Tony Henehan firmly subscribed to the tenets of big-block ideology. But it took just a few seconds for the LS small-block bug to infect every cell in his body. The brief yet compelling conversion required nothing more than a few whacks of the throttle in his buddy's supercharged Corvette Z06. "I never liked LS motors because they're popping up everywhere and it's hard to make them pretty. I planned on putting a 600-cubic-inch big-block into my Camaro, but one of my buddies insisted that I take a ride in his Z06 before making up my mind," Tony recalls. "I said, ‘Yeah, whatever,' but once he hit the gas I was a believer. It was the fastest car I had ever been in." Granted, 800 hp has a way of changing your mind in a hurry. In those scant few seconds, Tony's '69 Camaro restoration suddenly turned in an entirely new direction.
For years, Tony had been scheming up a sinister plan to live out his Pro Touring fantasy. Although he didn't know how far to take the muscle car modernization motif, things started getting much clearer after those fateful stabs of WOT in the Z06. Tony wanted to build a Pro Touring Camaro so badly that he sold an original X22-code big-block Camaro to get the ball rolling. "I had a beautiful '69 SS 396 Camaro with a 427 and a five-speed, but I couldn't justify doing an all-out Pro Touring build on an original big-block car," he recalls. "People thought I was crazy when I sold it, but I wanted to start over with something that wasn't as rare. I bought my current Camaro five years ago for $5,000, and when my wife saw it for the first time she thought I got screwed. It had changed owners as a project car several times before I got it, so it needed a lot of work."
With the typical Pro Touring build of this caliber, owner involvement is usually limited to handing big checks over to a pro builder, but Tony took a far different approach. Immediately after unloading the car at his home shop, he completely disassembled it and started tackling the sheetmetal repair. Although mostly rust-free overall, Tony had to patch up the lower quarter-panels, cowl, and deck with new metal. A stickler for details, Tony opted to install a one-piece floor even though a few patches here and there would have sufficed. While he was in metal repair mode, Tony welded in a set of Detroit Speed Inc. mini-tubs and subframe connectors. With all the metalwork finished and panel gaps tightened up to perfection, Tony shipped the car off to Kenny Brody in Austin, Texas, for a new coat of paint.
In the meantime, to finalize the LS conversion process in both his head and between his car's fenderwells, Tony cloned the engine combo in his buddy's Z06. Built by HK Racing Engines (www.hkracingengines.com) in Houston, the package is based on an LS3 block finish-honed to 4.070 inches, and stroked to 416 cubes with a Compstar forged crank and rods, and Diamond 9.0:1 pistons. A COMP 236/240-at-.050 hydraulic roller cam manages the valve events. Capping off the short-block are ported Dart 225cc cylinder heads and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold. The big kahuna in the mix is a ProCharger F-1A blower that sends boost to a Bell air-to-air intercooler mounted behind the grille. Despite maxing out the fuel injectors on the chassis dyno, the 416 laid down 775 hp and 745 lb-ft of torque. Backing up that copious helping of grunt is a Rockland T56 manual trans and a Moser 12-bolt rearend.
After packing that much wallop into the Camaro, Tony knew that some serious suspension hardware was in order to keep it all under control. To that end, he installed an Art Morrison front subframe assembly complete with C6 Corvette aluminum control arms and spindles. Out back, a Chassisworks four-link anchors the rearend. QA1 coilovers man each corner to keep suspension motions in check. Big Wilwood clamps scrub off speed and the grip comes courtesy of fat Michelin Pilot Sport tires wrapped around 18-inch Fikse wheels. Overall, the mean stance, modestly sized rollers, and factory body lines result in a machine that's tastefully understated yet undeniably aggressive. "I'm not into bling-bling. The OE look is plenty good enough for me," Tony opines.
Looks aside, the true test of any Pro Touring muscle car is how well it works in its implied mission of all-around performance and comfort. Rest assured this Camaro has all its bases covered. "I drove this car to the Goodguys show in Ft. Worth last spring, ran it hard all weekend on the autocross then drove it back home without any problems," Tony recalls. "During the 800-mile round trip, it got 21 mpg. With all the muscle cars I've owned over the years, it still amazes me that you can get 900 hp out of an LS small-block, and run around town all day in 100-degree heat without it ever once overheating. That's just amazing." Fortunately, Tony has built an equally impressive wrapper to plop the motor in, and something tells us he'll never get the itch to build a big-block ever again.
Owner: Tony and Darla Henehan, Danbury, Texas
Vehicle: 1969 Chevy Camaro
Type: GM Gen IV small-block
Displacement: 416 ci
Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
Bore: 4.070 inches
Stroke: 4.000 inches
Cylinder Heads: Ported Dart 225cc cathedral-port aluminum castings
Rotating Assembly: Compstar 4.000-inch forged steel crank and rods, Diamond pistons
Valvetrain: Factory GM lifters, rockers, and timing set
Camshaft: Comp Cams 236/240-at-0.050 hydraulic roller; 0.610/0.615-inch lift; 114-degree LSA
Induction: Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, custom elbow, Scoggin-Dickey 90mm throttle body
Power-Adder: ProCharger F-1A centrifugal supercharger, Bell air-to-air intercooler
Fuel System: Dual Walbro in-tank pumps, Aeromotive pressure regulator, Mototron 60 lb-hr injectors
Ignition: GM coil packs, MSD plug wires, NGK spark plugs
Exhaust: Stainless Works 1.75-inch headers, custom X-pipe, dual 3-inch Borla mufflers
Output: 775 hp and 745 lb-ft at the rear wheels
Transmission: Rockland T56 six-speed manual trans, Spec clutch
Rear Axle: Moser 12-bolt rearend housing, centersection, 31-spline axles, and 3.73:1 gears; Detroit Truetrac limited-slip differential
Steering: Art Morrison rack-and-pinion
Front Suspension: Art Morrison subframe assembly and sway bar, C6 Corvette aluminum control arms, QA1 coilovers
Rear Suspension: Chassisworks four-link, QA1 coilovers, Hellwig sway bar
Brakes: Wilwood 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front; 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers, rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Fikse FM/5 18x10, front; 18x12, rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 295/30-18; front, 335/30-18, rear
Carpet: Mercedes black
Shifter: Pro 5.0
Paint: DuPont Jet Black
Hood: Factory Z/28