When I saw Eric English’s story about Bruce Mercer’s 1967 Camaro SS350 [“Second Coming,” Feb. 2018], it brought back a lot of fond memories of when I was working at the Van Nuys assembly plant. I had a chance to build my very own SS Camaro, but not the sweet little 350, oh no. It had to be the mean and nasty L78 375hp 396 bad boy. And it wasn’t a four-speed, nope. I made sure it was the (new for 1967) Turbo Hydro M40.
Although I received a lot of ribbing at first for going with three speeds, not four, it didn’t take long at our local dragstrip (San Fernando Raceway) before all of the stickshift boys were impressed with what a set of 4.10 gears, a B&M shift kit for the tranny, and some Lakewood traction bars to help the rearend from hopping could do. Once hooked up, that solid-lifter big-block was an absolute terror.
Kept that Camaro until I went into the Navy, making two Vietnam tours. I sold the Camaro knowing that I wouldn’t have the pleasure of using it for four years. And besides, I could always make myself another Camaro when my service days were over. I returned to doing what I enjoyed doing, building cars. I retired from GM after 38 years when the plant closed down in 1992.
The picture is from a few months after I picked up the car, with my “day two” equipment: wheels, tires, exhaust, gears, underhood goodies. Note all the Chevys parked at my parent’s house back in 1967. We were and still are today a lifelong GM family!
Working for GM gave me so many memories and stories, not to mention a clandestine factory project car that made the pages of Super Chevy and twice won its class at two Super Chevy events. It was quite the sleeper. That innocent 1975 Chevy Nova SS350 is sporting not only an F-41 suspension but also a total Police 9C-1 package. To that, add one Corvette L82 350 engine, a TH400 transmission, and a 12-bolt rear sporting 3.73 gears with a Posi. Later I added a tach and underdash gauges and a dual exhaust system sporting dual cats.
This car was a hoot to drive and surprised many an unsuspecting “junior muscle car” (small-block) owner not only at a stop light “test-and-tune” but through an occasional canyon carving Sunday Drive here in Southern California. It was great fun but eventually sold to an individual who “just had to have it.”
In this follow-up message, LaGrasta told us about another of his special Chevys: