Many of us spend hours fantasising about our dream car.Harley Douglas went and did something about it.
Harley Douglas knew exactly what he wanted in his dream car. “It had to be a ’68 Camaro SS, and it had to have all the Bs: black, blown and big blocked,” he says. Although that’s not quite what he ended up with, the Camaro he bought went close enough to satisfy his needs.
“It wasn’t supercharged,” Harley says, “but it ticked all the other boxes and was a great base to work with; the nitrous system helped, too.”
At the time of purchase, Harley was living and working in the UK, as he had been for 10 years, but finally he was due to come home and realise his big block dreams. “The closest I had come to a V8 In the UK was the odd trip down to Santa Pod dragway to watch the Euro finals. I missed my hobby immensely, so I was very glad to finally be able to shop for a car and come home.”
Originally built in Oklahoma by a man named Les Pippin, the 1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS that Harley eventually decided on was packing a 600-horsepower 461ci big block, and had previously run nine-second quarter miles. Even so, Harley wasn’t immediately convinced. “I’d sent a few emails and talked to Les about the car, but it wasn’t until he sent me a picture of the Camaro doing a wheel stand that I was sold. I paid the money and arranged to have the car shipped over to New Zealand through the guys at American Connect, where I would meet it once it arrived.”
Must Have Been Love
When Harley first saw the car in the metal, it was even better than he had hoped. The body was a perfect gloss black, its lightweight Harwood fibreglass bonnet jutting up aggressively into the air. If anything, the Camaro looked even more angry than it had in the pictures.
Carrera drag shocks and custom springs had the Chev sitting nice and low on the Weld Dragstar rims, complete with Mickey Thompson ET Street rubber. Indoors, a pair of race seats, a Grant steering wheel and a B&M ratchet shifter sat among a six-point roll cage — not comfortable, but more than sufficient.
After a fairly painless VINning process thanks to Mark Stokes and Dave McLaghlin, the black beast was sporting new seatbelts, handbrake, lights and front wheels, and was street legal. It was time to take it to the strip.
Things didn’t quite go to plan. “I ran a few disappointing 12-second runs without NOS,” Harley recalls. “Then the oil pump decided to give up half way down the strip, which resulted in number six rod letting go and destroying the block.” Not the best start to his Camaro ownership.
Undeterred, Harley spent the next few weeks researching in an effort to find the perfect engine to bolt between the struts. In the end, a hulking 582ci big block ultra-street crate motor from Scott Shafiroff Race Engines in New York was chosen, and was soon on its way to New Zealand.
The new motor pumps out even more power than the last — 750 horse to be exact, and that’s before the 225hp shot of nitrous has even been fired. The motor, installed with help from mates Brendan, Damien and the boys at DC Trading, runs a Dart Big M block, with a stroker crank and rods from Eagle, forged pistons from Mahle and a Moroso oil pan underneath. An aggressive Comp Cams street cam and heavily modified heads make for a strong, fast-revving motor.
To feed it there’s a Holley HP series 1000cfm carburettor, sitting on a Dart intake manifold. The carb pulls air through a large K&N X-stream filter, and receives large quantities of fuel from an Aeromotive 1000 pump, residing next to a 45-litre fuel cell at the rear of the car.
MSD takes care of igniting the flame with a Pro Billet dizzy, a 7-AL 3 ignition system, Blaster coil and 8.8mm Blaster leads, while Hooker Super Comp headers, dumping into a twin three-inch exhaust system, remove waste gases.
All In Order
To back up the engine there’s a bullet-proof TH400 auto trans that has received a good deal of work: a manual valve body, heavy duty clutches, a B&M finned pan, plus a trans brake and a 3000rpm high-stall converter from Hughes.
