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1969 Chevy Camaro - Trial By Fire

Deborah McGilton's Sinister 1969

Jake Amatisto Dec 16, 2013
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Only a year ago, Deborah McGilton's experience with fast muscle cars was limited to the rides at the autocross in her husband Tim's 1968 Camaro. Although she was merely a grinning passenger a short time ago, today she's the full-fledged street machine driver of the black 1969 you see here. "Tim was into the autocross scene for a couple years before I got into it," she said. "One time he asked me during a run if I was having fun and I responded with, 'I'm having a blast, but I'd have more fun if I drove my own.'" That was all Tim needed to know, and soon he was on the hunt to find his wife a speedy muscle machine she could call her own.

He found the perfect noir specimen on a well-known Pro Touring website, but finances wouldn't allow it at the time and he continued to look for another, or so Deborah thought. The husband/wife duo continued to run with the one Camaro for a few events before Tim surprised Deborah with a considerate notion: selling his two show cars so she could get her own autocross toy to play with, the 1969 RS from lateral-g. You know you are into hot-handling muscle cars when you sell two show-winning classics to get your wife her own cone-carver.

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Being an inexperienced driver of anything fast, Deborah admits it took some getting used to before her behind-the-wheel confidence was where it needed to be. "It was sort of trial by fire," she said, "Because the first few events we had problems. Here I was, new to driving a car like this, and it was giving us fits. I figured, if I learned to drive this thing when it's messed up, then I could drive anything." The car, being a newly-built piece, still needed to be sorted out, so of course there were some obstacles before she could navigate the car with precision. "We had a proportioning valve go bad on us one time and some other issues, so over the winter we went through and fixed all the issues."

Since last year, the McGilton's have been actively attending autocross and road course events all over the county, including a couple Goodguys shows, Detroit Speed's Summer Slam, and where we caught up to them, the Chevy High Performance Nationals, where Deborah got to drag race the car for the first time, running 13.518 at 101.76 mph in the quarter-mile. "We also attended the Skip Barber Racing School while in Georgia, which was very helpful in making me familiar with when to brake and how to accelerate out of the corners. At the school we drove Mazda Miatas and the instructors wanted me to brake later and accelerate quicker out of the turns, but I didn't want to get used to that since my car is a whole lot heavier than a Miata." Another thing that gave her driving confidence was when expert driver Brian Finch asked to drive it, "I said, sure, but I'm coming too. Of course, he drove it like he stole it and showed me the capabilities of the car. After that, I knew what the car could handle and what it couldn't." With how active the McGilton's are in the scene, we suspect it won't be long before they're winning top honors.

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Their year of autocross competition with Deborah's car is not even over yet, as there is still Holley's LS Fest, Goodguys in Indy, and a couple other events you'll be able to catch them at; and it seems they are having a blast. "Tim told me after we got it [the 1969], 'You could've had a nice diamond for the price of this car,'" eh, she shrugged, "I'd rather have the car."

Under the hood is a Kurt Urban-built LS2 that pumps 364ci. The 4-inch bore coupled with a 3.6-inch stroke smashes a 10.5:1 compression ratio thanks to stock pistons, while the rods, pins, and crankshaft are also stock. Urban upgraded a few critical items, however, such as the timing chain, heads, camshaft and valvetrain. A cam with 230 degrees at 0.050 was stabbed into place, while the rockers were modified and COMP Cams' Beehive valvesprings were added for better valve control at high rpm. The engine is equipped with Air Flow Research cylinder heads, while F.A.S.T.'s intake manifold routes the air/fuel mixture. An Auto Kraft oil pan and ported oil pump are also upgrades Urban applied. The headers come from ATS and the exhaust system is from Flowmaster and was Jet-Hot coated. The engine makes a manageable 440 hp.

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The autocross-essential Tremec T-56 manual trans is what shifts the McGilton's RS, while a Bowler shifter connects the driver. McLeod's twin disc clutch ensures positive engagement. Detroit Speed's Quadra-Link setup holds onto a 9-inch rearend that's stuffed with a 3.70:1 gear ratio and a Tru-Trac differential.

The interior of the McGilton's ride is functional and comfortable. Black leather wraps around high-bolstered Recaro buckets and a DSE dash insert holds essential Auto Meter gauges. A Vintage Air A/C unit is tucked under the dash while a black Grant steering wheel moves the wide front meats. Five-point harnesses and a 4-point rollcage also equip the interior.

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Super Jet Black urethane paint graces the outside of the RS, while other accents like a front spoiler and the covered RS headlights add to the visual prowess of this cool ride.

Wheels & tires
The RS rolls on massive 18x10.5-inch Forgeline wheels in the front and 18x12-inch monsters in the rear. The rubber of choice is 295/35R18 BFGs up front and huge 335/30R18 BFGs in the rear.

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Brakes & suspension
JRi shocks are bolted at each corner of the 1969 and 550-pound springs suspend the front of the car; 250-pound coils support the rear. Parts from Detroit Speed & Engineering were chosen, including the steering rack, spindles, Quadra-Link rear suspension, and even the hydro-formed DSE subframe. DSE's splined anti-sway bars are also in place, front and rear. Baer's massive 6S disc brakes are what get abused during autocross blasts, and more than enough to precisely control the 3,600-pound ride.

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1969 Chevy Camaro Rear Three 8/8



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