When the Camaro was introduced to the public way back on September 29, 1966, Chevrolet management hoped the small car would appeal to young buyers looking for a vehicle that was vastly different from their parent’s daily commuter. Little did the company realize how significant — and lasting — that overwhelming appeal would be.
The car has a performance-oriented history and in fact, the ‘67 Camaro SS was the first Chevrolet car to receive the now-legendary 350 small-block engine. Although rated at a paltry 295 horsepower, it still delivered 20 more ponies than the four-barrel equipped 327 cubic-inch engine. The Camaro was a well-balanced car that seemed to satisfy everyone’s cravings. To make sure, Chevrolet even offered a big-block version of the Super Sport with a mid- ’67 introduction.
Zack Jones of Montesano, Washington, might not have been witness to the introduction spectacle when the Camaro was first introduced, but for him, the appeal is still there. “I have what I call a 68 1/2 Camaro,” Zack states. “I say that because of all the custom work my father and I have done to it during the ten-year build. I have pictures of the entire process, and I am proud that we did it together in the attached garage.
“I always wanted a ’69 Camaro, but overall, I’m even happier with the ’68. It has allowed me to add the custom touches like the ’69 taillights and driving lights that make it unique when compared to everyone else’s.”
Zack told us his dad used to work with the previous owner in Aberdeen, Washington, and he bought it from her. “It was originally red with a Deluxe interior, six-cylinder engine, and a Powerglide,” Zack said. As one would expect, the car was not in as-new condition and was, in reality, quite rough. However, it was complete and able to be driven.
Like many projects, this Camaro’s starting condition meant the project needed a lot of work lavished upon it. “All the outer sheetmetal was replaced — except for the cowl and the area above and below the grill,” Zack affirmed. “We knew it needed quarter-panels, but after pulling the glass out, we realized it needed a new roof as well. Since we were replacing all those panels, we ended up buying a lot of reproduction parts. The inner structure was good, but we did replace the passenger-side floor pan. After the sheetmetal rust was taken care of, I spent an entire winter working on aligning body gaps.”
The car was then painted Pepper Grey Metallic by Larry Foss Autobody Restoration. The devil is in the details of a quality rebuild, and the subtle touches to this Camaro are just enough to help it stand out in a crowd. Did you notice the ’69 driving lights and taillights? It’s details like these, the smoothed and narrowed bumpers, and the removal of door and trunk locks that add to the car’s aesthetics. But, they can be easily overlooked at a glance.
Under the hood, we find the original six-cylinder engine is long gone. Now, a basically stock LS6 has taking up residence. The mill benefits from a COMP Cams hydraulic roller with .581/.588-inch lift and 224/230 degrees of duration at .050-inch lift. Behind that is T56 TREMEC, sourced from a late-model GTO. Finishing the drivetrain is an 8.5-inch 10-bolt posi-filled rear with 3.42 gears to ensure long-distance drives are comfortable.
“The engine compartment is clean, but not over the top,” said Zack. “The style I was shooting for was as-if GM built the first-gens with LS power. In my mind, it could have looked like this. I wanted the car to be able to go anywhere, like a modern car.”
Underneath, upgrades abound. “It’s got a complete Ridetech suspension,” says Zack. Upfront are tubular A-arms, coilovers, a sway bar, and a Tru-Turn steering system. A four-link supports the GM rear. The brakes are as good as they come, with 13-inch C5 Corvette rotors on the front and 12-inch late-model Camaro calipers and rotors on the rear.
“I bought the car when I was in my late-20’s and spent the last 12 years building the car while raising two boys with my wife,” Zack states. “I worked at Larry Foss Auto Restoration when I was in high school. That’s where I learned to do bodywork. Together, my dad and I added a lot of custom touches to the car that are subtle, but differentiates the car from the other first-gen Camaros.”
Inside, occupants are treated to both modern and classic touches. “I used stock, Deluxe door panels, Morris Classic Concepts three-point seat belts, TMI Pro Series seats, NVU Gauges, a Vintage Air kit that uses the original A/C vents, a fifth-gen Camaro Console and E-brake, and an ididit tilt steering column.”
By blending the best of various first-gen components and a few modifications of his own, Zack has definitely built a hot rod that not only looks classic but has just enough modernized bits to make sure it never gets mistaken as, “just another Camaro.”
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