Our Journey takes us to the man cave of a true-blue car and motorcycle enthusiast. To Filipino enthusiasts of American cars, Ben Lim is a legend. Called the “Maestro”, he works on his own time and he is often quite moody. But when it comes to the finished product, the American V8 engines that he builds are strong, reliable and tough. Drag racers used to tremble when they compete against the cars with engines that Ben Lim built.
Now retired, Ben only works on cars owned by friends or close associates. He never accepts walk-in customers and he will only accept new customers who were referred by close friends. And you have to have deep pockets and the patient of a saint when he decides to work on your car.
To those who know him well enough, Ben is actually funny, knowledgeable, and determined. His motto has always been “What Ben Lim wants, Ben Lim gets”. From cars to motorcycles to engines and parts, this strong personality is evident all around his workshop.
He has amassed an impressive car collection over the years. Among the most valuable is a red 1968 Chevrolet Corvette convertible with a 427 cubic-inch big block Chevy V8, triple 2-barrel carburetors, and 4-speed Muncie M22. The iron block 427 and the 4-speed combo make this ‘Vette ‘vert the top draw in his workshop.
Sharing the space is a dark brown 1968 Pontiac Firebird convertible from the late Architect C.C. de Castro’s collection. Like the Corvette, the engine is a big block V8 with 400 cubic inches of power.
Ben’s prized possession is a Fathom Green 1969 Chevy Camaro Super Sport (SS) that is nearly all-original and low mileage because he bought it from the first owner, the scion of one of the textile families in the country. With its numbers-matching 350-cid small block Chevy V8, 3-speed Turbo 350 automatic and Positraction limited-slip rear diff, the Camaro is indeed one highly-collectible Chevy.
Other collectible cars in Ben’s fleet include a blue 1968 Chevy El Camino with a 396 big block V8; a maroon 1970 Chevy Camaro Rally Sport with a 454 V8, a one-owner Mist Blue 1968 Buick Skylark Custom 350, and a blue 1968 Chevy Nova with a 4-barrel 350 V8. He has other projects scattered around his property including a ‘68 Chevy C-10 stepside pickup; an ‘88 Chevy C/K pickup with two 4-barrel carburetors; two rusted 1969 Camaro body shells, a third-generation Camaro Berlinetta, plus a lot of spare parts.
He also has several collectible motorcycles including several Harley-Davidson motorcycles, including a Knucklehead, a 2-stroke Vespa, a BMW R27, an Ariel Square Four and a 1953 Indian Chief. Unfortunately, all these vehicles were inundated during typhoon Ondoy in 2009 and Ben has neither the time nor the resources to bring his collection back to what they once were. Here’s to finding a huge windfall soon so that we may be able to save the collectible cars in the Maestro’s classic hoard.
Editor’s Note: This article first came out in Volume 3 Issue 3 of Power Wheels Magazine that was published in 2014. Ben has since sold his ’53 Indian Chief, ’68 El Camino SS 396, and other project cars but he has kept the ’68 Firebird convertible, ’69 Camaro SS 350, and the ’70 Camaro RS 454, and other cars. The ’68 Skylark has been contracted to the author while the ’68 Corvette 427 is being restored for a potential buyer. Ben is still lively and humorous even after undergoing surgery to remove part of his colon. He recently bought a brand-new Harley-Davidson Ultra Glide and plans to go touring with his wife.