- Matador Red / Black
- LS1 V8
- T-56 6-speed
- 10-bolt / 4.10 gears
- Traction bars
- 4-point harnesses
Looking at some of the cars I see at shows, I think subtlety is a lost art. Then something like this amazing 1968 Camaro shows up and my faith is renewed. At first, it merely looks like a nicely finished Matador Red SS 350 coupe, but as you look closer, you notice that there are a lot of neat tricks that really make it stand out. And then you open the hood and see a modern LS1 V8, complete with all the factory electronics intact, and the competition-oriented interior and it keeps getting better and better. It's not often that we are able to refer to a bright red Camaro as a sleeper, but there's definitely more to this F-body than meets the eye.
For many Camaro fans, the pure lines of the '67-68 cars are as good as Camaros get, and I tend to agree. This one has been finished properly, and the sheetmetal seems stretched over the chassis, giving the car a lean, predatory look. Bodywork is nicely done, and it looks as good as it does because someone too the time to sweat the details. Gaps are good, and the body lines are straight—that kick-up in the rear quarter panels never looks right if the panel fit is sloppy. The paint might be a little dark to be Matador Red, but it's handsome nonetheless, and perhaps the most interesting feature is the color-keyed SS stripe up front. Almost ghost-like on the top of the grille, it darkens to almost black by the time it reaches its point at the edge of the doors, a very cool touch. The tail panel and lower valence have been blacked-out to give the car a little bit of an edge, but it's far from flashy.
All the original Camaro trim was retained, and the car has a very OEM look about it. The Camaro script emblems on the front and sides remain, the 350 badges on the front fenders are correct (even though it now sports 346 cubic inches), and all signs point to it being a real SS. 1968 was the first year for side marker lights, and the positioning of the rear marker lights suggests that the quarter panels are original. Two-element tail lights give it a tidy appearance from the rear, and the glass is excellent.
The subtlety stops the moment you lift the cowl induction hood, however. Instead of a carbureted old-tech iron 350, you'll find a modern all-aluminum LS1 that appears to be from a Camaro (how appropriate). Dressed up in bright red Corvette Z06 coil covers and sporting an aluminum intake in place of the factory plastic unit, it's making notably more power than any original 350 would, and does it reliably and smoothly thanks to the wonders of factory fuel injection. It inhales through a custom-made intake with a conical filter in the front fender, and keeps its cool thanks to a massive aluminum radiator and electric fan. Enough chrome was sprinkled throughout the engine bay to make you realize this is no junkyard dog, and it's impressive as hell the first time you open the hood at a show. A billet accessory drive system runs the alternator, A/C, water pump, and power steering system, while a new power master cylinder energizes the brakes. Best of all, it starts instantly, idles perfectly even when it's ice cold, and everything works like it would in a brand new car—you just can't beat factory engineering for reliability.
That LS1 was originally paired with a 6-speed manual, so that's what lives behind it now, a rugged T56 6-speed manual that features not one, but two overdrive gears that make highway cruising, even with 4.10s in the 10-bolt, a pleasant proposition. The suspension is largely stock, although it gets its rake from a set of custom springs and traction bars out back. A massive dual exhaust system with a crossover system delivers that unique LS1 sound that's more Ferrari than vintage Chevy, and fat sway bars keep it tight in the corners. And while the stance is just right, they also nailed the tire package—instead of oversized and flashy alloys, the builder went with tried-and-true Rallys wearing brand new 15-inch BFGoodrich Radial T/As that are always in style.
Inside, well, you can forget all pretext of pretending this is a stock Camaro. Instead, it looks like a Trans-Am racer from the late '60s, and that's a good thing. Deeply bolstered buckets are provided for the front passengers, and they've been upholstered in black velour instead of slippery leather for obvious reasons. The back seat has been upholstered to match, adding a bright red Chevrolet bowtie emblem to the seatback. Red belts, including Corbeau 4-point harnesses for the driver and passenger, tie it together with the exterior. Auto Meter Ultralight gauges fill the original instrument pods, and it appears that this is an original factory air car, as there are correct eyeball vents in the dash. The steering wheel is a gorgeous billet piece from American Racing, and the center console has been modified to hold a quartet of auxiliary gauges in a fitting tribute to the original. New carpets, door panels, and a fresh headliner give it a suitably fresh look, and your feet dance on a set of billet aluminum SS pedals. You'll also note that the Optima battery has been relocated to the trunk, where you'll also find a full-sized spare and a fresh mat.
Documentation includes an original owner's manual and 1968 Camaro brochure.
While I can't say this car is stealthy, I can say that it is extremely well built and carries big, modern horsepower in a very authentic-looking package. The subtlety of the exterior work, especially that SS stripe, will win this car a lot of fans at shows, while the power under the hood and killer interior make it an absolute blast to drive. I guess this one would fall into the “resto-mod” category rather than all-out pro-touring, but whatever you call it, this LS-1 powered Camaro is way cool. Fully sorted and with everything fully functional, it's exactly the kind of car that gets a lot of second and third looks at a show, and drivers of much more modern machinery will be stunned when you swat them with this 43-year-old coupe. Fast, cool, and functional, this car has everything going for it. Call today!
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