Dallas Willams installed a 4-inch cowl-induction hood back in 1992, and it still goes well
They say that hope comes in many forms, but for some reason those forms are never specified. In contrast, hopelessness has a very distinct form, and it looks a lot like a $3,000 first-gen Camaro. Seriously, how nice can a dirt-cheap ’68 Camaro that’s rockin’ a 21-year-old paintjob possibly be? A pudgy convertible body loaded with 3,970 pounds of mass doesn’t bode well for performance potential, either. Understandably, that’s a conclusion most hot rodders would draw when presented with these facts, but Dallas Williams begs to differ. He just happens to own a pudgy, two-ton, $3,000 first-gen Camaro convertible with a 21-year-old paintjob that’s anything but hopeless. With what amounts to a $100-per-month budget, he’s managed to build a big-block–powered terror that rips the quarter-mile in 10.86 seconds at 124 mph. Whenever he’s cruising the streets in his Camaro, the only thing that’s hopeless are the suckers trying to keep up.
Other than the cowl hood, the only thing that hints at the Camaro’s blistering power are c
For a total cost of $32,000, Dallas has built himself a 10-second street machine strapped with a 555ci big-block that’s just as comfortable cruising the beach as it is disposing motorized street vermin. It’s not show car perfect, but that’s part of its appeal. This is a car you can drive from the desert to the coast in brutal SoCal traffic without worrying about chipping the paint or pegging the temp gauge. Spread out the total dollar amount invested in the car over the 26 years Dallas has owned it, and it breaks down to $103 per month. Granted, money isn’t flowing like it used to, but take it easy on the cheesy puffs and iTunes downloads each month and—bam—there’s your $103. As is often the case with budget builds, Dallas kept costs down by getting his hands dirty and relying on his buddies for help.
Outlaw Motorsports built the custom center console that houses four Auto Meter gauges, a K
Considering that you can hardly buy a half-decent first-gen Camaro for $20,000, the bulk of Dallas’ costs savings comes from the fact that he bought it at the right time, which in that case was 1987. “Getting this car was all my dad’s idea. I was riding along with him when I was 15 years old, and we saw a beat-up Camaro on the side of the road with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it,” he recalls. “My dad always had Mustang fastbacks and Corvette Stingrays in the driveway, so there was no way he was going to let me drive some generic commuter car to school. Honestly, I don’t know if I had much of a choice in the matter, but I was just thrilled to have a car. We brought the Camaro home for $3,000, and got to work on it right away.
Although the Camaro was less than two decades old at the time, it was still far from presentable. With his 16th birthday right around the corner, Dallas and his old man got busy rehabilitating the tired F-body. “The fenders were primer gray, and the rest of the car was blue. The 327 that was in it barely ran, so my dad and I pulled it out and swapped in a Pep Boys 350,” Dallas recalls. “To get it ready for high school, we put a $300 paintjob on it that didn’t look good until you were standing 50 yards away. The top didn’t work either, so it wouldn’t go up. On cold mornings my friends and I would freeze on the way to school, but we didn’t care because we thought we were cool.”
With what amounts to a $100-per-month budget, he’s managed to build a big-block–powered terror that rips the quarter-mile in ...
A minimum wage budget made speed parts tough to come by during high school, but that all changed once college rolled around. Dallas admits that he wasn’t much of a speed junkie until one compelling romp in a Tri-Five. “I went for a ride with my dad’s friend who had a ’55 Chevy with a stout 355 roller motor. He got on it a few times, and I was like ‘Man, I really like this,’” he says. “After one ride in that car I was hooked, and asked a buddy of mine to help me hop up my 350. I went to his house after class to work on the motor, and together we redid the heads, and swapped in new pistons, a high-flow intake manifold, a new carb, and a bigger cam. When the rebuild was complete, the car ran 13.90 at 106 mph at the track through a Muncie four-speed manual trans.”
After saving up some coin, Dallas did the responsible thing by dumping it all into his Camaro. He stroked the small-block to 383 cubes, and gave it a fresh supply of air courtesy of some AFR cylinder heads. The new combo pushed the car into the 12s, but repeated abuse eventually took its toll and the motor, as oil pressure woes forced its retirement. Down but not out, Dallas turned to older, wiser, and more experienced hot rodders for guidance. “I joined a local car club called the Old Farts Racing Team, and became good friends with Kenny Asche and Mike Todorovitch, both of whom helped get my car to where it is today,” he explains. “The body was in fairly good shape, but I wanted to replace the floors, and patch the doors and quarters. Kenny took care of the fabrication and metalwork, and Mike laid down some fresh paint.”
