1969 Chevy Camaro - Smoke, Daddy?

Multi-Generation Family Camaro Kicks Sideways

Ro McGonegal Apr 1, 2010 0 Comment(s)

Jeff Theobald is 46. He's had cars all his life. His father is partly responsible. His father encouraged him. Jeff calls him the rock in his life. Dad helped him get this Camaro done when Jeff had more or less consigned the project to a good idea that never came to fruition. He'd considered selling it off with the parts he'd accumulated for the build. Dad would hear none of it.

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"I have always dreamed of building a ground-pounding muscle car. You know the type. Big cam, loud exhaust, and tire-smoking horsepower," Jeff says with a wink. "Eight years ago I purchased the Holy Grail, a plain vanilla '69 Camaro with a 307 and three-on-the-tree automatic. I drove it for a few months and discovered the meaning of slow. I pulled it apart and began to collect the goodies I'd envisioned.

"The other thing I'd always wanted was to invent something and to have my own business. I put the Camaro on permanent hold and birthed Performance Stainless Steel in Soquel, California. The business took every minute of my time. Five years blew by and the car was still under the tarp and had deteriorated to a sad state," he admitts. But ..."My dad's an old-school hot rodder with picture albums of all the cars that he should have kept. To my amazement, he told me to find someone to build it and that he would finance the project. We've done many projects together. He wanted to do one more."

Jeff called in friends Rick and George at Driven Performance in Seaside, California, for a sit-down. Rick brought his trailer and collected the basket case. Jeff wanted them to do it because he felt that they build all their cars as carefully as if they were their own. A year and half later, the custom car crafters gave him the keys to his new Camaro-on Father's Day 2009.

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That Rick and George build things as if they had their own cash in them, they would do no less than take the body down to a shell and begin the reconstruction from the ground up. Jeff's car needed that. It needed chemical stripping and sandblasting, it needed a fresh interior and a solid, viable, un-cracked wiring scheme. Jeff's car needed everything, and in the process gobbled up about $50,000 to come to fruition. Detail upon detail would make it feel and work better than a new car.

Jeff didn't follow his big-inch, ground-pounding dream. He wanted a sedate driver with a bit more power than usual but not something that he'd have to constantly attend to later on, as he matured. He didn't want to teach his daughter how to run the valves every month or require an expensive wallet to fill the tank with premium octane. Smooth reliability is what he sought. Hence that raggedy-ass cam and race-muffler exhaust system were quietly erased from the list.

Rather than source every last part of engine stock, he simply went with a GMPP crate 350 and had Grant at GMP Speed and Marine in Santa Cruz, California, make some basic changes to the primary systems. That lumpy cam is in there. Flowmaster mufflers are in there, but the motor's a sweetheart, good at blasting around or sitting at a light idling demurely in complete confidence-and laying rubber at just the right moment and for the delight of innocent bystanders.

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Said Jeff (with a big grin on his kisser): "The car is awesome. I'm not a fan of 'garage trophies.' I like to drive 'em instead. I love to roll off a light at about 15 mph and hammer it and have the car smoke the tires and pitch sideways. I owe the completion of it to my Dad and have promised to pass it on to my 5-year-old daughter Kate. She is my favorite cruising partner. Every time we take the car out for a cruise, she tells me 'Daddy, can you make smoke?' How can I say no?"

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