Back In Black

Fun = '69 Camaro + 427 Inches of Rat = Scary Ride

Andrew Schear Apr 28, 2003 0 Comment(s)

The enigma surrounding black cars is almost a century old. Some say that nothing looks better than a spotless black musclecar. Unfortunately, by the time you look up after wringing out the chamois, you're too late; the dust and dirt are beginning to settle. Every painter loves to take on a good project, as long as that project doesn't involve spraying black paint. Herein, folks, lies the truth...if you want to see if a painter has the necessary skills, ask to see a finished black paint job. It will tell the tale, just as our cover car seen above does.

When Sam Harding found his '69 Camaro basket case, the only thing it had going for it was an owner with a dream. The project started out as a small-block car for Sam's wife but eventually morphed into the Rat-powered beast that it is today. He purchased the '69 from a buddy who, unfortunately, could not finish the project due to poor health. When we asked this Southern California resident why a Camaro with an L88, the answer made perfect sense: "New cars have lost the scope of power in the equation. I love the sound of old power. Besides, people can relate to Chevy musclecars." And there you have it--we couldn't say it better ourselves.

The 10-month project was built by Mark Mahood at Mahood's Auto Body in Stanton, California (714/527-1276). Having built a few cars in the past for Sam, the relationship between owner and builder was very trusting. The plan was to build a '69 Camaro that was a practical street machine, with enough power to plant the driver right into the seat. The Z/28 hood and rolled rear quarters are subtle and almost unnoticeable changes. With the exception of the shaved emblems and the new hood the '69 looks just as it did the day it rolled off the showroom floor.

Most hardcore Camaro fans will admit that the wheel-and-tire combo make it or break it when examining the overall look of the car. With that in mind, large Intro wheels and wide tires were chosen to fill the wheelwell and give that mean road race appearance. Its aggressive stance is derived from a 6-inch drop in front and an 8-inch drop in the rear, but the bulk of its beauty comes from within the engine compartment. The infamous L88 Rat motor paired with a Richmond five-speed trans are more than enough to pass the average Joe on a two-lane highway, even if Joe is driving a Z06 Vette.

The motor was found in an ex-race boat and, at the time, had 12.5:1 pistons and a huge race cam. After being purchased by Sam, it was torn apart and rebuilt with a streetable Isky cam and lower compression SRP pistons. Dyno results produced over 570 hp and 535 lb-ft of torque. With all the power the '69 was producing it was determined that a 12-bolt rearend, housing 3.08:1 gears, would mesh well with the new motor and trans. Just in case stopping was to become an issue Baer brakes were installed at all four corners.

With the car complete and ready for the show circuit Sam has but one more hurdle, keeping Tina, his wife, from making the '69 hers. After all, it was built for Tina in the first place. Ah, the good life, having the ability to argue over who gets to drive the Camaro. There are worse things in life, but we can't think of any.

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Owner Sam Harding
Vehicle '69 Camaro
Engine L88 427-inch big-block, Bow-Tie aluminum heads, 2.19 inch intake, 1.88-inch exhaust valves, steel 427 crankshaft, steel Ferrea rods, SRP-
forged pistons, Isky hydraulic cam, .510-inch lift, 286 degrees duration,
Edelbrock Dominator intake manifold, Holley 1,050-cfm
Dominator carburetor, HEI ignition, 570 hp @ 7,000 rpm, built by Jack
Pelican (805/929-3923)
Transmission Richmond five-speed, Hurst shifter
Suspension  
Front Z/28 front spindles, Monroe shocks, Baer brakes
Rear De-arched springs, Monroe shocks, Baer brakes, 12-bolt rearend, 3.08:1
gears with positraction, assembly by J & S Gear, Huntington Beach, CA (714/841-4545)
Interior Factory seats, leather seating surfaces by Stitchcraft (714/847-7386), custom black carpet kit, factory gauges plus Auto Meter oil pressure and water gauges
Exterior Black PPG two-stage by Mahood's Auto Body, Stanton, CA (714/527-1276)
Wheels Intro Petina, 17x8 fronts,18x8.5 rears

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