The transmission spins a big Chev 12-bolt diff running 4.10:1 Richmond gears and Moser Engineering 33-spline axles. The axles spin a set of 15×8-inch Weld Dragstar rims and brand-new 275/50R15 Mickey Thompson ET Street tyres, which, as Harley soon found out when he’d got the car running once again, wasn’t quite right. “I got the car finished with the new motor right before the annual Fathers’ Day drags,” Harley explains. “It was the perfect opportunity to test out the new setup. Unfortunately, the tyre size was wrong, and I was running out of gearing at the end of the strip. I still managed a much better 11.33-second quarter mile though, which is a big improvement. Obviously there is a lot of room for lower times once I dial the car in.”
Not ONLY On Sundays
Besides quicker ETs on the track, Harley is also planning to do a lot more driving on the street — after all, he spent the time and money getting the Camaro legal, so why not do some cruising? “It’s what I love doing the most,” he says. “When I was in the UK it just wasn’t practical to own and drive a car like this, so now that I’m back in New Zealand, I want to make the most of it. I’m currently swapping out the fuel tank though — having to stop every 80km to fill up isn’t exactly ideal.” Now that’s what NZV8 likes to see: nearly 10 litres of big block Chevy muscle cruising the mean streets of New Zealand. Keep an eye out for this angry black bruiser this summer — or should we say keep an ear out? You will probably be hearing this car’s big block rumble well before you ever see it.
1968 Chevrolet Camaro – Specifications
Engine: 582ci (9.5-litre) big block Chev, Dart Big M block, Eagle stroker 4340 crank, Eagle rods, L-19 bolts, Mahle forged 10.5:1 pistons, Moroso pan, Comp Cams solid street roller cam, Crower roller lifters, Comp Cams 3/8 push rods, Dart Pro 1 335 CNC heads, Ferrea 225/188 stainless valves, Manley Nex Tek roller springs, Jesel 1.78 sportsman shaft mount roller rockers, Dart ported manifold, Holley HP series 1000cfm carburettor, K&N X-stream air filter, Big Shot 225 HP nitrous system, Aeromotive 1000 pump, Barry Grant regulator, return line system to boot-mounted 45.4-litre fuel cell, Holley black pump with Mallory regulator for nitrous, MSD Pro Billet distributor, MSD 7-AL 3 , MSD 8.8mm leads, MSD Blaster coil, Hooker Super Comp headers, dual three-inch steel exhausts with Flowmaster Delta mufflers, Be Cool aluminium radiator with twin thermo fans, trans cooler with single fan, custom catch can, Moroso guard supports
Driveline: GM TH400 trans, Hughes 3000 hi-stall converter, Hughes trans brake, B&M aluminium finned trans pan, full manual valve body, heavy duty clutches, Hughes flex plate, Chev 12-bolt diff, Moser Engineering 33-spline axles, c-clip eliminators, 4.10 Richmond gears, Moser full spool for racing, Lakewood driveshaft loop
Brakes: Factory front discs and rear drums
Suspension: Front Chev A arms with Carrera 90/10 drag shocks and coil springs, rear single leaf springs with Ranchero shocks, Caltrac traction bars, Energy suspension bushes
Wheels/tyres: 15×8 and 15×7-inch Weld Dragstars, Toyo Proxes 225/60R15 front tyres, Mickey Thompson ET Street radials 275/50R15 rear tyres
Exterior: Jet black respray, Harwood fibreglass hood, four-inch cowl induction
Chassis: Competition Engineering subframe connectors, Moroso solid engine and trans mounts
Interior: Race seats, Simpson five-point harnesses, Grant Racing wheel, B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, Competition Engineering six-point roll cage
Performance: 750hp (559kW) without nitrous, 11.33 on street tyres
Harley Douglas – Owner Profile
Previously owned cars: Big block HQ, HG Premier, XD ute, GTR XU-1 Torana
Dream car: This one
Owned: Four years
Build time: Two years
Thanks: John Marshall at American Connect, Dave and Carl at DC Trading, Mark Stokes, Carl Jensen at C&M Performance, Jason at Alfrey Motors, Ant at Coolray, Brendon, Damien, Dougy, Melanie and Karla for their help and support with the car.
Words: Peter Kelly Photos: Adam Croy