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1969 Chevy Camaro SS - Joy Ride

Mark Miyamoto's Sly Z10 Pace Car...Coupe

Ro McGonegal Sep 1, 2009
0909chp_01_z 1969_chevy_camaro_ss Front_side_shot 2/12

So it's a weird clone or something of Miyamoto's twisted sense of humor, right? All those Pace Cars were convertibles, weren't they? According to popular history (as well as archival proof), the RPO Z10 Coupe was an option but only in certain geographic locales (no reason given) during the 1969 Indy season. In this case, the lucky states likely included Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Production estimates range from 250 to 500 units, all of them built at the Norwood, Ohio, assembly plant (apparently the Van Nuys facility was under a union strike at this time).

"I bought the car from a guy in southeast Texas and had it transported to Southern California. It was in pieces," Mark Miyamoto said. Once it was under his wing, Mark took the basket case to Hazleton in Gardena, California, for the PPG Dover White/Hugger Orange signature.

Although the demeanor was to continue the revitalization without halt, Mark soon sank into dreaded limbo, where all the good intentions and febrile rush condense into a cantankerous waiting game. Stuff happens, you know.

"After it was painted, I brought it home...where it sat in my garage for the next three years. I worked on it on weekends, but at that rate, I soon realized that I might be dead before the car got finished. I made some progress but eventually handed the project over to Mike Saiki at Motivational Engineering in Carson."

Mike Saiki, you might remember, builds some hellacious radial tire race cars. Akin to that pursuit, Saiki constructs a mean street car via the disciplines of race car building. "Mike had a clear vision of what I wanted," said Mark. "He's very detail-oriented and knowledgeable with all his projects, a true perfectionist; hence the car looks and runs perfect. Before we go further, let me say that nothing at all would have happened unless my LOVING [caps are Mark's-Ed.] wife told me to go ahead and buy the Camaro that I always wanted."

Aware that the First-Gen F-bodies were not paragons of handling or anything else save for laying long, black stripes on asphalt, Mark aimed to undo that knot. Sure, there was the Z28, but it pales when pitched against matched, modern aftermarket suspension components available from almost anywhere these days.

It was Mike's idea to make the small-block look mostly stock, too, but with some high-tech highlights-stainless fasteners and Earl's black braided fuel lines and fittings-but mainly he wanted to restore the look of the original engine, ZL2 cold-air intake and all. The theme is daily-driver reliable. Not too much grunt, but a whole lot of handling and braking power easily over-match the power quotient. At a glance, it looks like Pro Touring (how about Pro Fun instead?) but is not.

Mike naturally blew the car apart to get at the chassis (smoothed and powder coated), redo the motor, and install the interior. Along the way he glommed an M22 four-speed. Right. No overdrive, lots of noise beneath the boards. Some people just like it that way and aren't slaves to all the popular tenets of Pro Touring.

"Some of the best advice I received when building the car was 'If you're going to keep it, then do what you want,'" confided Mark. "It's worth more if restored to factory specs, but it's not as fun... Isn't having fun what this whole thing is about? Nothing we've done is irreversible and there's nothing that can't be placed back to factory spec." To a caretaker of some bit of automotive history, that notion is most sacred.

Motivational Engineering began with the vintage 350 cylinder block, looking for nothing more than a safe, strong rebuild peppered with specks of go-fast stuff. Mike Saiki put the machinework and requisite balancing act on Team C in nearby Bellflower. Then he gathered up the stock steel crankshaft, connecting rods, and forged aluminum pistons (10:1) and put them in the cradle. He linked the Isky camshaft to the crank snout with an Edelbrock geardrive system. That way he'd have both ends of the power module geezing, whirring, and sounding way off color and bumptious. The valvetrain is composed entirely of Iskenderian components, from the 280 Mega camshaft (0.485 lift, 232 degrees duration at 0.050 inch, and a 108-degree centerline) and the hardware to the hardened pushrods and the 1.5:1 roller rockers. He took the path less traveled with the cylinder heads, though, reviving some vintage camel-hump castings with screw-in rocker studs, guide plates, 2.02 intake valves, and Isky springs. The ignition is Pertronix but it looks stock. To maintain the sleeper motor aura, Mike used an Edelbrock Performer matched with a Holley 750-cfm vacuum-secondary carburetor and connected it to the cowl-induction cold-air intake. The boom tubes begin with Hedman headers and end with a Flowmaster True Dual exhaust system as plumbed by Mike's Performance Exhaust in Los Angeles. A Centerforce Dual Friction 11-inch clutch assembly winds torque to the Rock Crusher transmission, thence to a Cook's Machine Works (Los Angeles) driveshaft to the 12-bolt holding 3.73s and a Tom's Differentials-modified Eaton differential.

Though he didn't fall for the tubular control arm bit, Mark wisely increased shock damping with KYB adjustables at the front and rear in conjunction with Hotchkis lowering coils and leaves and matching antisway bars. Mike Saiki's guys rubbed on the subframe, smoothed it, and powdercoated the remains. A Camaro RPO N44 quick-ratio steering box directs the wheels from stock spindles.

Evidently the sheetmetal was pure enough to eliminate the usual straightening and filling, perhaps the greatest legacy of a desert-life vehicle. Hazleton Auto Body, a paintworks in Gardena, used PPG Dover White/Hugger Orange for the Camaro's righteous livery.

Wheels & Brakes
Mark went off the beaten path a little on the all-important hoop decision, to his credit. He got all sparkly on us with some bold Esajian PCH 5 rims (Torrance, California), 18x8 and 20x10. He shod them with Falken FK-452 skins, a high-performance, all-weather roller. The front gets 245/40ZRs, while the drive wheels spin 275/35ZRs. To increase the frictional coefficient, Mike Saiki thought big. A CPP Big Brake kit affords 13- and 12-inch drilled, slotted, and plated discs with commensurate two-piston calipers at all corners.

No moaning from all you Z10 fanatics, please. We know the original interior was (Code 727) Ivory, but Mark couldn't resist the much more familiar hounds-tooth, in this case orange. In all respects the interior is a mirror of days past, looking much like it would have when new. Motivational Engineering did all the work and included the factory console, gauges, and tachometer. A stock Comfort-Grip steering wheel directs from a tilt column, while the Hurst Competition Plus shifter is steadfast by Mark's knee. Hidden in plain sight: Kenwood CD player, 1,000-watt amp, and Pioneer speakers in the dash and rear deck.



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