Remember back when having $100 to spend meant something? With a bill like that burning a hole in your pocket, there were so many options for things to buy or do. Nowadays, $100 doesn’t go far at all, especially when it comes to project cars. That is, unless you’re Rodney Prouty. So far, he holds the PHR award for the best $100 ever spent.
That’s because rather than just buying a part for project car, Rodney managed to get an entire car for $100. And not just any old unwanted or unpopular model: a 1968 Camaro. Sure, it was a rusty shell with no glass, dash, seats, engine, or trans, but it was still a first-gen Camaro and the moment Rodney laid eyes on it wasting away forlornly in a garage, he knew he had finally found his car. Meanwhile, we’ve seen guys selling Camaro doors for twice that much. Some dudes just have all the luck.
So how did such a lucky stroke happen without the inner circle of Camaro lovers knowing about it and snapping it up long before just a regular muscle car enthusiast could have a chance? It was actually just the beginning of a string of happenstance that allowed Rodney to put together a good-looking autocross ’68 Camaro for about $15,000 total, which is less than most guys end up with in their drivetrain.
A few years back, Rodney was working at a Camaro restoration shop when a call came in from a local lady who was looking to vacate a ’69 Camaro project from her garage. It seems that it was her estranged son’s car that he had abandoned in the backyard about 10 years ago. She and her husband had eventually pushed it into the garage, but now they wanted to remodel, and the Camaro was in the way. Rodney was mildly interested since he had always wanted to build a first-gen Camaro for himself, so he inquired what she was looking to get for it. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Maybe $100.” Rodney laughed to himself, assured that it likely was neither a Camaro nor a 1969 anything, and was likely beyond rough, but still he decided to go check it out from sheer curiosity.
When he arrived, the garage door lifted and light revealed a tailpanel he recognized immediately. It wasn’t a ’69, but it was a Camaro: a ’68 RS to be specific. Getting a little excited, Rodney proceeded to examine the find. It was rough with a lot of missing parts, and had heavily dented fenders and very rusty floors. Still, it had a certain feel to it that told Rodney this car was meant for him. He asked the lady if she was sure about the price since the parts were probably worth more, and she affirmed she was; the car just needed to go. Rodney gladly paid, and while he was loading it up he got another pleasant surprise; the sale included a bunch of random parts. So Rodney rolled away with a ’68 Camaro roller and several hundred dollars worth of parts for $100. Do you hate him yet? We do, just a little bit.
Like most of us, Rodney was on a budget, but rather than spend all that money he saved on the initial purchase price of the Camaro, he decided it would be much more fun to try and continue the theme of making his own muscle go as far as possible on the build. So he began going to swap meets, bartering, and hunting through classifieds to find more bargains. Fate was smiling again, and Rodney ran across an interesting ad; apparently a vindictive divorce led to a lady listing a ton of parts her ex had left behind for $50. Rodney responded first and loaded everything up. Since the car gods seemed to be on his side, Rodney decided to pay it forward and everything that he wasn’t going to use, he put back up for sale super cheap. That kept his karma clean and helped get some other guys further along on their projects.
You can’t skimp on gauges; rather than stock, Rodney installed Auto Meters to monitor all
It must have worked too, because the stuff he needed kept coming his way. When Rodney threw the Powerglide trans that came with the Camaro up for sale for $100, a Super T10 four-speed popped up for $300 and he got to it first. With things going so well, and Rodney handling all of the work himself, he set the goal to get the Camaro moving under its own power in a year. He wasn’t too far off; it took 14 months before the Camaro fired. It was ugly, resplendent in its six shades of primer sans interior other than two front seats, but the CHP agreed that it was a roadworthy Camaro and issued Rodney a new title.