A testament to how cutting edge it was at the time, the 717hp Sonny Leonard big-block is s
The Camaro looked great at this point but still needed a new motor, and Dallas was itching to make his car even faster. As luck would have it, he crossed paths with a man who would set him straight at a local drag racing event. “When I met Ron Aschtgen from Outlaw Motorsports and once I saw the kind of work he did firsthand, I knew he was up to the task of taking my car to the next level. The project just snowballed from there, and before long Ron installed a new Sonny Leonard 555ci big-block, a Chassisworks front clip, RideTech air springs, and subframe connectors,” Dallas explains. “Back in 2002, motors this large were still somewhat rare for a street car. I took the new setup to the track and the car laid down an 11.23 at 121 mph. I really like being able to soften up the air springs at the track to help the car hook up.”
Despite the motor’s age, it’s still plenty stout by today’s standards. It’s based on a World Products block bored to 4.560 inches, and fitted with a Callies 4.250-inch forged crank, Manley steel rods, and JE 10.0:1 pistons. Feeding all those hungry cubes are Brodix BB-2 Xtra aluminum cylinder heads, an Edelbrock Victor intake, and a Holley 1,050-cfm Dominator carb. A built TH400 transmission paired with a Coan 3,500-stall converter channel the power back to a GM 12-bolt rearend. For a car that leaves the gate so efficiently, the chassis is remarkably simple. Planting the power out back are Calvert Racing leaf springs and traction bars that work in concert with Rancho adjustable shocks. Up front, instead of fiddling with the stock suspension hardware, Dallas swapped it out for a Chassisworks front clip. The setup includes a new subframe assembly, twin A-arms, spindles, double-adjustable shocks, and air springs. The Chassisworks clip doesn’t just work great on the street and at the track, but its revised geometry also allows for a far more aggressive stance.
Like most hot rodders, Dallas isn’t someone who stays content for very long, and he felt that a deep 11-second car was too close to the 10-second barrier to justify leaving it alone. As such, he yanked the hydraulic cam and replaced it with a COMP Cams 265/265-at-.050 solid roller. That bumped output up to 717 hp on the engine dyno, and dropped quarter-mile times down to 10.86 at 124 mph. Still not completely satisfied, Dallas wanted to update the car’s old-school Pro Street vibe. “I drove the car around on Weld Pro Star wheels, skinnies and drag radials for a very long time, and felt it was time to do something more modern,” he says. “Ron at Outlaw Motorsports set me up with some 18-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels for more of a Pro Touring look. When I can afford it, I plan on adding even more power along with an overdrive trans.”
With all the sob stories old farts like to tell about cars they should have never sold, it’s refreshing to run across guys like Dallas. He had the foresight to see how unique first-gen Camaros were long before they became coveted classics, and stuck with it over the decades. For his loyalty, Dallas’ reward is a car that would cost twice as much to build if he started from scratch today. More importantly, it’s a car that represents his evolution in the hobby from a newbie to a seasoned veteran. The real beauty in the story, however, is how Dallas’ incessant quest for improvement has transformed what should have been a hopeless, two-ton, $3,000 first-gen Camaro convertible with a 21-year-old paintjob into a 10-second street terror. As they say, hope does indeed come in many forms, but in this case, it looks a lot like a red ’68 Camaro convertible.
By The Numbers
1968 Chevy Camaro
Dallas Williams, 39 • Moreno Valley, CA
Type: Chevy 555ci big-block
Block: World Products Merlin II bored to 4.560 inches
Oiling: Melling pump, Moroso pan
Rotating assembly: Callies 4.250-inch steel crankshaft, Manley connecting rods, JE 10.0:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: Brodix BB-2 Xtra aluminum castings
Camshaft: COMP 265/265-at-.050 solid roller; .650/.650-inch lift
Valvetrain: COMP Cams lifters, pushrods, valvesprings, retainers, and locks; Jesel beltdrive
Induction: Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, Holley 1,050-cfm Dominator carb
Ignition: MSD distributor, coil, and plug wires
Exhaust: Lemons 2.125-inch long-tube headers, dual Flowmaster mufflers
Power adder: NOS fogger system jetted to 600 hp
Output: 717 hp at 6,500 rpm and 651 lb-ft at 6,200 rpm on motor
Built by: Outlaw Motorsports
Transmission: GM TH400 trans, Coan 3,500-stall torque converter
Rear axle: GM 12-bolt rearend with 4.10:1 gears and limited-slip differential
Front suspension: Chassisworks front clip, control arms, shocks, and spindles; RideTech air springs
Rear suspension: Calvert Racing leaf springs and traction bars; Rancho adjustable shocks
Brakes: Wilwood 12-inch discs and four-piston calipers, front and rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Rev-Wheel Classic 100; 18x9 (front), 20x10.5 (rear)
Tires: Toyo 245/40R18 (front), 275/30R20 (rear)