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.
Where handling is a premium, you'd think Chris would opt for a lightweight small-block, bu
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.
Chris designed and built his own front subframe long before it became popular, creating hi
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.
Chris finished third in the '03 RSE Shootout against some very heady competition. The big-
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!
Car Craft Q & A
Car Craft: What was the most difficult part of building this car?
Chris Kern: The front suspension. It took me about eight months to work out all the coordinates on the computer getting the upper control arm lengths with minimal bumpsteer with the right rack-and-pinion length. That took a long time.
CC: Do you have any changes planned for the Camaro?
CK: After years of running a spool, I bolted in a set of 3.64 gears and a Detroit Locker, and it really frees the car up in the corner now. I have other plans for a dry-sump, and eventually electronic fuel injection. I also have a nitrous system waiting to go.
CC: Any interesting stories with the car?
CK: My aunt bought this car new in 1968, and I always thought it would make a great street machine. The next owner eventually lightly crashed the car and parked it in his backyard. That's where I tracked it down and bought it for $300. I've had it ever since.
Car: '68 Camaro
Owner: Chris Kerr, Flower Mound, TX
Engine: 454ci big-block Chevy, Moldex crank, TRW LS6 pistons
Heads: Iron oval port, owner-ported with 2.19/1.88-inch valves, 1.7:1 Comp Cams roller rockers
Cam: Comp Cams 294 mechanical flat tappet cam 248/248 degrees at 0.050, 0.595/0.595-inch valve lift
Induction: Edelbrock Victor, Jr. with Holley 750-cfm mechanical secondaries
Clutch: 10,000 RPM 5.5-inch multi-disc with aluminum flywheel
Transmission: Muncie four-speed, Hurst Competition-Plus shifter
Rearend: Ford 9-inch, 3.50 gears, Moser 31-spline axles, spool
Front suspension: Owner-fabricated with Koni coilover shocks, Afco springs, '85 Corvette spindles, BRT rack-and-pinion 12:1 steering, 11/8-inch front antiroll bar, Afco tubular upper and lower control arms
Rear suspension: Owner-fabricated custom three-link rear with Koni coilover shocks, Afco springs, 1-inch rear antiroll bar, and adjustable roll center
Brakes: Baer 13-inch Track system in front with PBR calipers 12-inch GM rear discs with factory calipers
Wheels and tires: Budnik 17x11-inch Tiller wheels with P275/40ZR17 Hoosier tires front, Budnik 17x13-inch Tiller wheels with P315/35ZR17 Hoosier tires rear
Body mods: Fiberglass hood and decklid, front and rear fenders widened, rears stretched, rear wheeltubs added from Competition Engineering, RCI 22-gallon fuel cell in trunk, owner-fabricated 21-point rollcage, engine set back 5 inches, bodywork by Jeff Dellamater, Dupont Brandywine paint by Fred White
Performance: 11.80 at 121 mph, 1 g on the skidpad, top speed of 165 mph
Crew: Mary Kerr, kids Courtney and CJ, Jeff Dellamater, Mike Close, Jack and Kathy Kerr, Bob Thrash, and Pat Glenn