This black-as-night 1967 Camaro belongs to Chris Morganelli, a sheetmetal worker from Tennessee. To Chris, this isn’t just some Camaro he bought—in fact, he’s been around this car since childhood. It was his dad’s first car, which also became Chris’ first ride. We asked him to elaborate on the story.
“In 1971, at the age of 16, my dad bought this Camaro as his first car. It was a Marina Blue SS car with a 375hp 396 and a four-speed. Unfortunately, it had been raced quite a bit, and the original engine and trans were long gone when he got it. He basically bought a stripped car with no drivetrain or interior, and in primer. He began fixing it up to drive in high school and eventually raced it some at Englishtown; he lived in Brooklyn,” Chris recalled. “After I was born, he began a complete restoration. I actually remember helping on it when I was 4 or 5. Shortly thereafter, my brother and sister were born, money became tight, and family responsibilities grew. The car was not even close to finished, but was kept in our garage till I was in high school, and I took an interest in working on it.
“I built a new engine for it and had it running but never drove it. When you are a teenager, lots of things get in the way of working on your car, so it stayed in the garage unfinished. Fast-forward 15 or so years, and my mom is ready to get it out of her garage. It is at this time that the three-year restoration began, all over again.”
The F-body was completely disassembled and stripped down to bare metal. Once Chris had all the rust holes patched, he and friend Stan Smith started the bodywork process. Chris said, “Stan is the guy who did all the bodywork on the car. We did this at my house in my two-car garage. After his regular job, he would come over to my house and work on the car. It was a second job for him. We had a schedule: He would come over on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoon. This was a great experience for me, as I was right there for the whole process. I learned a lot about what it takes to make a black car straight.”
Once the car was uber-straight, it was passed off to Jeff Webb, who laid down the Sherwin-Williams black paint. This is when Chris decided the car was to be all black, not just the sheetmetal. All the exterior trim was painted to match the body color, but finished with a flat clear. To add one more layer of black, the Ringbrothers Air Frame hood hinges, bumpers, and Ridetech/Precision Coachworks gas cap were anodized black.
The motivation comes via a 400ci Dart small-block built by Huntsville Engine. Inside the Dart block is a Callies Compstar crank and H-beam rods that drag a set of Mahle 10:1 pistons up and down. The air is fed through a custom air cleaner Chris built, into a Motorvation throttle body, down an Edelbrock Victor EFI intake to the Airflow Research Street Eliminator 195 aluminum heads. A custom ground Comp hydraulic roller cam (intake 0.550-inch lift, 286 duration/exhaust 0.547 lift, 294 duration), Holley HP EFI, MSD ignition, and a Vaporworx pump system in a custom stainless tank Chris built help the 400 put out 510 hp at 6,350 rpm. Converting the pop and bang of the engine into a sweet gearhead song is a set of 1 3/4-inch tube Doug’s Headers coupled to a stainless steel MagnaFlow 21/2-inch system with an X-shaped crossover in the middle.
Backing up the engine is a beefy Tremec TKO-600 six-speed manual transmission with a Lakewood bellhousing and McLeod RST twin disc clutch. A Denny’s nitrous-ready driveshaft ships the power back to a 3.73-geared Moser 12-bolt with a Detroit Truetrac differential and 33 spline axles.
The suspension on the car is built to stick to the tarmac with SPC adjustable control arms with tall upper ball joints, Hotchkis 2-inch dropped springs, Bilstein shocks, a Hotchkis sway bar, and Wilwood four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors in the front. Out back, there is a set of 3-inch drop springs from Hotchkis and another set of Wilwood four-piston caliper 12-inch rotor brakes. To further stiffen the suspension setup, Chris grafted in a set of Detroit Speed Engineering (DSE) subframe connectors and used DSE aluminum bushings. All this suspension would be worthless without some good shoes, so Chris strapped his Camaro with Dynamic Performance Engineering (DPE) rims wrapped in Nitto 555 rubber, 18x9 with 245/40R18 and 18x9 with 275/40R18 sizes.
Inside, it’s all business, with Arizen Racing seats taking center stage. Auto Meter Ultra-Lite II gauges stuffed in a Covans panel sit behind the Billet Specialties Draft steering wheel. Billet Specialties door pulls, window cranks, and dash knobs, along with Ringbrothers door lock knobs and a set of Lokar Midnight pedals all in black were also used to keep the black theme throughout the cabin. Chris handcrafted the door and rear panels and covered them in a leather and suede combination to match the seats. He integrated a killer audio system in the car that features a Pioneer head unit feeding a quartet of Infinity Kappa speakers that get some extra juice from a Rockford Fosgate amp.
“The entire journey I have been on with this car has been memorable. From the building process, to Sunday drives. I also like taking it to cruise-ins,” Chris told us. “Car shows make for great memories, too. But I have to say that getting a feature in Super Chevy is probably gonna be the most memorable. I couldn’t have done any of this without the help and support of my wife, Julie. She handed me tools and lent a helping hand when needed, as well as put up with all the mess that goes along with building a car at your house—like tracking in dirt and storing tons of car parts in the spare bedroom, hallway, kitchen table, and so on. Of course, none of this would be possible if my dad had not kept the car and passed it on to me.”