It was in July of 1969 when astronaut Neil Armstrong's words echoed through just about every house in North America: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Americans busily fussed with the rabbit ears to fine-tune their black and white televisions to get the clearest image possible as they watched the first human set foot on the moon. High definition was decades away from invention; Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, and The Doors ruled the radio airwaves; and the unsuspecting farm town of Bethel, New York, was soon to play host to Woodstock—the most historically significant music festival of all time. It was a miraculous point in American pop culture. Unfortunately, that and some other events during that time didn't get fully appreciated until many years later.
Take, for example the '69 Camaro. Today, it's arguably the most popular muscle car to ever burn polyglass rubber on the streets. Sure, it sold well—over 243,000—but no one had a clue to the magnitude of the car's importance it would have 45 years after the final one rolled off the assembly line in 1970.
Jeff Dupont wasn't around in 1969, but he's old enough to recognize and appreciate the style embodied by the '69 Camaro. "I really like classic muscle cars, and my favorite is the '69 Camaro," relays Jeff. "One day I stopped by Jay Doerfler's Shop (Auto Body Specialists) in Manchester, New Hampshire, and instantly fell in love with a '69 Pro Touring Camaro he was building for himself."
That's all it took to get Jeff fired up and get a Camaro of his own. Later that night he got on the Internet and pulled up a stock-looking LeMans Blue '69 via Craigslist. "The photos of the car looked good, so I had Jay come with me to have a look," remembers Jeff. "Once I saw it in person, I had to have it. In fact, I pulled the trigger that day. I drove it for a while in stock trim, but that got boring real quick."
With the influence of seeing Jay's Camaro in the shop that day still strong in Jeff's mind, he got together with Jay and put together a simple plan to upgrade the somewhat tired F-body. Being that Jeff was focused on the popularity—and more importantly, the driveability—of a Pro Touring muscle car, the course was set. They started off with DSE drop springs and a set of Fikse Profil 5S wheels (18x9 front, 18x10 rear) wrapped in BFGoodrich KDW rubber. Jeff drove the Camaro with that setup for a summer, then soon after was ready to take things to the proverbial next level.
The follow-up act would feature a full-on Detroit Speed suspension: A hydroformed subframe went in up front while their QUADRALink system and deep tubs took up residence out back. The whole enchilada was fitted with DSE coilover shocks all around. To complement the new suspension's ability to accept larger wheels, Jeff had the Fikses widened to 18x10 up front and 18x12 out back and added bigger meats all around (275/35-18 front, 335/30-18 rear).
To put the new suspension system to task, Jay recommended an LS7 as the ideal mill to get this car into the "big leagues." Jeff agreed, and a soon a Mast Motorsports 427 crate engine was resting between the 'rails.
The Mast monster starts life as an aluminum block with a bore of 4.125 inches and a stroke of 4.000 inches. Callies H-beam rods hang from a Callies forged crank, while the Diamond 2618 pistons come in at 11.4:1 compression. A Mast custom-ground cam sets the tone, designed for mid- and high-rpm power. Mast Black Label LS7 305cc cylinder heads top off the block. Mast Black Label pushrods and GMMP high-rpm hydraulic roller lifters join the ensemble. An Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump ensures ample swill supplies the FAST LS7 intake. The final tally on the dyno comes in at over 670 hp at 6,800 rpm and 573 lb-ft of torque at 5,600 rpm.
Katech carbon-fiber valve covers and Vintage Air Front Runner drive system dress the otherwise pedestrian-looking mill. Those DSE fender braces and Ring Brothers hood hinges provide another layer of cool.
Speaking of cool, a Ron Davis two-row radiator keep the LS7's temps in check, and a custom-fabbed ABS (Auto Body Specialists) intake tube tucks tightly behind the driver-side fender to inhale fresh doses of atmosphere.
A set of Detroit Speed 1 7⁄8-inch stainless coated headers mate up to a custom-built ABS 3-inch exhaust X-pipe system topped off with Borla ProXS mufflers. The chambers emit an angry tone when called upon yet keep a low profile at low-rpm cruising.
A McLeod twin-disc clutch ensures the Tremec T-56 Magnum shifts smoothly. The combination musters up the strength to handle everything the Mast 427 throws Jeff's way when he recklessly rows through the gears. A Ford 9-inch and TrueTrac with 3.73 gears are just the prescription for wreaking havoc on any asphalt playground.
Baer P6 six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors on every end ensure a quaint stopping distance is just a matter of tickling the Clayton Machine Works brake pedal.
The interior reflects a combination of vintage original crossbred with modern-day performance. Mike Curley at Michael Jay Coach Triming (Epping, New Hampshire) covered the stock door panels and dashpad in black leather, laid the Mercedes black carpet, and fabbed up the custom package tray. Clayton Machine Works PT-203 window cranks add a custom touch to the scene. Black leather Recaro Specialist seats accompanied with a Simpson harness provide Jeff a performance-based perch while he grips the Hurst shifter with one hand and the Budnik Sport Split steering wheel with the other. A DSE rollcage promotes additional chassis stiffness and driver protection. Auto Meter Ultra Lite gauges populate the DSE dash insert. A Vintage Air A/C system and Kenwood head unit backed up by JL Audio amps and subwoofer, along with Focal speakers provide Jeff a cruising-in-style captain's quarters.
Highlighting the '69 is the liquid-like LeMans Blue PPG pigment. Being that Jay is the foreman of the build at ABS, he took on all the bodywork prep prior to laying down the paint. The striking color reflects Jay's meticulous bodywork skills and eye for perfection. The fit and finish is beyond exceptional. Jay continued his custom touches by narrowing the newly chromed (Vintage Vehicles, Wautoma, Wisconsin) bumpers and shaving the bolts. Jim Argeriou at JA Metalworks (Candia, New Hampshire) machined the custom bits and Marques taillights and front marker lamps took things up a notch.
No doubt the collaboration between Jeff and Jay spawned one of the most attractive Pro Touring street machines to roll on the streets of New Hampshire. The car maintains a controlled balance between classic pedigree and modern performance—two definitive elements that put this '69 in a class all its own.
The next time you drop the needle on that Hendrix album, keep in mind that Max Yasgur had no idea that renting his alfalfa field to some hippies for a rock concert would turn out to be the pinnacle of all outdoor rock shows, and we're pretty sure GM had no idea that the '69 Camaro would remain the king of all muscle cars nearly 50 years after the last one rolled off the assembly line.
Luckily for Jeff Dupont it only took two and a half years for his Camaro to achieve greatness.