To keep costs down, Rodney chose a Ford commercial truck color called Suede White, and the
Even though it was barely above stock spec and sported rock-hard 15-inch tires, Rodney decided to get back into his previous hobby of running SCCA autocross events and took the Camaro out for a good time. Of course it was slow and plowed and rolled its way around the course, but Rodney determined to make one change at a time, beginning with an upgraded front sway bar. That continued for a while, but it was during a parts scouting trip to a Goodguys event when he saw their autocross for the first time and all the well-built muscle cars running quick laps that he truly felt bitten by the bug. He told his girlfriend that this was something he had to try.
At his first Goodguys autocross, the Camaro still looked like a beater, but had a few bolt-on upgrades and a better set of wheels and tires. Rodney managed to attract the attention of famed Camaro autocrosser Mary Pozzi, who walked over and asked if she could ride along for a lap. Rodney didn’t know her at all other than by reputation, so he was blown away. After the lap Mary said he had a good base to start with and offered some advice on what to do next and how to attack the course. Rodney couldn’t believe how warm and welcoming she and the rest of the crowd were to him; he was hooked and began attending West Coast Goodguys autocross events whenever he could.
Not too long after, Rodney decided to leave the Camaro restoration shop he was working at. So with some time on his hands, he decided he might as well learn how to paint his car. After all, it was starting to amass a respectable list of parts and turn decent lap times on the autocross. So Rodney volunteered at a paint shop nearby and over the course of a few weeks learned most of the finer points of bodywork and block sanding. Armed with that knowledge, he went out and bought $100 worth of white paint and supplies and set up a booth in his garage. Not only did he spray the base white, he also laid out and painted the ’69 Camaro-style stripe. After all, it was originally purported to be a ’69.
By the time we spotted Rodney and the ’68 on a Goodguys course, and then later at the American Street Car Series’ Run To The Coast (RTTC) event, the paint was polished to perfection and it also sported a fresh stock interior with Corbeau buckets and Auto Meter gauges in the dash. If asked, we would have guessed it was a $40K-plus build, but that just isn’t the case. By trading and seeking out deals on used parts and doing most of the work himself, Rodney stuck to that low-buck, real-world goal. How does about $15,000 total for a slick-looking, autocross-ready, daily driveable LS-powered ’68 Camaro sound? Yes, on top of all of that, the ’68 is Rodney’s daily driver, taking him just about everywhere, including work. It sounds to us like you’re out of excuses; get out in your garage and set your own plan to barter, sell, and swap meet your project to completion. We’ll give you 14 months.
I had a running car, albeit ugly, but I was off to SCCA events with rock hard tires, no interior, and five colors of primer.
By The Numbers
1968 Camaro RS
Rodney Prouty, San Mateo, CA
Type: 6.0L LQ4
Block: GM Iron
Rotating assembly: factory GM
Cylinder Heads: stock LQ4
Camshafts: stock LQ4
Valvetrain: stock LQ4
Intake: Edelbrock carb conversion
Carb: Edelbrock 650 Thunder
Air induction: Spectre airbox
Oiling: Moroso track pan
Fuel system: Holley FPR
Exhaust: Sanderson headers, custom exhaust
Ignition: Edelbrock/MSD LS Timing Controller
Built by: GM/Rodney Prouty
Transmission: Hurst-shifted 1975 aluminum wide-ratio Super T10 four-speed with Centerforce Dual Friction clutch
Rearend: ’71 Nova 10-bolt with 3.55 gears and Detroit Truetrac diff
Front suspension: fully welded and shot-peened stock subframe with 12:1 AGR steering box, Global West upper arms, Detroit Speed & Engineering lower arms, Hotchkis springs, RideTech shocks, and Hotchkis sway bar
Rear suspension: Hotchkis leaf springs with RideTech shocks and Hellwig sway bar
Chassis mods: Hotchkis subframe connectors and Handle Bar subframe stiffener, Guldstrand upper control arm mod
Brakes: C5 Corvette front brakes on original spindles, Cadillac brakes in the rear
WHEELS & TIRES:
Wheels: 17x8 & 17x9.5 Coys
Tires: 255/40R17 & 275/40R17 Falken Azenis