The Saiki family has a long history of racing around the West coast. Mike Saiki’s name is a staple in the Premier Street Car Associations’ (PSCA) head-up classes, having won numerous championships. In the past, you would typically find Mike racing small-tire Corvettes on lots of nitrous oxide — the Saiki family loved their Corvettes, mastering the already-difficult independent rear suspension. But after many championships, their competitors weren’t impressed … so they decided to prove a point that they could still compete with the best of them, doing so with a solid axle leaf-spring car.
“We decided to build two ’68 Camaro’s — one with a small-block from my Corvette and the other with a 525-inch big-block. The first time out with the small-block Camaro, it ran within a tenth of the quickest pass we ever made with the Corvette.” At that point, Mike said it was time to turn it up. “We then decided to take it out to Famoso (Bakersfield, California) and see what it could do if we hit it harder — it went 8.82, which was now .17-seconds quicker than the Corvette.”
The Saiki’s decided it was time to start running the big-block Camaro in West Coast Hot Rod Associations’ Limited 10.5 Class. The 525 cubic-inch mill had Brodix BB2 heads, a 4150 carburetor, and an Induction Solutions nitrous plate with a -4AN line. Each time out, the car went quicker and faster and they were able to grab yet another championship, in 2009, all while setting class elapsed time and speed records along the way.
As soon as the season was over they updated the cage to 25.5, with plans to go much faster. Two months later they entered the Street Car Super Nationals (SCSN) in Las Vegas. By the end of a long cold weekend the Saiki family were the Limited Street champions. While 2009 was a good year, 2010 started off on the wrong foot. During pre-season testing, the big-block broke a rod going through the finish line and damaged everything but the intake manifold and carburetor.
This setback would cause them to sell the small-block Camaro and park the broken big-block for a few years. During this downtime, Mike wasn’t racing, but he was building cars with his son, Ryan, at their home in Southern California. The hobby quickly grew on young Ryan, and he started following his father’s footsteps. Roughly 30 cars later and one nine-second Nova, Ryan had his eyes set on a particular 1968 Camaro.
The Camaro Ryan wanted was originally owned by his father and was campaigned in 2008/2009 in the PSCA’s Limited Street Class. Ryan brought the car back to his family in late 2015 and began the rebuilding process.
“The car was built to compete in Drag Week-style events. We originally put the car together with a pump gas big-block Chevrolet naturally-aspirated combination to compete in the Super Street Big-Block N/A class,” Ryan shares.
It went a best of 8.96 at 152 mph during testing with Mike behind the wheel. In March of 2016, father and son went down to Arizona to run the Hot Rod Drag Weekend West; the tour would start in Chandler, Arizona and trek down to Tucson and then finish off back in Chandler.
“Our goal was to come out at the top of our class and finish the three-day race and 500 miles of driving on basically a brand new car. At this time I had never driven the car so that made things a little more interesting.”
Things went smoothly for the entire tour and the only issue they had during the event was a melted shifter cable which was easily replaced in Tucson. They ended up taking the overall win with a 9.162-second average. Second and third place were close behind with 9.182- and 9.183-second averages, respectively. The quickest run of the weekend for Ryan’s ’68 Camaro was a 9.04 at 149 mph.
“We also won our class, were the quickest Chevrolet, quickest V8, and quickest without a trailer. All in all it made for a fantastic first time out with the car,” Ryan says.
Over the winter it was decided that it was time for Ryan to get an 8-second time slip and 150 mph pass.
“We put new heads and camshaft in the motor, a different converter, and a small nitrous plate with a .77-inch jet in it,” he shares. The first pass on nitrous, Ryan went 8.71 at 159.97. Then in May, he attended The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “The Battle”, put on by West Coast Hot Rod Association. Ryan entered the Camaro in Ultra Street with a 26×8.5-inch tire, where he ran his quickest eighth-mile numbers of 5.52-seconds at 127 mph.
“After that pass we increased the nitrous to a .93-inch jet and I went out to the track in October and set a new personal best of 8.47 at 160 with a 1.24 60-foot time,” Ryan says. “As of now the car has just been seeing street duty and I drive it to work and local Cars and Coffee events.”
While Ryan’s family still lives in Southern California, he now resides in Idaho and is part owner of Free Form Motorsports in the town of Kuna, with his business partner, Jarom Woodland; he’s following in his father’s footsteps, building hot rods and race cars right from home. Eventually they plan to move their new venture to a new location due to rapid business expansion.
What does Ryan love most about this beauty?
“I love the fact that I can hop in it and drive it around town like it’s a 13-second cruiser. The car gets a lot of attention every time I drive it, but it’s kind of a flashy car, especially when you see it driving down the street with a parachute on the back. There aren’t a lot of other cars in my town that drive around like that.”
Ryan Saiki’s 68 Camaro
- 1968 Chevrolet Camaro (Original SS)
- All Steel with Fiberglass Hood
- BBC with Nitrous Oxide
- MSD Ignition
- RC Components Wheels
- Mickey Thompson Tires
- Power windows and factory tilt column
- Lamb brakes
- 9-inch 3.70 gears spool Tom’s Differentials 35 spline axles and shortened housing
- Cal Tracs and split mono leafs
- Turbo 400
- Smith Racecraft Chrome-moly subframe
- Rack and pinion steering
- Viking double adjustable shocks
- 25.5 certified Chrome-moly cage
“We currently are in the process of building a 540-inch big-block Chevrolet for the car and the plan is to do twin turbos along with air-conditioning and all the other amenities the car is missing. All while, we want to blast mid seven-second passes on leaf springs and 275 radials,” Ryan continues.
Among those that helped Ryan in his racing and tweaking endeavors include Motivational LLC, Free Form Motorsports, Cody Green Photography, Mike Saiki, Pat McNeil, Chandler Davis, Jarom Woodland and all of his family and friends who continue to support him through what he calls his “crazy hobby.”