Everyone has their own take on the same thing. One man's erotica is another man's ennui. What's cool to us may not be cool to you. Ron DeRaad's Ford-powered Camaro could well be the epitome of this paradox. It wasn't too long ago when the entirety of hot rodding was based on the almighty engine swap, you know, like putting a Chevy motor in the engine compartment of a Ford, for instance. We're thinking heavy about the Fox-body Mustang Vinnie "The Hitman" Kung defiled with a Chevy LS motor in the pages of this mag just last year. Love it or hate, you got to admire the cheek it took to even think about it.
DeRaad's got a bunch of cheek and stainless steel cojones, too. He didn't mess with some dime-a-dozen Mustang, no. He savaged a genuine piece of history and with a smile from ear to ear he pokes it up everybody's snoot, as if he's barking, "Yo, Camaro purists, rotate on a pole!"
Perhaps there was a thread of normalcy in the cars that the 41-year-old Ron has already waded through. There was that '89 Thunderbird SC, an '88 Saleen, and then a '93 LX. He's basically a Blue Oval freak. His blood runs blue. But his intentions and his aspirations are like all of ours-go fast, really fast, and damn the budget. He's got about $100K in this toy, but that's what happens when you won't do with anything less than the best stuff in the business-hallowed marks of Sonny Bryant, Carrillo, Canton, CP, AFR, Raceline, Incon, Fikse, Martz, Michelin, and Griggs. It's all in there.
You look down into that tidy, but somewhat busy engine bay to a slew of pipes, fittings, and tubes all neat and shiny, but you could easily pass up the Raceline/Canton dry-sump oiling system, the Incon 800TTi turbochargers, and the purpose-built cast-iron exhaust manifolds. Stuff that will likely still be intact when the world ends.
What you really don't notice is that the engine has been pushed back 4 inches, ostensibly to allow the Ron Davis-built cooling core and intercooler to be mounted behind the radiator support. No telling how much good this little rearrangement has done for the front-to-rear weight bias. For the road race ethic, something resembling a 50/50 split would be ideal, but just in case it isn't, the DeRaad-ical Camaro manages all the right lightweight, geometrically sublime, double-throwdown suspension parts abetted by some really fat-ass rubber on aircraft aluminum modular wheels...and enough jing in Ron's back pocket to make it so.
So how did DeRaad get here in the first place? "I always wanted to build a '68 Camaro, but I thought it would have an all-aluminum big-block. I was building a '93 LX Mustang with an Incon twin-turbo kit and an R302 Ford Motorsports block with all the good stuff. I decided to sell it. The first day it was on the block, a guy approached me. Since he lived local, we went to his house. In his garage sat a '68 Camaro RS. I lit up!" Ron explains.
"I asked if he was interested in a trade, with some cash my way. I was soon the owner of a '68 Camaro that was in need of a mechanical fix, but overall it was in great shape. In February of '02, I began its disassembly. When it was time to decide what powerplant I wanted to use, I looked at the twin-turbo 5.0-liter sitting on the engine stand and wondered if it would go between the rails. I did a test fit to see what I was in for. Surprisingly, it fit very well," he says.
Before he got any looser with the project, Ron called some savvy pals and put the big question to them: "Am I crazy...or could I have a lot of fun with this?" The sky boiled black. He looked heavenward and was smote by a terrible swift sword, and the answer to both questions was: "Yes, indeed." Then he was off in a swirl of tire smoke and turbos shrieking to blow his eardrums.
Since the impetus from that 302 is prodigious (750 hp at 7,200 rpm), Ron had Terry Davis and friends at the County Rod Shop in Camarillo warm up the chassis by replacing the entire suspension with pieces from the aftermarket. In front, the Martz Road Race Chassis clip was reinforced to take the 575 lb-ft of torque and wears 2-inch drop spindles. Griggs Racing coil springs (8 inches overall, 450 lb-in) are squeezed between the Martz tubular control arms and wheel movement is checked by QA1 adjustable shock absorbers. Body movement is controlled by a fat antisway bar. A 3,600-lb car needs hefty brakes, so Terry applied 13-inch SL6 Wilwoods. Then he laid in the front-mounted, power-assisted rack steering and applied the 10-wide Fikse Profil 5S hoops with rubber that's usually found on the back of most people's hot rods.
