) with a limited-slip, 3.73:1-geared differential and narrowed by 6 inches to allow for big rubber with the deep-dish–wheel look Rick wanted.
Of course, this RS/SS Camaro is about way more than just looks. Rick Klein put together a car that just plain delivers the goods, whether working the cones at an autocross, sprinting wide-open at a road course, or just running down the highway. “On public roads,” he told us, “It’s stiff and loud, but its mannerisms are great.” These driver-friendly mannerisms have translated to the track as well. In addition to his autocross activities, Rick has attended both of the first two Run to the Coast events to run the road-race track, and has acquitted himself admirably. At this year’s event, he arrived late but managed to put up the fifth fastest time among a field of Saturday’s hot shoes before the Camaro went on a trailer with a case of bent pushrods. We like that almost as much as we like the car’s track performance. Not the engine damage, mind you. Rather, the fact that this ride was driven to the track, and only saw the flatbed when it couldn’t be driven anymore. “It did surprisingly well on the road course,” Rick told us. “It shouldn’t handle as well as it does. Either that or I’m a helluva driver.” Maybe it’s a little bit of both; it usually is, after all. In any case, the payoff was more than expected—a bonus, in other words. And who among us doesn’t love getting a bonus? Ka-ching.