Steve Rupp's Bad Penny                                                                            December '07 Feature Car of the Month


It’s a sickness I tell you. When I bought my ’68 Camaro I was just going to do a “few” things to it and then enjoy the ride. But, you can file that away in the cabinet under “good intentions”. Actually I should have known that I have no self control, but the car just looked so right. I loved the color, loved the wheels and just got sucked in by the overall vibe of the car. Once home in my garage the thoughts of how I could improve the car began.

When I think back about it I should really blame the last car I built, the blue ’69 Camaro. That car came out nice, too nice. Actually it wasn’t that it was too pretty it was more that the car’s performance didn’t live up to what I wanted in my weekend warrior. It was more street rod than street fighter and in the end I realized that my tastes had changed during the build. It was sold, Penny was bought, and I haven’t looked back.

The first step in the rehab of my ’68 was ditching the 468 big-block engine for something a little more streetable. The 468 was lucky to get 4.5 mpg and it required constant tuning and valve adjustments. It was just too much work. What I wanted was LSx power! Of course since I was replacing the engine it was a great time to address the front suspension. That meant the fenders came off and what the hell, we might as well smooth the firewall. It’s a lot like how an avalanche starts. Next thing I know the car has a C5 ‘Vette based front subframe installed replete with huge Wilwood binders. With the front suspension tricked out I started to talk with Mark Majors, of Lateral Dynamics, about the rear suspension. The Camaro came to me with a home-built four-link deal and was more for show than go. Several of the brackets were already bending and we decided it wasn’t up to the task of being pushed hard. In its place went a Lateral Dynamics three-link with a Watt’s centering device. This meant the Dana 60 was for sale and I was shelling out cash for a Strange Engineering center section and axles. What the hell, might as well add matching rear Wilwood brakes to the mix, what’s another thousand dollars between friends. And that’s how the car progressed, one change “forced” another and before long she was ready for the road and I was broke. Hey, at least I didn’t have to repaint the whole car, yet.

Yet happened on Cinco De Mayo, that’s May 5th to us gringos, while many were swilling down margaritas some guy driving behind me was concentrating on his morning coffee instead of the stopped ’68 Camaro in front of him. Tires screeched, metal buckled, and my hopes of a Camaro summer were trashed. I had the Camaro dragged right back to Best Of Show Coachworks in San Marcos, CA. They had just finished the car two weeks earlier and I think they took the carnage of my crashed ride worse than I did. Luckily the guy who hit me had good insurance and $34,652 later my ’68 was ready for the ’07 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Since then I’ve been working out the little bugs that pop up after such an extensive build and soon I hope to have Penny ready for some track testing and a few open-track days. This is the first car I’ve ever done where I don’t think “I wish I would have...” Everything is exactly the way I envisioned. It’s a car that’s nice enough to take to a car show yet not full of un-necessary chromed out widgets. It’s a ride that looks like wants to be driven. Hard. And if I can keep the coffee-swillers and cell-phone jabbers from mowing me down that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

’68 Camaro
Rear wheel power: 440 HP @ x 6,500 RPM and 397 lb-ft. @ 4,600 RPM (91 octane)
Weight: 3,280 lbs. – with fuel
Color: 2002 Plymouth Prowler Orange (code YVF)
Paint by:

Type: Gen IV LS2
Block/Displacement: Aluminum / 6.0 liter / 364 cubic inches
Compression Ratio: 10.25:1
Oiling: Ported stock pump
Rotating Assembly: Stock crank, Stock rods, GM Hypereutectic pistons
Cylinder Heads: AFR, 2.02/1.60-inch stainless steel valves
Camshaft: 232/234 112 LSA COMP
Valvetrain: Comp Cams hardened push rods, stock rockers and lifters
Throttle Body: 90mm GM fly by wire
Intake: 90mm FAST polymer intake with FAST fuel logs and 36 lb. injectors
Fuel Pump: Bosch mounted in tank
Fuel Tank: Fuel Safe 18 gallon racing cell
Ignition: Factory coil on plug with Katech mounts and valve covers
Headers: 1-7/8 stepped long tube headers by 21st Century Street Machines.
Exhaust: Custom system with Magnaflow mufflers and x-pipe.
Wiring Harness: Custom Speartech harness with programmed E40 GM computer.
Cooling: AFCO LSx specific radiator with Meziere electric street water pump.
Balancer: ATI SFI certified Super-dampener
Engine Machining: Don Lee Auto, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed from Classic Chevy 5-Speed
Bellhousing: McLeod SFI certified scatershield
Clutch/Flywheel: McLeod 500 series 11-inch clutch and SFI aluminum flywheel
Rear Axle: Strange 9-inch, 3.70 gears, 31-spline Strange axles, Detroit TruTrac posi
Driveshaft: 3.5-inch aluminum by Inland Empire Driveline

Steering: AGR 16:1 power rack with Turn One Steering pump and pulley
Front Suspension: 21st Century Street Machines subframe with C5 suspension components
Rear Suspension: Lateral Dynamics three-link with Watts-link centering device
Stiffening: DSE weld in subframe connectors and subframe bushings.
Brakes: Front Wilwood 13-inch rotors with 6-piston calipers, Rear four piston Wilwoods

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline WC3 three piece wheels, 18x9 front, 18x12 rear – titanium bolts
Tires: 255/35/18 Toyo R888 competition tires front, and 335/30/18 Toyo R888s rear



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