Automotive history lives and breathes at RK Motors Charlotte. You know we are passionate about vintage racing, having completely restored “Project Six Pack” to its original state, and more recently presenting the legendary Arlen Vankes 1967 HEMI Barracuda. Today we are pleased to announce yet another milestone race vehicle coming to us from one of the top names in the Camaro hobby. The car is Dave Sticklers 1968 Camaro Z/28 that won the 1968 Super Stock World Championship, and the man is Camaro historian and authenticity expert, Jerry MacNeish. The car has been comprehensively restored to as-raced condition, including some incredibly rare NOS items that came from Jerry’s personal collection. If there is a more thoroughly documented, well-known, relevant and accurate early Camaro out there, I’d like to see it. Make no mistake: this is the ultimate Z/28 and the cornerstone of any significant Chevrolet muscle collection.
Racing legend Dave Strickler dominated NHRA Super Stock racing during the 1968 season with this Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins-prepared Z/28 Camaro. Equipped with a stock intake manifold and carburetor, a stock hood, Stahl Headers, 5.38 gears, and nine-inch slicks, the “Old Reliable" ran elapsed times in the 11.70s at roughly 116 mph, which made it competitive with many big block Super Stock Camaros of the same time period. Its dominance culminated in two of Sticklers biggest wins: on Sunday, October 6, 1968, Strickler drove to a decisive victory over a stellar field at the NHRA Super Stock All-Star Meet at Englishtown Raceway Park. Two weeks later, he went on to capture the 1968 Super Stock World Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then the most prestigious S/S event on the NHRA calendar.
The "Old Reliable" Z/28 was featured in over 30 automotive publications during 1968 and 1969, making it the most famous Z/28 Camaro in race car history! Champion Spark Plugs, and Hooker Headers, two original sponsors, featured this car in their 1968 national advertising, placing ads in virtually all major automotive publications. Thousands of Camaro enthusiasts throughout the country were influenced by this "World Class" Camaro.
The Dave Strickler legacy speaks for itself: sixteen national class championships, forty-one national and world records, and a world championship title.
Following the 1968 season, this car was retired from active competition and sold, presumably lost to history. This was common at the time, as top racers knew that the factory would supply them with a new car each year, and old racing cars were not historically noteworthy at the time. Of course, we know differently today, but for more than 20 years, the “Old Reliable” Camaro languished in obscurity, trading hands twice, and being raced in relative anonymity at tracks all over the country. It was always a well-prepped car, but there was nothing beyond its incredible history that would make it immediately recognizable once the factory Corvette Bronze paint was covered up.
In March of 1993, Jerry MacNeish located and purchased Dave Strickler''s “Old Reliable” Z/28 race car. It was actually through the help of Michael Strickler (Dave''s son) that MacNeish was able to track the car down. The Strickler family had kept documentation with the vehicle''s VIN number. Based on that, Jerry located the exact car used to win the 1968 World Championship and bought it on the spot, knowing what he had found. According to an article in “Musclecar Review” magazine, the car was just days away from being cut up for scrap when Jerry rescued it. Later, he discovered that the car still carried its original ball joint spacers, proving that this was EXACTLY the car Dave Strickler drove to the World Championship.
In the summer of 1993, the detailed restoration began. Jerry’s intention was to restore the car to the exact condition in which it was campaigned in 1968. Drawing on extensive research, historical documents, photographs, articles, and other sources, Jerry and his team were able to precisely duplicate the cars decals and lettering (all of which was done by hand, as original, by the way). Mechanically, the car was better than new in every way, with upgrades that would make it competitive with modern machinery in NHRA''s Stock Eliminator Class.
