There's no doubt that growing up in a hot rod family greatly affects your outlook on cars. They aren't simply modes of transportation when you see them scattered in a million pieces in your dad's garage, or watch him drag the back bumper of his outlaw street car at the strip. For the past 16 years or so, Ashley Farley has done just that, as her dad, Mike, is an avid drag racer and hardcore Chevy guy in general. He's raced numerous cars and built them all out of his home shop in Tennessee. He's a talented man with a thing for Camaros, so it was only natural for his offspring to follow suit. While she may not be turning wrenches every evening after school, Ashley has a killer Camaro that is sure to impress her classmates.
Mike bought the car, along with another first-generation Camaro, in '02 as part of a package deal from a fellow Tennessee racer, Ken Rhodes. He built the other car shortly thereafter but couldn't find the time to get started on this '68, until February '09. The car had been sitting for several years before Mike snatched it up, so it needed rust repair and a mechanical restoration as well. With Mike's interest in going fast, the car would obviously have some speed parts thrown at it, and a healthy engine under the hood, regardless of who would be driving it. Actually, Mike began building this car for his wife, Melinda, but plans changed and the proud parents handed over the keys on Ashley's 16th birthday.
The car is remarkably clean and simple, and Mike gave it the right amount of cool details to make it stand out. Chassis modifications are limited, but he outfitted the Camaro with a good mix of suspension components to get the stance just right. Up front, the ride height is lowered with a pair of two-inch drop spindles and lowering springs, while the rear end features Hotchkis 2-inch drop leaf springs. To keep the car level on the twisting Tennessee roads, Mike installed Hotchkis sway bars on the front and rear, and a set of KYB shocks on all four corners. Brakes consist of Wilwood discs all around, which feature drilled rotors and four-piston aluminum calipers.
For rolling stock, Mike chose a set of Foose Nitrous II wheels, measuring in at 17x7 inches up front and 17x8 inches out back. The billet rollers are wrapped in BFGoodrich G-Force radials, sized at 235/45ZR17 and 255/45ZR17 to perfectly fill the wheelwells without the need for any drastic body or suspension modifications to keep them from rubbing. Mike did, however, swap the original rearend for the larger, 8.5-inch 10-bolt unit, which now features a 3.42 gear set and Positraction. This was in preparation for a big-block, which may seem a little risky for a 16-year-old, but Mike obviously trusts her to keep her right foot on a tight leash.
The rat displaces 454ci and it's stock for the most part. Mike rebuilt the bottom end to factory specs but installed a slightly larger camshaft to give it a healthy sound. Big time horsepower wasn't exactly the goal with this buildup, so he kept it simple enough for his wife or daughter to drive on a regular basis. We're not fooled by his modesty though-any big block in a '68 Camaro is generally a potent combination, even in stock form. The mild combination is fed by a 750cfm Holley carburetor, which sits atop a Weiand single-plane intake manifold, while an MSD HEI-style distributor lights the fire.
Outgoing air travels through a pair of Hedman headers before entering the 2.5-inch exhaust pipes, fitted with stock Z28 mufflers. The 454 is equipped with a March Ultra-Drive compact pulley system, an aluminum radiator and a pair of tall sheetmetal valve covers to finish off the clean and simple look. Backing the 454 is a TH350 automatic, which is basically stock, aside from the torque converter, which has a 2,500 rpm stall speed.
Next on Mike's list of chores was the bodywork. The car was in need of some new metal, so Mike cut out the original quarter panels to make way for new ones, and also replaced the front fenders, hood, and deck lid. From there, it was a few cycles of block-sanding and priming to get the panels straight before he could apply the PPG Hugger Orange base coat. He then masked out the traditional stripes, and laid down a few coats of white paint for a classic color combination that would later be coated with clear. More block sanding took place with ultra-fine sandpaper to remove any flaws in the fresh finish, and Mike followed that with a buffer to bring back the shine. Final assembly included lots of standard emblems and new restoration parts, with the only major alteration being the billet RS grille.
Inside, the Camaro has a Pearl interior, thanks to a new kit from PUI, which was installed by Lee Burdge. Mike painted the dash to match the exterior before installing the black dash pad, and installing the Dakota Digital gauges. He also ditched the original steering column for a polished aluminum tilt unit and a Corvette wheel. Ashley can plug an MP3 player into the Custom Auto Sound head unit, which looks like a stock Camaro radio, and she can stay comfortable by adjusting the Vintage Air heat and A/C. The car looks surprisingly simple inside to have all of these creature comforts, but it didn't happen by accident. Mike wanted to keep the original looks of the interior, yet update it with details that make it more comfortable to drive.
Between building a car to race in a local heads-up drag racing series and helping fellow racers get their setups dialed in, Mike managed to finish this car in a little over a year. It's a great first car for his daughter, and it would be a great first car for anyone looking to get into the classic car hobby. It's not cluttered with high-dollar parts and it isn't finished in such a manner that it can't be driven on a regular basis. And while a big-block may not be the right choice for every 16-year-old girl out there, Ashley is mindful of its power and enjoys sliding behind the wheel every chance she gets.