Davis tied the ends of the car together with Detroit Speed frame connectors to make ready for the Griggs Racing five-link suspension. County fabbed-in a Watts link to center the 9-inch axle housing, custom-built lower control arms, and ran a torque arm to the middle of the car. QA1 adjustable coilovers employ Griggs 250-lb-in springs that measure 12 inches in length. Wilwood 12-inch discs (with internal parking brake) fit neatly inside Fikse 12.5-wides that spin gigantor 335/30s. Davis instilled a large measure of preventative medicine and the ultimate in rigidity with a Competition Engineering 10-point 'cage.
Although Ron has spent countless hours in his garage designing, customizing, and assembling, he gives special thanks to CHE Precision, Inc. "Without their support, none of this would have been possible." While the machine work was processed by Ollie's in Van Nuys and the engine was assembled and tested at Dick Landy Industries in Northridge, he feels that CHE in cahoots with Wegner Motorsports are the real heroes in this story. Wegner (Markesan, Wisconsin) is entrenched in NASCAR, ARCA, and road race-oriented forms-an aura thoroughly appropriate for the theme of this car. Though the dry-sump system might appear as overkill, Ron says it was mandatory. The placement of the crossmember precluded the installation of a wet-sump pan and the dry-sump added good insurance for the expensive, high-revving 302.
If you think that the heads on Ron's mighty peanut aren't Nth degree, check out the details in the spec chart. Horsepower was developed strictly on 91-octane gasoline with 22 degrees timing under a 12-psi boost threshold. The way this engine's built, it'll easily absorb another 10-psi boost and likely produce 1,000 hp (so you add a splash of 110). Though the Camaro certainly wasn't built as a drag race car, it turns 11.60 at 127 on its hapless, no-bite street Michelins.
DeRaad's Camaro goes like...
DeRaad's Camaro goes like a bat out of Hell in a straight line, true. He's seen 145 at the top of 4th and estimates 190s on the big end, but he really built it as a corner blitzer.
We're not sure, but maybe Ron's annihilator signals the return of side pipes. They evoke images of another time and fit his rendition perfectly. He began with Camaro units from the Summit catalog and went to town, fitting custom-made muffler inserts that neck down from 4-inch discharge tubes into 3-inch openings.
But this man does not drive without stabilizing influences of comfort and convenience. Ron equipped his gut ripper with all the amenities, including HVAC, power steering, and a moon-shot audio system (Clarion DRZ9255 CD player, Zapco 1000.4 amp, Hex-5000 crossover, 14 speakers, and the list goes on!) as installed by Phantom Electronics in Thousand Oaks. Ron: "I never thought I could hear such pure sound in a '68 Camaro." Those plush Corbeau LG1 seats were lowered 2 inches to accommodate his 6-foot-3 height requirement. Conejo Upholstery in Thousand Oaks installed custom fit carpeting to mesh nicely with the MOMO Mod.87 steering wheel. The unique Stack Dash (mostly-LED) instrument panel allows for all the street amenities along with a race-like pedigree, and is tended by the 18-circuit Painless wiring system.
The body is no less appreciated. County Rod Shop shaved the side marker lights, smoothed the firewall, and did the dashboard work before Courtesy Chevrolet in Thousand Oaks affixed the two-stage custom mix Mitsubishi Evo Bright Blue. Those minimal aerodynamic sideview mirrors are straight off a C5.
"I love to sit back at car shows in the crowd so no one knows it's mine and listen to the talk. I think it's great to hear both sides, Ford and Chevy lovers. The best comment to date? 'Boy, that's an attention whore, isn't it?' That was at Fun Ford Weekend," Ron says. Like we said, stainless steel cojones.
The interior carries a no-bullshit...
The interior carries a no-bullshit road race theme, but strongly suggests that man does not live by speed alone. County Rod Shop modified the dashboard to remove the dash pad, added the custom gauge cluster, and relocated the gonzo audio system, Vintage Air HVAC controls, and Auto Meter gauges.
Behind Ron DeRaad in the staging...
Behind Ron DeRaad in the staging lanes is editor, Johnny Hunkins, in the Street Sweeper Chevelle. Hunkins: "Pretty much every time I got in line, DeRaad was in front of me. There I was with my slicks and a big-block, and this Camaro with a small-block Ford and street tires was kicking my ass."
Though the airbox is from...
Though the airbox is from an old Banks twin-turbo system, the 302 enjoys an Incon setup that, with the help of the Martz clip, went into the Camaro without a hitch, despite a 4-inch engine setback.