In the summer of 1994, “Old Reliable” made its debut at Super Chevy Weekend held at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, PA. It was still equipped with an original balanced and blue printed 302 engine. That same year, the "Old Reliable" Z/28 Camaro won the prestigious "Best of Show Award" at the US Camaro Nationals held in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1995, MacNeish finished the racing season placing 11th in Division One out of 185 drivers in NHRA''s Stock Eliminator Class. In 1998, "Old Reliable" ran consistent elapsed times in the 11.20s at over 119 mph, (and that''s without a crossram!). Not too bad for a stock 302 engine.
Later, in 2002, Jerry piloted “Old Reliable” to a win at the Delmar, Delaware US-13 NHRA divisional points race and finished out the season in the top 10 placing 8th for the year in Division One and 24th in NHRA world points. In 2004, “Old Reliable” won the E/Stock class at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and by that point ran 10.80s at almost 123 MPH. Since 1998, “Old Reliable” has accomplished many NHRA class wins and several Stock Eliminator wins.
In January of 2008, Jerry MacNeish’s company, Camaro Hi-Performance, dismantled this car and did the necessary restoration work to put this Z/28 back to its original 1968 race configuration when it won the NHRA world championship title. Every detail is correct, down to the virtually unobtainable original Stahl front drag tires, Stahl tachometer, and rare cowl plenum air cleaner.
According to the original Pennsylvania title that comes with the car, this Camaro was never registered and as a race car, why would it be? As a result, it might be one of the lowest-mileage 1968 Camaros in existence and despite its history at the race track, much of it was in astoundingly original condition. During the 1993 restoration, the floors were replaced, and the hood and trunk lid were replaced with NOS pieces because a previous owner had installed fiberglass reproductions. All the original trim was still on the car and it was fully polished and restored as well. The car''s original Corvette Bronze paint was duplicated in 2-stage urethane for a killer shine that will last for another 40 years. You’ll note that the stripes have been embedded in the clear and are not decals as original, but this is definitely an improvement. Before you accuse them of taking the easy way out, however, note that they even went so far as to duplicate the decals cut-out around the trunk-mounted “Camaro” emblem most painters paint the strip and just install the badge over it. The quarter panels required a great deal of restoration work, since they had been cut and mangled by a previous owner to fit larger slicks, but those are, indeed, the original quarters.
Once the paint was in place and polished to perfection, Jerry and his team of craftsmen painstakingly duplicated every decal, every stripe, and every letter on the original cars paint scheme. If the original decal was vinyl, the new ones were made in vinyl. If it was hand-painted, it was again hand-painted on the car. Nothing was overlooked, and comparing photos from 1968 and from today, you need to look at the clothes people are wearing to determine which is the original and which is the restored car. Although the car was actively raced for a decade since it was restored, there’s very little evidence of it. The chrome is beautiful, the paint is unblemished, and the car is completely show-ready. Of course, we know that the original was never, ever this nice, but it sure is amazing to see it in the flesh looking this spectacular.
Similarly, the interior of this car is 100% original from headliner to carpets. As I mentioned, the car really doesn’t have any notable mileage on it, and the driver’s seat is the only one to ever carry a human posterior. The only change from original race configuration is the addition of a 6-point roll cage and safety harnesses, which were required when Jerry started campaigning the car competitively, and surely an addition that no purist will object to. You’ll also note that this is an original radio delete car with the original block-off plate still in place within the dashboard. The original gauges are bright and clean and the odometer shows a little over 5 miles! An original Stahl tach is perched in its original location on the steering column, and the two original accessory gauges still hang proudly below the center of the dash ahead of the original Hurst shifter. The correct RS wheel is still in place (this is a real RS Z/28 according to the window sticker), the original seats are still soft and comfortable, and the door panels show no signs of elbows ever resting on the armrests. This car is truly a time capsule, not only for race enthusiasts, but for Camaro restorers anxious to see exactly how the factory assembled these cars when they were new. Surprise: they were awfully nice.
