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The Last Of A Dying Breed

Or Start Of A Revolution

Sep 9, 2005

You know what I love about action movies? Toward the end the radical, out-of-control cowboy comes to a point where he has to decide "Is it worth it?" And then he goes on to give an "I'm-the-last-of-a-dying-breed" speech, followed by one last hoorah filled with blood, sweat, and tears. You gotta love 'em, even if it is rather cheesy at times. Depending on your view of the auto industry, Tom Potts' '69 Camaro may be considered the last of a dying breed... or the start of a revolution.

When this Texas native set out to tackle his vision of the grand puba of Chevys--a '69 Camaro--there were two things on the list. First up: style. Tom always loved the style and stance of a '69 RS Z28 Camaro, but since the car was designed nearly four decades ago, a few modern characteristics needed to be taken into consideration. Second: power. The one thing Tom didn't like about the '69 Zs is the fact that the 302 didn't have the power and torque he was looking for.

Once Tom weighed his options, he came up with a final plan. He would build a g-Machine-styled car, but stray from the beaten path when it came time for a powerplant. Tom realized that the hot swap is a modern-day LS1 or beefed-up small-block in a g-Machine. But instead, Tom admittedly decided to go along the lines of a "the last of a dying breed," and drop in a big-block 502. Although Rat-motored cars will always hold their own, in this day and age modern small-blocks are all the rage in canyon-carving sheetmetal. But Tom couldn't get over his love of big-blocks for his personal rendition.

Tom took a trip down to Jeff Kinsey at Hot Rods by JSK. He went over the plan with Jeff for the Camaro, and after some persuasion, he convinced Jeff to build the car. First order of business was to bring the dated suspension of the Camaro into the 21st Century. Tom ordered a road-racing front clip from Martz Chassis. The frame section was outfitted with Martz tubular control arms, coilover suspension, a NASCAR sway bar, and 13-inch six-piston Wilwood brakes, hidden by Simmons 17x8-inch rims and Michelin Pilot Sport 245/45 rubber. To complement the killer front setup, the rear of the car was equipped with Detroit Speed & Engineering 3-inch drop springs, mini-tubs, and offset shackles. The DS&E setup allowed Tom to stuff some primo meat in the rear wheel wells. Encasing the Wilwood brakes are Simmons 17x12-inch rims with Michelin Pilot Sport 335/35 tires! Koni shocks round out the rear suspension package.The 302 was ditched for a brand new '04 GM Performance Parts ZZ 502. The motor is straight out of the crate with 502 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque. Tom then added a Vintage Air climate control system and Street & Performance shorty headers with a custom exhaust bellowing through FlowMaster mufflers. Backing the 502 is a Tremec five-speed with Center Force clutch, Lakewood bellhousing, and Hurst shifter. Out back is a Moser rearend with 3:42 gears.

As for the body, Tom wanted a stock appearance with a street-rod influence. Hot Rods by JSK gave Tom exactly what he wanted by shaving the rocker moldings, driprail moldings, windshield wipers, and cleaning up the firewall. JSK also reworked the front bumper to hug the car a little tighter. The Camaro was then painted the same color as the new SSR trucks, Ricochet Silver, with dark gray stripes.

Last on the list was to craft the interior. Andy Martin at Interior Specialties wrapped the OEM seats in ultra leather and houndstooth. Then repro GM door panels were installed. A Detroit Speed & Engineering cluster houses the Auto Meter gauges. Atop the steering column is a Billet Specialties steering wheel. As for the stereo, a Kenwood head unit powers Infinity speakers. With the car finished, the verdict is still out. Did Tom build a "last-of-dying-breed" big-block car, or start a revolution with a Rat-motored g-Machine? Whatever the answer, the end product definitely works!


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