We were online recently and saw someone asking if Pro Touring had jumped the proverbial shark. It appears that the poster had noticed an uptick of cars proclaimed as pinnacles of Pro Touring. The rides he mentioned ran the gamut from all-out "show touring" cars that just looked the part, to basic Camaros with some cut springs and 17-inch wheels. What he thought was missing were cars that didn't just look the part, but ones that also held to the Pro Touring performance mantra. He was looking for Camaros that aren't afraid of melted rubber, cone rash, rock chips, and the other badges of honor that have to be earned. What he was craving was James Shipka's '67 Camaro.
You see, James' ride is almost a poster child for the whole Pro Touring build style. It's has the looks to "wow" them at any car show and, all the right performance parts to "throw down" on the track. Even more importantly, James isn't afraid to thrash his Camaro around any venue, open highway, or parking lot strewn with tantalizing orange cones.
But, like all projects, this one started out as just a plan. As James told us, "My wife Debbie and I have been building, racing, and generally enjoying first-gen Camaros since we graduated high school. In fact, we've had at least one in the family for the last twenty years. In 2005, we decided to pick up a new project. I know its way cheaper to buy a done car rather than build one, but I build cars. I want to know every nut and bolt involved. I need to know its secrets and have it my way, so buying a finished one was out of the question." After searching around their hometown of Calgary, Alberta Canada, and south of the border in the U.S., they finally hit pay dirt. "I found a really cheap eBay special in the fall 2005.
The car was on the other side of the country and was an old Pro Street car that didn't look entirely horrible. From the pictures and description, it sounded like a decent winter project. So I bought it and began formulating a plan," recalled James.
James knew what he wanted, and he felt that the newly-acquired Camaro would make for an easy build. Unfortunately, his plan died a painful death once the car arrived. "When I finally got the car home, it was worse than I had imagined. If I had paid more, I would have called it a scam. The body was really rough, the subframe was cut up, the third member was empty, the rear brakes were missing, and the engine was in pieces. Anticipation quickly turned to disappointment, but then again, I only paid 2,500 bucks," deadpanned James.
After bead blasting the body, the news kept getting worse, so James called an old friend of his, Chris Heighton, owner of Heighton Restorations in Beiserker, Alberta. The pair went over the car and started compiling a huge list of what needed fixing or replacing. Some would have given up, but James is stubborn and decided to push forward.
Bodywork started in early 2006, and by the end of the year, they had it repaired enough to return to James' garage. The only pieces to survive from the original car were the rocker panels, roof, and tail light panel. Everything else was replaced. In hindsight, James thinks that first year was pretty easy.