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1968 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible - What It Was Like

Jimmy Jackson and The Bad ’68

Ro McGonegal May 1, 2012
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What it was like is still the way it is. Power, power, and even more of it, only now the gross output is emissions-legal, clean, if not sweet, but quite undeniable all the same. Jimmy Jackson knows this better than some. He has the wherewithal to create the embodiment of his vision, to make it materialize, and he thrives in the midst of it. Put bluntly, you could say that Jimmy likes to go fast, and his mode and method isn’t always confined to four wheels.

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He found his crafters. Jeff Greening and son Jesse run Greening Auto Company (GAC) out of Nashville, Tennessee. Don’t be misled by the unassuming title or lack of spiky neon light. The Greenings’ bent is primarily high-end rods, early stuff, muscle car joints, and tricks like the occasional Toyota FJ Cruiser paddling around in the mix. And if they are able to build just two or three cars a year, they’re happy boys. Call them open-minded, non-denominational, certified neutral. They say bring it. And, yes, they know J. Jackson.

Jesse on Jimmy’s predilection: “Jimmy is a speed freak. He currently owns an MTI Twin Hull that’ll eat more than 150 mph. It takes a pair of 1,200hp motors to do that. [And your assumption is correct; toys this formidable run in the half-million-dollar range.] His ’68 Camaro coupe [bought at Barrett-Jackson a few years ago] he calls the brother car to the convertible. It’s got an injected 572. Somehow, this all led to the 454 in the convertible.

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“There was a time when he asked about twin turbochargers for it,” said Jesse with a wink. “I told him to save that for a car with a rollcage and a roof. Needless to say, the convertible is very fast without any assistance. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he had the LS motor in his Boss Hoss bike rebuilt to make it faster!”

Jimmy’s got favorite Camaro parts but maybe not the ones you’d expect from a power-monger. To him, the car’s most luscious bits are the interior and the engine compartment, not the LSX engine. We, on the other hand, can’t get away from the perfect paint and wheels. Sure, it’s just paint and powdercoat but there’s something mysterious about them and the aura they provide. It provokes thought, like sliding down a fire pole that turns into a razor blade.

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In contrast to the expensive conversions from other places on the map, the Greenings seem to do a little more with a little less. It’s about understatement and cleanliness and the outside world couldn’t be more aware. Right off the mark, Jimmy’s car nailed the 2011 Builders Choice award at Goodguys Columbus.

Jimmy and the Greenings knew they’d have to fortify the chassis. Detroit Speed offers some well-integrated bits that become simple bolt-ins when the car is in a state of disassembly. GAC began with Detroit spindles and complete subframe (tubular upper and lower control arms; rack steering; adjustable coilover shocks; and a splined, adjustable antisway bar). The no-man’s-land between the front and rear axles is fortified with frame connectors and abetted by a GAC-built transmission mount/crossover. The rear complement includes the patented QUADRALink suspension and along with it, four-link geometry, adjustable antisway bar and coilovers, upper shock-mount crossmember and, in this instance, standard-width wheeltubs.

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Reducing unsprung weight is sure to enhance the handling and braking spheres. At the same time, you’ll be running the largest rubber and brakes possible. To that end, GAC put Baer 6P stoppers at each corner (14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers). Rather than the straight 18-inch combination that is currently the rage, GAC jigged things up a little with HRE C95 19x9 and 20x10 modulars and 255/35 and 295/35 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires. Somewhere in the process, the hoops were powdercoated satin black. GAC’s Rick Harris drew the orange stripes and detailed the brake calipers as well.

The energy this stuff dissipates comes easily from a GMPP 454 LSX crate motor that produces horsepower and torque in the fat 600 range—more than enough grit to blow Jimmy into the middle of next week. Since the 454 isn’t a production engine and its destination could be anywhere but a stock vehicle, it’s only available minus intake manifold and oil pan. GAC took Jimmy’s from Scoggin-Dickey. While GAC didn’t see reason to make more power, they treated the ancillary systems with respect.

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At the top of the engine, an unforgettable fabricated individual-runner intake manifold contracted by Scoggin-Dickey from an undisclosed source to provide a low engine profile, enhance boost applications, and to maintain low-end torque. It’s fed via a Ricks Stainless Tanks fuel cell and a Nick Williams 102mm throttle body. A Mast Motorsports cast sump holds five quarts of lube. GAC made the air cleaner housing and fronted it with a Spectre element. The DSE exhaust headers were left uncoated and GAC continued the tract with a stainless 2½-inch system in and out of an X-pipe and Flowmaster 40-Series muffs. The Vintage Air Front Runner accessory drive collects alternator, Sanden compressor, and OE power steering pump. Moxie estimates: 630 horsepower; 540 torque.

Jimmy might be a geezer but Jimmy’s a speed freak, remember? And when a geezer’s car sports a clutch you’d better rethink your howdy-do. The guy’s still got blood in his eye and he won’t be going down easy. So the drivetrain is bulletproof like the engine. Right off that 8-bolt crankshaft flange is a special flywheel, followed by American Driveline pieces, including an 11-inch carbon-fiber clutch and safety shield/bellhousing. The Tremec six-gear is manipulated by a GAC-built shifter. Torque flushes down an American Driveline prop shaft and heads straight for the DSE/Moser 9-inch. A limited-slip, 31-spline axles, and 3.73s included.

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We think success here has a great deal to do with the patience invested in the sheetmetal and the subtle but critical paint treatment. All the things the Greenings did have been done before, but they manage to make them look fresh and original. GAC (specifically Jeff Greening, Ted Dobkowski, and Jacob Edens) removed the hairpin of a bumper, painstakingly installed and aligned RS headlight covers, installed the Camaro Central grille, customized the parking lights, wiped off all the side markers, modified the rear pan and original bumper, and (no small feat) pulled all the seams tight.

Jeff Greening applied the Galsurit/55 Line Orange and the GAC satin stripes. Underhood finishing is superb, marked randomly by a knurled knob or a smooth countenance where there were neither in the original. There’s even serendipity in the copper-tan burnished header pipes, ever the foil for the satin black background and orange-glow exterior.

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Suffice that Jimmy’s Camaro has all the comfort and convenience of a regular automobile, but visual testament is difficult to come by. Everything inside is subdued or it collaborates with another section of the interior or the exterior proper. Can you see the fine orange stitching in the seats and the muted orange strips on the doors and how they merge with the exterior theme?

Paul Atkins Hot Rods and Interiors in Hanceville, Alabama, put the whole thing in perspective. Though they strove to maintain original appearance and terrain, they worked the seats, front and rear, removing the springs, welding in bolsters, and finishing with foam. Before the leather was fit and molded, GAC fabbed a seatbelt attachment bar that could be quickly deconstructed to turn the Crow Enterprizes five-point harnesses into simple lap belts. About the time the Classic Instrument All American Series gauges and Lecarra Mark 9 steering wheel (check out the custom machined horn button) were being placed, GAC put in the Camaro Central glass. Jimmy’s not going to tell you that the engine makes its own song; he opens up the stereo wide. Atkins Hot Rods insinuated the Alpine head, CD, speakers, and special enclosures.

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In our mind’s eye, we can see some guys fretting beneath the hood or beneath the car under the rear end just slightly claustrophobic or bending and cursing silently as he wipes down the exterior, but we think Jimmy’s most happy slinging the wheel and plowing gears foot pressed to the wood. He’s a speed freak, you know.



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