The 1968 Chevy Camaro is ONE OF THE FIRST LS SWAPS IN SA.
Owner: Nick Vernon
By Joe van Zyl
This feature is from way back in 2012. But this is in fact one of the first LS swaps done in South Africa. Nick bought the 1968 Chevy Camaro about four years ago from Custom Classics Cape Town. However, they were not responsible for this beauty. For the story on how this baby came to be, we have to go to Kwa-Zulu Natal to meet up with the master himself, Mike Egan.
Anyone in SA that has shivered with happiness when experiencing serious horsepower V8 will have met, or at least heard of, Mike Egan from Pinetown Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Well, that is where the story of this 68 Camaro started. Mike picked up the shell for R6 500 (where have those days gone?) and started the process of rebuilding the car from the ground up. It was just a shell and Mike had to import new doors and front panels for the car.
First was a full roll cage and not like the cheap scaffolding bolt on crap you can buy off the net. This one is bolted and welded to the sub frame of the car. Next came the suspension upgrade; with a 9 inch diff and coil over springs, sub frame stiffeners and Bilstein shocks. Mike had big plans for the motor so he had to go big on the brakes. Corvette ventilated and slotted disc brakes all round.
Gus Panelbeaters in Westmead were responsible for changing the car from yellow and green to the black and silver we are now accustomed to. However, Martin from Custom Classics did have the car re-sprayed, slightly tweaking the overall look of the car.
Mike turned his attention to the nuclear power plant he had planned for the front. A 5.7 Chevy LS1 Motor was taken from a recently crippled Chevy Lumina. This was to be the base for Mike’s super villain world domination plans. Mike decided to stoke it to a 383 cubic inch. (6.3 liters) because it gives you more torque and torque give you acceleration. He used a Lunati stroker kit that consists of replacement steel crank and forged steel connecting rods with a set of ceramic coated forged pistons.
Mike also put in stainless steel roller rockers with updated valve springs and pushrods. He had the heads gas-flowed and put in a Competition Cams camshaft. All that power was then pushed to the rear wheel by a Tremec T56 6-speed gearbox. The one thing Mike decided the car still needed was an air conditioner. There are just some comforts you can’t live without.
Back then Mike put the car on the dyno but they couldn’t get an accurate reading because the car kept losing traction. Even with it being hooked up to a Range Rover and two people in the boot, they still had issues with wheel spin. So at 5000 rpm the motor was pushing out 411 hp (306kw) on the rear wheels. Mike built it to do 500hp (373kw) at 6500rpm.
Nick had to replace the cam and valve springs last year after it ate the previous cam. He took it to Ferrolli Performance to see what it can do on the dyno and the best reading was (336kw) at only 5300rpm. Nicks goal is to get it to -/+ 500hp.
Mike originally had a set of 17 inch five spoke Simmons Racing wheels on the car which Nick then replaced with a set of American Racing Shelby wheels. The same wheels you see on millions of AC Cobras and every Elennor Mustang look alike in the world. However, they kept catching under heavy cornering and knowing Nick, there was a lot of heavy cornering. Nick decided to change to a set of American Racing 5 Spoke Running 8×17 245/40/17 in the front and 10×17 305/35/17 on the back. You will have to look far and wide to find a better-looking set of wheels.
The Camaro has a hard life, Nick takes it to every track day he can get to and ensures that this baby does what she has been built for. It goes sideways at the drop of a hat and drives like a bat out of hell. Its almost like it soaks up every moment and loves every minute of it.
Driving a Camaro is always a special occasion. This one even more so. The torque is insane. This really is a put your foot down (when the car is sort of going straight) and hold on for all you are worth. If you get it wrong, good luck explaining to the nurse at the emergency room how your ass bit a hole in the seat and the owner needs his upholstery back.
Thanks to Nick for the early morning run. There is no better way to start the day than doing elevens while watching the sun come up.