Street Machines: A (labour of) love story
Acton man took 1968 Camaro from basic brawn to muscle car legend
Some cars are born to be bad, but a Street Machine is always a made car, a product of the creative vision and hard work of its owner. Customization and making a personal statement is the hot rodder’s goal, and from the very beginning, Chevrolet?s Camaro has fulfilled the street machine, Pro Stock, resto mod and lately, the Pro Touring enthusiast?s fantasies.
John Verbeek of Acton owns one of these muscle car legends “a stunning example of an early Camaro” and his basics-to-beauty hot rod story is a true labour of love.
He started by acquiring this 1968 model in 2002 as a basic, 327 powered car with Emerald Turquoise paint, a Powerglide automatic and some options such as the full door sash trim and wheel well moldings.
It was nice, but John had bigger plans. The 327 block was pulled out and set aside for safekeeping while a 350 V8 was installed with a Tremec five speed transmission. The car had bodywork and fresh paint sprayed using 1996 Corvette Turquoise Metallic and white SS stripes.
A cowl induction hood was added. Inside, the cabin was redone in classic black standard vinyl upholstery. Custom touches included wood grain applique on the console and dashboard.
The car looked sharp, and won a number of awards at shows and cruise nights. But a hot rodder is always looking ahead, and in 2011, John decided to redo the engine with more power.
It started out innocently enough with a casual engine check-up, but turned into a complete new rebuild when it was revealed the engine was at the end of its service life. Mechanic Ray Russiani handled the project using a 1969 Camaro 350 four bolt main block and installing a 383 stroker reciprocating assembly kit.
A pair of Edelbrock aluminum heads were installed along with Victor Jr. intake manifold with Holley 750 cfm carburetor for maximum air flow.
The ignition system was upgraded and the pressure plate assembly was balanced to handle the extra power. A beefy 12 bolt axle with 4.10 gears puts the earth turning power to the ground. The engine now makes over 400 horsepower.
John added a new set of Weld Draglite mag wheels since these pictures were taken to complete the fresh look.
Having a vision to create a Street Machine is one thing, but the road to completion is a winding one with twists and turns and unexpected setbacks. John credits the support of his wife, Kathy, for encouraging him to take the extra steps needed to make his sweet ’68 dream come true.
By Patrick Smith for Wheels.ca