“Car stalking” is one of those specialized skills that takes a keen eye and an insane amount of patience to master. If it’s a term you’re unfamiliar with — just know this is not the practice of spying a ridiculously optioned SUV rolling on 26s belonging to Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga (does she even drive?), or some has-been rock star who was once featured on MTV Cribs. Nope, we’re talking about the art of scoping out a valuable piece of classic muscle down a 300-foot-long driveway revealing just a skosh of a taillight, and being able to recognize the year, make, and model in which said taillight belongs. It’s that kind of intuition that could quite possibly get you that vintage ride you’ve been searching for the past 25 years. The car-stalking hobby takes a huge amount of perseverance and persistence, but the payoff can be well worth the effort: one day finding that automotive treasure of a lifetime in your own garage.
Although Chris Jacobs wasn’t consciously stalking Jim Korbal’s ’68 RS/SS for two years, he kept in touch with him and would every so often inquire if he still had the Camaro, and if it was still for sale. “I had originally been invited to look at the car with some friends who were interested in buying it back in 2003,” informs Chris. “As luck would have it, Jim and my friends weren’t able to come to terms on a price so he held onto the car. I could tell he was interested in selling it, and having owned it for over 24 years, Jim was in no real hurry to gain a vacant spot in his garage.”
At first, Chris didn’t give the Camaro much thought, but after seeing it in person, the attraction firmly set in. It wasn’t long before he realized there was a good chance in owning the car himself; he just had to be patient. “It wasn’t so much that I wanted this car, I needed this car!” Confessed Chris. “Once Jim pulled the cover off and I saw those hide-away headlights for the first time, I was sold. The only problem was a ’65 Malibu SS I needed to get rid of first. My wife, Lynda, was all good with me buying the Camaro as long as the Malibu went away first.”
Two years later, in the spring of 2005, Chris was finally able to swing a deal with Jim on the Camaro. The Malibu sold the same day he brought the Camaro home.
Good or bad, every car has a past history, and with the length of said history being determined by a car’s age, a Camaro over 35 years old could have one to rival in size of a 6th-grader's science book. “Since purchasing the car, I’ve run into a few people who were able to help me with valuable information,” tells Chris. “I found out that it was first purchased as a high school graduation present for a kid in Tucson, Arizona.” The location would explain the welcome lack of the typical Midwest rust and rot, and the age of the young owner explains the lack of the original drivetrain. Unfortunately, teenagers and aggressive driving go hand-in-hand, so it’s safe to say the original big-block and trans had a short-lived relationship with the classic first-gen. It’s a good bet the OE power plant and trans lay scattered somewhere on the Arizona desert floor being intensely watched over by a kettle of turkey buzzards.
Chris continued. “The car was originally equipped with the L89 aluminum-head 396 and M-21. Man, I wish those were still there!”
To ease separation anxiety, a big-block resides within the framerails: a 396 sporting steel ’69 oval-port heads. An American Powertrian Tremec TKO 600 five-speed now handles the shifting duties.
It was 1980 when the car was brought up to Illinois where Rich Vitiritti purchased it, disassembled it, and performed a complete restoration. He even managed to meticulously re-spray the car in its original Ralley Green pigment … all in his home two-car garage.
Then, in 1982, Jim Korbal got possession of the car, and for the next 24 years drove it a little and brought it out to a couple Super Chevy shows and local cruise nights. With that kind of behavior he only managed to ring up about 5,000 miles on the odometer. Now in Chris’ possession, the pampered ride has given up a grand total of 58,000 miles.
Leaving the car mostly “as purchased,” Chris relinquished the 14x6-inch Rally wheels for a set of American Racings 15x7-inch T70 five-spokes. He then tossed the bias ply Firestones in favor of Diamondback Classic/Yokahama DB3 215/65-15 redline tires on all four corners. It’s a respectful nod to the two-day mods that went down back in the day.
There’s a point when safety trumps old-school cool, so Chris got in touch with the folks over at Baer Brakes for a set of their new SS4 calipers and two-piece rotors to take the place of the stock drums. They are a welcomed advancement in brake technology, while being careful not to intrude on the car’s late-’60s demeanor. Now there’s no guessing which direction the car will pull once the binders are applied in haste.
With the exception of the front seats being recovered, the interior dons mostly all-stock components. “It’s amazing how original this car is,” said Chris, excitedly. “The rear seats are completely original, the glass is factory GM, and the windows roll up and down flawlessly! The only other things we had to replace were the door panels because someone had installed speakers in the doors–a typical early ’70s hack job.”
Chris contends the sheetmetal is as perfect as he’s seen on any first-gen. “The panels are incredibly straight and the gaps are amazing. The chrome and trim have just the right amount of patina to let you know this car is the real deal. The paint is starting to show some signs of age, but to me that’s just one of the things that makes this car so cool. Besides, it adds character.”
As a reminder of just how well-kept this car was, Chris even bragged that the door buzzer still works when the key is left in the ignition.
The aforementioned Tremec TKO 600 trans makes for a much more street-friendly combo when mated up to the stock 12-bolt and 4.10 rearend gears. “With the overdrive transmission now in the car, I’m really looking forward to putting a whole lot of miles on it,” boasts Chris. “Highway driving wasn't a pleasant experience with the M-22 and short gears it came with, but now the car is so much more fun to drive.”
Although Chris has no immediate plans to dive in and divert the classic spirit of the '68, he’s always up for a little more horsepower. “My wife’s ’66 Chevelle convertible has a 496 with quite a few more beans that’s a little cold blooded and not so wife friendly on cool mornings, so we’ll be swapping that engine in the Camaro. Had I bought this car with the original engine and trans, I wouldn’t even think about an engine swap, but I can’t help myself when it comes to horsepower. Besides, she’d rather go with an LS engine anyway –— something a bit more modern and reliable.”
If I had to thank anyone for helping me out with this car, I would have to indirectly give credit to Rich Vitiritti for doing such a great job on painting and restoring the car in his home garage over 30 years ago, and also Jim Korbal for being such a meticulous caretaker of the car for the past 24 years. I also want to thank Randy Johnson at D&Z customs for helping me out with the transmission installation.
Although Chris might not consider himself as a full-time car stalker, previous to purchasing the Camaro, he does admit to occasionally peeping in Jim’s garage to make sure the car was still there.
So be careful if you’re sitting on a nice piece of vintage muscle, there’s a good possibility that Chris Jacobs has a bead on it.
Patience and persistence pays off for Chris Jacobs