There are a lot of things a guy can forget about as the years go by. His first girlfriend, the street he grew up on, or what he did at his first job. But when it comes to what his first car was, that isn’t one of those things. Hard-core car guys like John Prentice of Aptos, California, don’t forget about what their first car was, and, in particular, they don’t forget what they didn’t like about the car.
For John Prentice and the 1968 Camaro he bought as a 16-year-old high school student, it was the car’s “underperforming inline-six with a three-speed manual transmission.” John said his six-banger ’68 Camaro looked fast with wide Rally wheels and factory spoiler, but when he fired it up his high school buddies said it sounded more like a Datsun 210 than a muscle car. John kept his ’68 Camaro for three years after high school and then regretfully sold it.
Now a racetrack owner and president of Prentice Motor Sports Group, John bought his second ’68 Camaro in February 2012. The car was built by the father-and-son team at JE Pro Rodz of Massillon, Ohio. Before the car left Ohio, John had the boys Pro Street it out.
From there, JE Pro Rodz shipped the ’68 to Steve Schmidt Racing Engines of Indianapolis where they built and installed its current drivetrain. The engine centers around a big-block with 565 over-square cubic inches thanks to a 4.600-inch bore plugged with Wiseco Q16 forged 15:1 gas ported pistons. The slugs are spun by a Scat 4.25-inch stoke 4340 forged steel crank. To connect the pistons to crank eight, Scat H-beam 4340 steel rods with L19 bolts are in place. Up top, a pair of ARP-studded Brodix BB-3 XTRA aluminum heads with titanium retainers and Manley valvesprings form a valley to house the Holley Dominator intake manifold.
The custom chrome-plated valve covers are aluminum Moroso with the lettering shaved. To supply a mix of gasoline with an occasional two-stage shot of nitrous to the tune of 400-horsepower, there’s a Holley 1,150-cfm Dominator carb combined with an Edelbrock Performer nitrous setup. Oiling comes via a Moroso race-prepped oil pump with a billet dipstick sunk into a custom 8-quart Moroso oil pan. The camshaft is a COMP solid roller with COMP Elite Race solid roller lifters. Originally fitted from JE Pro Rodz with a battery of interior switches and boxes, Gary’s consolidated the ignition chores into one unit with an MSD Digital 6-Plus. For an exhaust system, custom-built, ceramic-coated headers dump into a 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system complete with Flowmaster Super 10 Series mufflers.
To handle cooling the high-compression beast there is a CSR billet aluminum electric water pump routed to a Mattson’s three-row radiator with Fan Man electric fans.
A steady staple at John’s Ocean Speedway, the big-block prefers Sunoco 110-octane race fuel, but a minor adjustment can switch it to 92-octane pump gas. After it was all said and done, the 565-inch Rat dyno’d at 1,017 horsepower at 7,200 rpm. Torque output was 775 lb-ft at 5,600 rpm. And, it’s estimated that with the double-shot of nitrous the horsepower peaks at over 1,400.
From John’s earliest intentions, the idea was to prepare his ’68 to compete for the title of America’s Fastest Street Car. The transmission and rearend combination deemed worthy of the task are a Rossler TH210 with a TCI Automotive 5,000-stall torque converter, trans brake, and Hurst Outlaw shifter. A custom-made 4-inch aluminum driveshaft links the Chris Alston’s Chassisworks FAB9 differential packing 4.56 gears to the Outlaw shifted TH210.
It takes a whole lot of suspension to unleash 1,000-plus horsepower onto the street, so to handle it there’s a Chassisworks’ ultimate Pro-Touring chassis underneath. Once completed, the radical Pro Street ’68 Camaro was shipped out to California.
John ran the ’68 at the drags and cruised it to the local car shows for a couple of years, but then decided he wanted the Camaro to look more like his first one. John decided to change the Camaro’s color from Hugger Orange to bright red and got in touch in with Gary at Gary’s Rods & Restorations in Watsonville, California. The two agreed upon a paint scheme that would include flames like the ones on a model of a Camaro one of his sons had in his room.
As car project plans often go, a color change soon turned into reupholstering the interior and then ultimately blowing the ’68 all the way down to the bare shell and taking the high-end approach from the ground up. The suspension was converted from coilovers to air ride with an AccuAir VU4 computerized air management system. The rear brakes are now Wilwood four-piston calipers and 14-inch discs, with Wilwood six-piston 14-inch disc drag brakes in front. And, of course, to complete the street legal race car look is a set of Weld Racing AlumaStar wheels and Hoosier 175/70D-15 Quick Time D.O.T. front tires and 33×22.50×15 Hoosiers bringing up the rear.
The die was cast, Gary’s Rods & Restorations stripped the Camaro to bare steel and metal finished it, adding many custom touches along the way. The hood received a fadeaway center lip that starts at the front and ends with a smoothed windshield cowl. All of the first year DOT markers and stock emblems were shaved, and the rear quarter-panels stretched. Gary shot the base color, a custom mix red in Axalta Standox, and then GR&R’s Emilio Belmonte laid out the flames and shot them in HOK Orion Silver. The finishing touch was when local Aptos pinstriper “Real” Ralph striped the flames in a striking accent color.
Inside is where John’s Camaro really goes from being a spartan race car to entering the luxury Pro Street category. Who could imagine a mid-8-second car would be hauling around an over-the-top full custom leather interior?
GR&R fabricated the console and then along came the rest of the ’68’s upholstery, stitched by Finish Line of Santa Clara, California. The interior features gray leather, accented with brushed aluminum inserts, and carpeted with wool throughout. A Billet Specialties 14-inch Formula style leather-wrapped steering wheel faces the leather-covered Camaro dash equipped with custom-color Classic Instruments Auto Cross series gauges. The invasive 28×43-inch aluminum wheeltubs are covered in leather as well.
We didn’t ask John if he was planning on attending a high school reunion anytime soon. But, if he did and ran into any one of his old buddies that said his ’68 Camaro sounded like a Datsun, there’s no question in our mind John would greet them with “How do you like my Camaro now?”