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1969 Chevy Camaro - Practice Makes Perfect

Brandon Hill’s ’69 Camaro with 15 years in the planning phase

Liz Miles Dec 27, 2010
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Could you imagine being 37, having a wife and kids, and still owning your first car? Such a combination isn’t easy to pull off. Life happens, priorities are sometimes forcefully adjusted, but Brandon Hill of Livermore, California, overcame that. He’s owned his first car through it all.

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Growing up the youngest of four gearhead brothers, it was natural for Brandon to gain interest in what they were doing, and to be as obnoxious as possible about it. Brothers Scott, Mickey, and Robert were always out in the garage working on either their dirt track racers or street muscle cars. The biological need to torture one’s younger siblings was strong, so taking 12-year-old Brandon in wasn’t a gut reaction. Luckily dad, Gene, stepped in and got the boys to play nice.

What a lucky kid; working alongside his dirt track racing brothers and his engine building father while other kids were hanging out at the record store or the movies, what losers. A couple of years went on and Brandon was ready for his first project car. The next thing he knew he had a beautiful Camaro in the family driveway.

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Over the next 15 years he swapped every part at least once, but often several times to figure out exactly what he wanted and what worked best. Since he always needed his car up and running he could only change things that were an easy weekend swap, it couldn’t be what he had envisioned. So what did he do? He sold it. That Camaro he brought home as a teenager isn’t the silver ’69 you see here, but a ’70 model in black. His first car was gone, not because he had to buy a house or feed the kids, but because it wasn’t vicious enough. Brandon isn’t weighed down by the sentimental value, he enjoyed the car and it was time to move on.

With years of practice on the black car, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the next project. He let his buddies know he was in the market for a first-gen Camaro, and he quickly got a lead about a Camaro that had been sitting at a house in San Ramon. Brandon made a trip out there, but the owner made it clear he wasn’t selling. Set back in the lot was a ’70 Chevelle whose nose rode high. Brandon asked if he was selling that car, and the owner said no way, that’s an original big-block car, it’s waiting for an engine. Brandon offered the 454 that he was building for the black car’s next transformation in trade for the Camaro. Surprisingly, he agreed.

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The Camaro didn’t come with an engine or transmission so stripping it down to the metal was a pretty quick process that he handled at home. He asked his brother Robert if he knew anyone who could help him out with the fabrication work, and was referred to Scott Dees, who at the time was working at a body shop in Livermore. With the new project on hand, it led Dees to open up his own shop in Antioch, and Scott’s Speed and Custom was born.

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Between Dees and painter Craig Rogers, S&S Automotive, Genesis Upholstery, Revolution, Tri Valley Auto Glass, and Brandon himself, was a finished ’69 Camaro that was built in just 18 months. It was built to outperform, outride, and outcomfort his first Camaro, and there is no question that he’s achieved his goals. The last two years since its completion, he’s taken it to a number of local shows, cruised through the canyons, and more recently is looking forward to checking out a number of autocross and road course sessions. Brandon feels the 888hp figure might be a little high for the confines of a cone course, but expects to have a good time at Thunderhill Raceway Park to try out the road raceinspired suspension. Considering Brandon has spent the past 15 years building his dream ride, it should be no surprise when he realizes just how well it works.

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Nothing about this chassis is stock. The front and rear subframe have been disassembled and rebuilt with components from Martz Chassis. The Camaro got a Mustang II-style front suspension complete with coilovers housing adjustable QA1 shocks, 11/8-inch splined adjustable sway bar, rack-and-pinion steering, and Detroit Speed and Engineering’s steering accessories. The rear got a three-link coilover setup with Panhard rod and sway bar to control the squat and roll setup by Krause Racing.

Body & Paint

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Body and fab man Scott Dees took over the custom metalwork on this car. The goal was to perform modifications that wouldn’t jump out at you, but rather minimize the number of things to notice. Dees shaved the driprails, body seams, door handles, and side marker lights. He built up the window channels to allow the glass to lay flat with rounded edges. The floorpan was raised to drop the car’s body around the suspension. He installed DSE mini-tubs to clear the meats out back. Painter Craig Rogers took over paint duties after Dees had the car blocked and primed. Brandon used Rogers for the black car, and was confident he could lay the difficult-to-spray silver.

Motor & Drivetrain

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Parting from the small-block Chevy he had been accustomed to, this Camaro would get something to really fill out the fenders. He started with a 454 block and sent it over to the machining wizards at S&S Automotive in San Leandro. There they punched it 0.060-inch over and fit JE forged pistons to make an easy-breathing 9:1 compression ratio. The rest of the rotating assembly was stocked with Eagle H-beam long rods and forged stroker crank to total the inch count to 496. Tying the crank to the cam is a Pete Jackson geardrive. COMP Cams was in charge of the valve’s action with a solid roller having 0.688/0.700-inch lift and 260/272 degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift. From there it’s all COMP to the titanium valves. Heads and intake were CNC-matched Brodix pieces big enough to handle the engine topper, a ProCharger F-1R centrifugal supercharger through a Carb Shop 1,030-cfm carburetor. MSD’s ProBillet distributor and Digital 6 controlled the 34 degrees of timing across the rpm range. The psi-packed exhaust gases found egress through Hedman Hussler 21/8-inch primary headers to 3-inch exhaust tuned by Flowmaster mufflers and tailpipes that extend past the rear axle. Engine dyno results gave Brandon bragging rights with 888 hp at 6,500 rpm and 767 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm.

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From the McLeod flywheel and dual-disc Street Twin clutch was a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed sure to handle the power. The custom driveshaft pointed at the 56-inch-wide Ford 9-inch with 3.50 gears and a Detroit Truetrac gear-type posit unit.

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Set on cruising, Brandon needed comfort in his cage. He brought the car to Genesis Upholstery in Walnut Creek, where it got the luxury car treatment. They covered the rear GTO seats with black leather to match the Corbeau seats up front. The factory Camaro dashpad was lined with the skin to complement the seats. Brandon chose Marquez door panels and a MOMO steering wheel to complete the updated, clean look. Power windows and door poppers were installed to make entry and exit possible, and the four-point rollcage and seatbelts keep the passengers safe. Tri-Valley Auto Glass popped in the new glass pieces to contain it all.


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What’s the biggest tire you can fit under the Camaro? I want the next size bigger, Brandon said to DSE’s Kyle Tucker. Brandon stuffed 18x9 and 18x12 Fikse wheels wrapped in 265/35R18 and 335/30R18 BFGoodrich KDW 2 rubber. Appropriately, Brandon went with 13.5-inch Baer brakes to fill up the wheel. Brandon is a believer that any wheel larger that 18 inches is a waste. CHP



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