If it weren’t for some home detective work, this 9-second streeter may never have called New Zealand home.
You’ve heard of those scam stories. Well, I got sucked in,” says the owner of this seriously tough 9-second Street Camaro, Rick Baker.
The look of disbelief on my face probably showed my confusion, because to me the car looks pretty well perfect. And it is. Rick explained the situation by going on to say, “There’s a lot to be said for doodling and taking notes, ’cause if I hadn’t the Camaro wouldn’t be here today.”
“My son and I were on eBay having a look for our next project. It had to be a ’68 Camaro, and a big block. Not keen on a rebuild we searched for a turnkey beast. The advert said this one had a fresh engine and was in show condition, even if the pictures were a bit blurry.”
“That was it. The ‘buy now’ button was pressed. I asked for the seller’s number to talk with him. After a few hours we were talking and the seller, David, insisted on a 50% deposit as us Kiwis are apparently time wasters. I was placed on hold while he answered a call or two, and that turned out to be my saviour.”
After wiring across the 50% deposit, Rick decided he’d head to the States and pick the car up in person rather than sending a transporter as he’d said he would to David. Just six days later he was standing in front of the given pick up address dumbfounded. All that lay in front of him was a derelict house, with no one nearby knowing the seller and the house having sat empty for years.
To say Rick was feeling a little screwed would be an understatement. That was until he flicked through his diary and came across where he’d jotted down the business name he’d heard David answer another call with. “Oh yeah… guess what, it was about 50 minutes away, and a geezer called David worked there.”
David wasn’t at work that day, but when Rick said he was an old mate from New Zealand who was coming to give him a surprise visit, his co-workers happily handed over his home address…
“There was a silver Camaro in the carport. It was pouring with rain and we went up to the Chevy and looked around it, but it was so cold, we didn’t really look at much at all, and didn’t care really as it looked okay, but we had David to confront, and we weren’t sure if two shotgun barrels would be waiting at the door.” Rick says.
He didn’t get a chance to get that far, as he was greeted with an American voice asking, “What you looking for?” You can only imagine the look on the guy’s face when greeted by Rick’s Kiwi accent, and informed that they were there to collect the car. Wanting to avoid a confrontation, Rick played along like David had supplied the correct address, and everything was as planned. As long as he got his car, and not a bullet, he was happy.
“We were never meant to get the car, and the sheer luck I had written that address down had David in absolute confusion as to how the hell we turned up. His mind must have be playing tricks on him.” Rick says with a sly smile, knowing he’d just saved himself from throwing away a large sum of money on a car that was never to be seen.
After getting the car away from David, it was only then Rick could relax, although some things didn’t make sense: “David told us he’d built it, but didn’t seem to know much about the specs. The decal across the top of the window sported the event name ‘Pump Gas Drags 2008’, so after a bit of internet searching I tracked down not only an awesome photo of the car with the front wheels high in the air, but the driver and real builder’s name. Better still, in the boot of the car were some spare shocks with that same name on them, along with his contact details.
After talking to the builder, Rick was informed the engine was a bit tired, a fact that became far more obvious after a solid lifter let go and took out the top end of the engine with it just three days after getting the car vinned. You can only imagine how Rick felt after such a roller coaster ride of emotions. On the bright side, he’d ended up with an absolutely rust-free genuine RS/SS 396 4-speed car, which had plenty of parts that weren’t mentioned on the original ad, even if it did need wiring, suspension, steering and brake work as well as the engine rebuild. In the grand scheme of things, the work required was minor except for the rear brake replacement (with a Falcon disc/calliper setup) and the engine rebuild. With the brakes sorted and suspension re-bushed, the car now drives like a dream.
While the motor was pulled and sent to Carr Engine Services to be freshened up and repaired, the car itself was sent to have the panel and paint side touched up. Before Rick knew it the whole car had pretty much been rebuilt, even though the original intention was not to touch it.
Thankfully most of the high-end parts that were in the 540ci Merlin engine remained through the rebuild. The valve gear was replaced with COMP Cams gear and a less aggressive solid cam was fitted. The result is a strong engine with plenty of power, but a touch more street driveability than what was originally offered. This probably suits Rick better than a full drag spec cam; although he’s all for a bit of racing, having fun on the street was always the main aim for the purchase.
In saying that he’s keen to see what it will run and keen to make the top eight at the annual Father’s Day Drags is definitely on the list of things to do. With the newly rebuilt big block running as it should, plus a 200hp shot of nitrous just waiting to be used, it shouldn’t be long till we’re seeing 9-second passes from the car.
If and when that happens, it will be the perfect happy ending to a story that could have seen Rick with nothing to show for his money except a large hole in his pocket and a furious shade of red on his face. Instead that red face belongs to a chap called David in America, who probably still can’t work out where his scam went wrong. Isn’t karma a bitch!
1968 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS – Specifications
Engine: 540ci big block Chev, Merlin block, Scat crank, Mahle pistons, JE rings, Ohio rods, ARP fasteners, COMP Cams Solid cam, COMP Cams roller lifters, COMP Cams pushrods, COMP Cams Roller Rockers, COMP Cams stud girdle, Roller Master timing set, LS9 water pump, Mellings heavy duty oil pump, Cometic gaskets, SGI harmonic balancer, Brodix Big Brodie heads, Victor Junior manifold, Demon 1000cfm carb, Cold Fusion 200hp nitrous system, Magnafuel Prostar 500 fuel pump, MSD ignition, twin 3-inch exhaust, Ron Davis alloy radiator
Driveline: Turbo 400 transmission, billet mechanical diode converter, reverse pattern manual valve body, trans-brake, SGI flex plate, Dewco 9-inch style diff housing, 4.11:1 gears, spool
Suspension: Strange shocks, Caltracs, electric power steering pump
Brakes: Camaro rotors, Corvette callipers, EA Falcon rear discs
Wheels/tyres: 17×8-and 17×10.5-inch American Racing wheels, 225/40R17 and 275/40R17 Nitto tyres
Exterior: Fibreglass bonnet and cowl, Lamborghini silver paint
Chassis: Mini tubbed, chassis connectors
Interior: 5-point harnesses, roll cage, B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges,
Performance: 742hp, 9.18 second quarter miles (prior to rebuild)
Rick Baker – Owner Profile
Occupation: Company Director
Previously Owned Cars: Lamborghini Murcielago, ’65 Pontiac Parisienne convertible, ’84 Iroc Camaro, ’70 GT Falcon, ’69 Fastback, HSV R8
Why the Camaro?: I’ve always wanted a big block first generation Camaro.
Rick thanks: Brendan at Auto Electrix West City, Fred Baker at Electro Engineering, Carlos Sharp for all his help, Shane at Segedins Auto Spares Dominion Road, and most importantly my family Charisse, Kayla and Liam
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy
This article is from NZV8 issue 73. Click here to check it out.