Steves Camaro Parts - 1968 Chevy Camaro owned by Michelle Harvey - Fun Article


1968 Chevy Camaro Front



Car chicks have it rough. On one hand, they have to deal with egomaniacs stricken with wee-man syndrome refusing to believe that a woman can actually build or drive a car better than they can. On the flip side, there’s no shortage of creepy bald dudes who are too busy ogling them to fully appreciate their wrenching or driving talent. A certain open-wheel-turned-stock-car racer of GoDaddy.com fame comes to mind. Michelle Harvey has been dealing with this kind of nonsense her entire life, so she gets a kick out of sticking it to the boys in her ’68 Camaro. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, the fact that this F-body is owned by a woman has nothing to do with why it’s getting featured in the pages of PHR. To the contrary, it’s a homebuilt, autocross-ripping, big-block–powered g-Machine worthy of the limelight in any arena that just happens to be owned and driven by a woman. And whether you have one X chromosome or two, it’s a muscle car from which everyone can take a few pointers.
 1968 Chevy Camaro Steering Wheel
Growing up in a working-class family, Michelle didn’t get a free pass on anything. “Girls in my family were not treated as precious little beings who can’t do anything. If something needed to get done, whether you were a girl or boy, you pitched in and did it,” she recalls. “My dad was a logger, sawyer, and farmer, so we weren’t wealthy, and the cars we drove usually needed some work to keep them running. My parents, brothers, and sisters gave me direction, but the independent girl in me wanted to do things on my own. My sister, Denise, taught me how to change spark plugs, and my mom showed me how to change oil. When I was 10 years old, my dad and I pulled the old six-cylinder out of his ’80 Chevy Cheyenne pickup, and we dropped a big-block in it.”
1968 Chevy Camaro Interior


 
 

Determined to go big-block or bust, Michelle’s brothers scrounged up a perfect 402 block and a set of iron heads off of a 396. Here’s the cool part. They say that hot rodders are the ultimate recyclers, and the block in question came from the same motor that Michelle swapped into her dad’s old truck when she was 10 years old. Since the goal was to have fun, not set lap records, she kept the engine build simple. After treating the block to a .030-inch overbore, Michelle cleaned up the factory crank and rods, then slipped in a fresh set of Keith Black 10.0:1 pistons. The factory oval-port cylinder heads were topped with an Edelbrock Air-Gap intake manifold, and a Barry Grant 750-cfm carburetor. To take advantage of the freer-flowing induction package, Michelle installed a COMP 230/230-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet camshaft. Not surprisingly, she assembled the entire combination herself, and only needed an extra set of hands to swing heavy pieces like the crank and heads into place. At an estimated 450 hp, the combo isn’t a fire-breathing beast, but that’s not what Michelle wanted. “I didn’t want to build something that was so aggressive that it wouldn’t be driveable around town. Even so, hot rodding is about always wanting to add more, and now I’m thinking about going with a bigger cam,” she admits.
With the motor finished and ready for action, Michelle finally turned her attention to patching up the Camaro’s body. While disassembling the body panels in preparation for mediablasting, she didn’t like what she saw. “The more I looked, the more I realized how much work the body needed. I didn’t have the time or money to fix the body, so I decided to find another Camaro to put my motor in,” she explains. As luck would have it, Michelle tracked down a copper ’68 Camaro in a nearby town, which just happened to be the color she planned on painting her other Camaro. “After I drove it for the first time, I decided it would be mine. It came with a 400 small-block, a Turbo 400 trans, a 2.73:1 one-wheel-peel rearend, and the car’s original 327 motor. The sellers said that they were so glad a girl was buying it since that meant it wouldn’t be raced. Two weeks later, the right-rear tire was getting a tad smoother than the left rear.”

After running around town for about a month, Michelle installed the big-block and swapped out the one-legger differential for an Auburn Posi with 3.73:1 gears. At this power level, the factory drum brakes were a liability, so she came up with a budget-friendly solution by adapting a set of four-wheel discs off of a fourth-gen F-body. Although these updates made the car much more pleasant to drive around town, Michelle just wasn’t content hanging out at shows and at cruise night. “After a while, I decided to check out the autocross events at the Goodguys shows. This was much more fun to watch than people staring at you from their lawn chairs,” she says. “I ended up getting behind the wheel of a friend’s car on the autocross and loved it. I knew I wanted my car to handle like that, and I thought it would be so cool to get my Camaro to drive like a modern sports car. Plus, my car sat like a 4x4 truck, so a new suspension system was suddenly high on my priority list.”
To address the situation, Michelle opted for a complete RideTech air suspension. It boasts tubular front control arms, a triangulated rear four-link, fat sway bars, drop spindles, air springs, and adjustable shocks. “It was very easy, and very exciting, to rip out all the old worn-out hardware and replace them with state-of-the-art components. It’s like my car has been baptized in RideTech suspension and reborn a completely different car, and I just love it,” she raves. “I have run a few more autocross events with the new suspension, and the car is a blast. I might not be the fastest car out there, but at least I’m not sitting around in a lawn chair or polishing all day. My car is driven hard, and I like it that way. I hope to participate in more local SCCA events to get more seat time and improve my skills.”

Just like any other hot rodder, Michelle is always looking to improve her ride, and the current short list of wants includes an overdrive trans, ’cage, bigger wheels and tires, and A/C. As she divulges the highs and lows she’s been through with her car, and where she wants to take it, the passion in her voice and the genuine knowledge with which she speaks makes you forget that you’re talking to a woman. All of a sudden, gender becomes irrelevant, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
“Having a little BMW boy trying to show off in a corner in front of me, then catching up to him in my Camaro, tickles the crap out of me.” —Michelle Harvey


1968 Chevy Camaro Left Side

By The Numbers
1968 Chevy Camaro
Michelle Harvey, 41 • Hixson, TN
Engine
Type: Chevy 408ci big-block
Block: Chevy iron bored to 4.155 inches
Oiling: Melling pump, stock pan
Rotating assembly: GM 3.760-inch steel crankshaft and rods; Keith Black 10.0:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: GM oval-port castings
Camshaft: COMP 230/230-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet; .520/.520-inch lift; 110-degree LSA
Valvetrain: COMP Cams lifters, pushrods, valvesprings, retainers, and locks; Cloyes timing set
Induction: Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap intake manifold, Barry Grant 750-cfm carburetor
Ignition: MSD distributor, coil, and plug wires
Exhaust: Hooker 1.75-inch long-tube headers, dual Flowmaster 2.75-inch mufflers
Output: 450 hp and 450 lb-ft (estimated)
Built by: owner
Drivetrain
Transmission: GM TH400 trans, TCI torque converter
Rear axle: GM 10-bolt rearend with 3.73:1 gears and Auburn limited-slip differential
Chassis
Front suspension: RideTech control arms, drop spindles, sway bar, air springs, and shocks
Rear suspension: RideTech four-link, sway bar, air springs, and shocks
Brakes: fourth-gen Camaro rotors and twin-piston calipers, front; fourth-gen rotors and single-piston calipers, rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Qualifier 17x7, front; 17x8, rear
Tires: Nitto NT555; 235/45R17, front; 255/50R17, rear




From the November, 2012 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Stephen Kim
Photography by Robert McGaffin