I owned a 68 Camaro RS (SS). It had been specifically ordered as a "stop light special" because back then it was a big deal to have the "fastest car at the stop light." Originally, my car was a 396 big block with 375 horsepower with a rock crusher 4-speed and 4.88 gears. It also came from the factory with one extra leaf spring on the right side (passenger).
Q; Greg, I enjoyed your recent car articles in the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.). I am now 65 years old and remember the GTXs, Camaros and Shelby GT 350s that were around back then.
Back in the 1960s, it was a great time to own a performance car.
Personally, I owned a 68 Camaro RS (SS) that I bought it from a guy in Worchester, Mass. It had been specifically ordered as a "stop light special" because back then it was a big deal to have the "fastest car at the stop light."
Originally, my car was a 396 big block with 375 horsepower with a rock crusher 4-speed and 4.88 gears. It also came from the factory with one extra leaf spring on the right side (passenger). It also had side pipes, and was the fastest car in Worchester at one point.
When I went to buy it, though, the guy had switched out the engine, trans and rear gears for a regular 327 to save money.
Do you think the original 396 engine had aluminum heads? Of course this is just curiosity on my part as in those days we did not have access to all GM building codes.
Even with the 327, it turned out to be a nice car and of course looked every bit the strong performer and sounded wonderful. But, with the 327, it was a pussycat in reality. Do you know any of the history of the Camaro with the 396/375 setup?
Keep up the good articles on older cars. Jeff Furber, Hopkinton, Mass.
A: Jeff, thanks for the nice words, and you came to the right guy to ask about that 396/375, as I personally owned one. Mine was a 1968 SS/RS that I bought used with 5,000 miles on it from a Ford dealer.
The engine in my car was the L78 code 375 horse 396 engine, which came with cast iron heads, aluminum intake and dual inlet Holley carburetor. It had a flat tappet cam, rock crusher M-22 four speed and a 4.10 rear. The cost of this option I believe was $500.30 at the time. A total of just 4,575 Camaro SS L78s were built of the near 28,000 Camaro SSes delivered that year, both big and small block.
As for the aluminum heads, the answer is yes. In 1968, you could order the L89 option, which added aluminum heads to the 375 horse engine. The L89 cost $868, and only 272 were ever built. Thus, yours could have been one, and a very rare one at that.
Today, a pristine L89 '68 Camaro will probably start at $80,000 at a Mecum auction, while the L78 will probably start at $50,000. In the past, an L89 '69 Camaro Indy Pace Car ragtop sold for $153,000 at Mecum.
Too bad we didn't see the future coming, or we'd still have them in our garages.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader questions on collector cars at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.