The engine is a correct Z/28 302 that has been built largely to the specifications it used in 1968. There’s an original 30-30 (Z/28) camshaft in the center of the block acting on a set of solid lifters, a pair of cast iron #3917291 cylinder heads (completely stock, no porting allowed), along with stock rocker arms and valve springs. The intake is a correct 302 aluminum intake, casting #3917610, topped by a Holley #4053, 780 CFM 4-barrel carburetor. Compression is around 11:1, and it currently generates right around 400 horsepower according to Jerry. Shocking that a 400 horsepower car could be a national champion, but when you can launch as hard as this one does (there are photos showing this small block car with its front wheels a foot in the air), it’s not surprising. Up top there’s an incredibly rare factory cowl plenum air cleaner that draws air from the cowl area instead of from a hood scoop if you can even find one of these today, expect to pay several thousand dollars for it. You’ll also notice the twin groove pulleys that were designed to eliminate belt jumping at high speeds (this engines shift points are at 8200 RPM!). Exhaust is handled by a set of Hooker long-tube headers and there is no exhaust system. This monster sounds AMAZING!
Living behind the engine is an as-original Muncie M22 4-speed manual topped by a Hurst shifter. There’s a photo in the vast stack of materials that comes with this car that shows Dave Strickler examining the cars transmission during servicing, and thanks to the window sticker, there’s no doubt that this was a 4-speed car from the beginning. There’s also a 10-inch 3-finger clutch from Advance Clutch Technology, twisting a set of 5.57 gears in the GM 12-bolt out back. It’s interesting to note that the car was originally raced with a set of 5.38 gears, and was factory delivered with 4.88s, which were the tallest gears available on the Camaro in 1968.
The suspension is amazingly original, from the as-raced A-arms, springs, and shocks up front, to the leaf springs out back assisted by long traction bars. Factory disc brakes up front and drums out back provide adequate stopping power. You’ll notice a fresh stock-type gas tank out back assisted by an electric fuel pump for consistent fuel supply under load. The wheels are original Cragars, with the aforementioned and incredibly rare Stahl skinnies up front and a pair of Mickey Thompson slicks out back.
Documentation? What do you expect when the car is one of the most famous race cars of all time and the restorer is the foremost expert on early Camaros? There are pages and pages and pages of period articles, print features, photographs and other literature that I can’t possibly catalog it all. Jerry MacNeish has also compiled several concise histories on the car that are included along with a certificate of authenticity signed by Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and Susan Strickler, Dave Sticklers widow. As I mentioned earlier, there’s also a copy of the original Pennsylvania title and a letter from the National Insurance Crime Bureau that officially identifies this cars VIN as the same one Dave Strickler campaigned in 1968. Then there’s the registration from the previous owner dated 7/14/1984, where he paid $1900 for the car. We also have duplicates of the original window sticker, which shows that this is a real 4-speed, Rally Sport Z/28 car, and that it was delivered to Ammon R. Smith Auto Company in York, Pennsylvania when new. Jerry has also collected extensive period photographs of the car, advertisements from Hooker, Pennzoil, Champion and others that feature this car prominently in their advertising. This car was also duplicated as a 1:18 scale model by ExactDetail Replicas, and was featured in much of their advertising as well. There’s even a biography on Dave Strickler himself that prominently features the “Old Reliable.” This is an absolutely astounding documentation package that removes any doubt about this cars incredible history and provenance.
What else can I say? This car is the real deal, fully documented and restored by the most knowledgeable person in the industry. It is exactly in the smallest details, and has four decades of successful race history behind it (what, you think its history ended in 1969? Jerry MacNeish won quite a bit with it, too!). There are period pieces and equipment on this car that are simply not available anywhere at any price, so duplicating this restoration would be virtually impossible today. The car is in absolute showroom condition throughout and will be welcome at shows around the country. Best of all, it remains in ready-to-race condition, prepared to hammer down the track as it did so successfully 42 years ago. If you are a race fan, a Camaro enthusiast, or both, this is a once-in-a-lifetime car. There’s only one of these, and you can bet that the next owner will probably not be interested in selling it for a long, long time. Call now!