"The amazing thing about this car is that we kept finding more and more original photos and original people involved with racing the car back then. Foust's scrap book included some photos from that first day they got the car from Berger and proceeded to take it apart." Matt was stoked. He had a great crew for the reconstruction and as a good luck charm, the two originators as well. "Working with Dick and Gordy helped inspire us to do an over-the-top restoration, since we weren't just restoring an old drag car, we were doing it for the guys who owned and raced it back in the day. We wanted to impress them with the resto so they would be proud to attend shows with us and the car. We also had original photos of every aspect of it, and most of the original painted on decals and lettering was still intact."
Though Berger had specified an Olympic Gold COPO 9561 equipped with the L72 (427/425) for Arons in '69, the car never got built, so Dale Berger gave Arons and Foust a Garnet Red Camaro outfitted with SS trim, 396/375 engine, M21 transmission, 4:10:1 Posi, and a whole lot of other stuff that never graced a COPO creeper. To run in SS/E required the L72, so the boys at Arons shop simply converted the car via engine swap, and set it up for the newly formed NHRA SS/E class that year. Their first big outing with the car was at the NHRA Spring Nationals where Gordy knocked out more than 20 Hemi Mopars and a few other Camaros to take the class trophy. They raced the Camaro at many events that year, the Super Stock Nationals in York, PA, and the NHRA US Nationals among them, and match raced all over the country to compile a winning record that a scarce number of Super Stock cars could match.
For the current experiment, however, the engine was rebuilt to L72 status with some Arons massaging: 12.5:1 compression ratio, 850cfm Holley, iron 840 GM cylinder heads, a healthy 268/272 Crane Cam in place of the original General Kinetics stick, and a fabbed 8-quart oil sump. Custom built Booth-Arons rocker covers and air cleaner lid completed the engine package. Puffing through 2-inch primary-pipes, the original Hooker Super Comp headers were recoated in black. Output is more than 500hp at 7,000rpm and 500lb-ft at 3,000rpm.
The insides of the whiny but severely husky M-21 rebuilt tranny are rearranged by a Hurst Competition Plus shifter, just as they would have been back in the day, but the remainder of the drivetrain is blushingly original. Suspension is the OE F41, save for leaf springs tied together with a custom aluminum block to staunch wheel hop and to augment the power of those vintage Lakewood/Jenkins slapper bars. As it would have back in the day, the 12-bolt carries an official Posi-Traction differential and a 4.10:1 gearset.
More old guys crowd around the trough. Nothing says the '60s like Cragar S/S wheels, 15x4 and 15x8 packing lampblack refugees: The original fronts, Kelly-Springfield skinnies and rims are still on the car, and new M&H Racemasters are where the original Goodyear Blue Streak 10-wides used to boil. All genuine COPO interiors were six-cylinder-like, so the guts aren't much more than stock black vinyl. This car was ordered with no console and radio delete. There are no other signs of visible activity except for the period Sun Super tach and the requisite threesome of Stewart-Warner gauges.
Supercar Workshops blasted on the car, fitting its niches with markers, accents, and trim from YearOne and Rick's First Gen. Then they gave it up to Frank, who maintains Arone Autobody. Frank and George cleaned up the body and gave it a vibrant, new aura with PPG Garnet Red basecoat and clearcoat. Bob Johnson, of Saltsburg, PA, finished dressing the old guy up with graphics and faithful recreation of the original painted lettering of the day. By the time the transformation was complete, everybody was two years older. But was everybody still happy? "The detail that Brian and his crew went into is amazing and the final product turned out better than any of us could have expected," offered Matt.
Though the car made its public debut at the 2006 Camaro Superfest outside Detroit, it was unveiled at Arons' shop and with many old friends in attendance, Gordy Foust, Wally Booth, Al Maynard, Jim Luikens (Berger Chevy's original parts manager from 1969), and Ted Robinson (who photographed the car for Arons in 1969) among them. Murphy plans to exhibit the old horse at special racing-oriented car venues like the York Musclecar show, the Forge Musclecar show in Pigeon Forge, TN, and Camaro shows around the country. "It's important to me to show the car off and introduce it to a whole new generation of Camaro fans, and most importantly, let the original owners and crew have fun with their old car again."