If you've ever been on the hunt for a clean, never-been-crashed, all-original '69 Camaro, then you know they pretty much only exist in some sort of muscle car fantasy world. Now, to make the odds of finding said treasure even more challenging, give good ol' eBay a shot. Personal experience and numerous horror stories from others tell tales of sellers who tend to "slightly" oversell the quality of their "minty condition" muscle car only to deliver a "no-rust" car injected with more filler than Joan Rivers' upper lip has Botox. To those who have ever purchased a vintage anything off the "Interwebs," you know the drill, and to those of you still willing to take the gamble, good luck to you!
Well, good luck is just what Skip Walls ran into when he placed a bid on this '69 convertible on eBay while searching for just the right muscle car to play host to his company's current lineup of unique automotive parts. Skip and his wife, Debbie, own Lokar Performance Products—an automotive aftermarket company founded over two decades back. "Besides being a big fan of Camaros, and muscle cars in general, we needed a car we could use to develop and show off our latest products," informed Skip. "This '69 convertible was the absolute perfect candidate."
Being as the car was located in Tucson, Arizona, Skip was very optimistic that the car was as described in the listing: all original with no rust. But to be sure, he had his good friend Sean Bowman, a Tucson local, check the car out in person. Sean gave his approval that the car was an incredible example showing no indication of it being involved in an accident. That's all Skip needed to hear in order to place an attractive bid on the 'vert.
No doubt every Lokar employee is relieved, as they no longer have to listen to Skip's tales of the 'one that got away' ever again.
The week of the auction's closing he and Debbie were about to set sail on a weeklong cruise for a long-overdue vacation where thoughts of business and eBay were to be left on the mainland. But just to be sure he was still in the running, Skip anxiously checked the auction one last time before leaving their hotel to ensure he was still high bidder. To his surprise, more like major disappointment, the car was gone. He couldn't believe it. Just a few hours earlier he was riding high and confident the car would be his.
Unbeknownst to Skip, Debbie had Skip's son Kevin buy the car outright and have the listing taken down as they worked out a plan to surprise Skip with the Camaro later down the road.
To say the vacation was less than stellar was an understatement, as Skip couldn't let go of the fact that he lost "the cleanest Camaro in the U.S." because he had to go on vacation.
As Debbie remembers, "I had to listen to Skip talk about losing that car throughout our whole trip." Well, the cruise may have hit rough waters, but Debbie knew it would be worth it in the end. Once Skip returned to the office, the Lokar crew got a kick out of hearing him continually carry on about losing the Camaro.
Months after the "memorable" vacation and Skip still in the dark on the Camaro shenanigans, Debbie and Skip were heading home from a company party when she said she needed to pick up something from the office. With the Camaro discretely delivered to Lokar, Skip got the surprise of his life when they pulled in the driveway and he saw the '69 sitting in his usual parking spot.
So, with Skip finally in the loop, he had the Camaro stripped to bare metal then carted it over to Goolsby Customs in Bessemer, Alabama, where Jonathan Goolsby and Josh Henning could get cracking on a totally custom build full force while following the rendering created by artist Ben Hermance. Goolsby Customs is a shop known for performing top-quality, award-winning muscle car and hot rod builds. Not only would the Goolsby crew perform their sheetmetal magic, but they would also incorporate a good number of Lokar's aftermarket goodies into the build.
With performance the main focus, a 416ci LS3 from Mast Motorsports was called up to power the fully custom first-gen. The Mast bullet features an aluminum block bored to 4.070 with a stroke of 4.000. Mahle pistons with an 11.2:1 compression ratio are topped with Mast CNC LS3/L92 heads. The mayhem continues with a Callies crank and Callies H-beam rods held together with ARP fasteners, while a Mast custom-grind cam optimizes the 575hp mechanical tantrum.
Having the green light to artistic freedom, Goolsby Customs' fabricator Ben Weber created a captivating engine bay with inner fenderwells and a closeout panel that offer a performance showcase for the stellar mill. On the engine itself, he included a set of Goolsby custom aluminum valve covers and air cleaner box to coincide with the theme then accented the stage with a pair of Billet Specialties hood hinges. Also from Billet Specialties is a black powdercoated True Trac pulley system. A C&R Racing four-row radiator cools the assault while Dynatech headers release the fire through a Morgan Performance stainless steel 3-inch exhaust system and MagnaFlow mufflers.
