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'68 Camaro

Chris Kerr's Real Street/Real Quick Rat-Powered Camaro

Photography by Henry De Los Santos, Terry McGean

Long before Pro Touring earned its name, there were still lots of ways to build a corner-burning early Camaro. Chris Kerr began his quest for apex exhilarations way back in 1983 when he located this Camaro for a paltry $300. From the very beginning, he wanted a car that was not only brutally quick but could also shave the orange paint off an apex cone in a slalom course.

Chris laid out the course the Camaro would take, realizing from the very beginning that transforming the early

F-body into a corner-cutter would take much more than just simple bolt-on parts. His unique approach was to construct this car as a street machine that would also fit within the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) C/Production class while incorporating ideas and a flair for the dramatic from the famous Smokey Yunick Trans Am Camaro.

The first area for attention was clearly the front suspension. Stock early Camaros, despite their ponycar appearance, are miserable in the corners. Chris knew the stock front subframe harbored many limitations, so he built his own! He then fabricated his own front suspension using Koni shock coilover fronts with '85 Corvette spindles, Afco upper and lower control arms and springs, and a circle-track style adjustable antiroll bar to create the camber curve he desired.

Since Rat motor power was always part of the plan, Chris knew all that iron Rat weight would require an engine setback--like 5 inches! After major firewall surgery to ensure everything cleared, he turned his attention to the rear suspension using circle track technology to create his own fabricated three-link system combined again with Koni adjustable coil-shocks and a 1-inch rear antiroll bar.

Steamroller tires on all four corners were also an integral part of the plan, so that meant sheetmetal surgery and tubbing in the rear in addition to a complete 21-point rollcage that ties all four corners of the car into a very rigid chassis compared to the Camaro's original flexy subframe design. All these changes demanded significant body modifications, including stretching and widening the wheelwells and, taking a cue from Smokey, channeling the body down over the frame. The whole car is steel except for the fiberglass hood and decklid, and the bodywork credit goes to Jeff Dellamater of Otisville, Michigan, while the DuPont Brandywine mixture is Fred White's handiwork, from Manteno, Illinois.

All this chassis work still needs power to make it work, and that's where the relatively simple yet durable 454ci iron Rat takes its cue. Using a Moldex steel crank and LS7 steel rods, Chris added a Comp Cams 294 flat tappet cam, a ported set of iron oval port heads, and Comp roller rockers for the internals, bolting on an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake and a Holley 750 for the induction duties. An equally simple ACCEL dual-point distributor and Hooker 2-inch headers complete this basic Rat, while a custom 3-inch exhaust makes use of a set of Magna-Flow mufflers to keep things relatively quiet.

The Muncie four-speed isn't really much of a surprise, but what is almost purely race-bred is the 10,000 RPM 5.5-inch multi-disc clutch and an aluminum flywheel with a modified Lakewood bellhousing. The clutch is somewhat temperamental, as Chris discovered at the Real Street Eliminator Shootout last year, but its incredibly light weight does contribute to lightning quick acceleration. When combined with a set of 3.50 gears in the Moser-axled 9-inch, the Camaro has tripped the quarter with an 11.80 at 121 mph. Of course, it helps that the car only weighs 3,050 pounds with driver. While we're on the subject, the Camaro has also delivered 1 g numbers on the skidpad.

For 20 years, Chris has run the Camaro in autocrosses, the Power Tour, top speed events where the Camaro clocked 165 mph, car shows, and most recently in CC's Real Street Eliminator Shootout. For 20 years, Chris has beaten the snot out of this Camaro and enjoyed every minute of it!

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