American Powertrain assembled and beefed up the Tremec T56 six-speed trans backed up with a Science Friction clutch. A Currie 9-inch rearend puts the torque down via a set of 4.10 cogs and limited-slip diff.
Every high-end Pro Touring ride needs a stellar foundation to bring out its full handling potential. In this case a Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis was just the ticket. No compromises here. Up front, GM C6 spindles and Roadster Shop tubular A-arms lead the attack while AFCO adjustable coilover shocks on all four corners control the ride. Massive Baer 14-inch rotors and black powdercoated six-piston calipers handle stopping duties up front while 13-inchers suffice in the rear.
Introducing something beyond the norm can be a difficult task in the classic Camaro world, so a set of Nutek Forged Wheels, Series 710 Concave got the nod (19x11 front, 20x12 rear). The titanium ceramic with brushed nickel barrels by Advanced Plating solidify the scene further, taking this 'vert to the proverbial next level. With Michelin Pilot Sport rubber (275/30-19 front, 335/30-20 rear) gripping the ground, the suspension will be worked to its full potential while withstanding Skip's demanding driving style.
The Ben Hermance-designed interior reveals a sea of luxurious leather and suede including the custom rear seat and console manufactured and installed by M&M Hot Rod Interiors. Goolsby's spiced the groove with a custom dash housing the Lokar custom gauge cluster and Classic Instruments gauges. The Billet Specialties Octane steering wheel joins the mix while the Vintage Air A/C system ensures the captain's quarters stay chilled throughout the relentless Tennessee summer heat. A Kenwood CD/DVD unit powers a quad arrangement of strategically placed 6 ½-inch full-range speakers.
With the idea of creating new wares, while also showcasing Lokar's existing lines, the interior is sprinkled with attractive offerings, including the shifter, custom window cranks, door pulls, e-brake handle, and pedals. Check out the '12 Chevy Sonic interior vents.
More Goolsby nuances extend to the exterior where Jonathan's crew complied with the Hermance artwork. Not an easy task, and one that lends itself to a host of one-off, tailor-made pieces including flush-fit bumpers front and rear, rear spoiler, recessed side gills, extended rockers, Lokar/Goolsby exterior door handles, lower front spoiler, and Detroit Speed Inc. headlight door conversion. Heath Wood, another Goolsby fabricator, handled reworking the A-pillars and flush-fitting glass. Lokar's Kevin Ford played a key role in machining and developing parts for the build. The tailpanel features a custom insert between the taillights and the lower valance. The exhaust tips, you ask? Yep, another Goolsby creation.
That cool-as-hell hood is a Lokar/Goolsby compilation designed for form and function offering engine bay heat an easy exit route to allow room for cooler, more horsepower-friendly air.
Lokar's familiar color scheme runs throughout their product line, and this Camaro doesn't deviate. Referred to as "Lokar Red," Jonathan doused the sheetmetal in DuPont basecoat and clear for a magnetic deep gloss.
With the car enduring an extensive makeover, the final step was for the Goolsby crew to present the completed project to its owners. The last time Skip and Debbie saw the car it was in bare metal almost a year prior. To make the presentation extra special, Debbie and Skip would have to wait to see the finished car for the first time during its national unveiling at the world's largest automotive aftermarket event: the SEMA show in Las Vegas. With the Camaro sitting in the Lokar Performance Products booth safely protected from view under a car cover, Jonathan Goolsby and Josh Henning had the honor of pulling the cover to unveil 11 months of their hard work and to introduce one of the most incredible Pro Touring convertible Camaros ever built.
Debbie was overcome with emotion and Skip was in a state of shocked amazement at what Goolsby's had created. The surrounding crowd of onlookers expressed their approval with an overwhelming round of applause in appreciation of the truly amazing custom-built Camaro—a car Skip believed to be a once-in-a-lifetime find. He was right, only now he can finally refer to it as the one that didn't get away. That is, if he can pry the keys out of Debbie's hands.