Ronnie Buhr is an Information Technology manager for Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross) in Jacksonville, Florida. He’s also an avid automotive enthusiast, starting as a youngster racing go-karts and Moto-X at the local, state, and national levels, then moving up a notch as an adult when he and his sons enjoyed dirt track racing as well. Traveling the circuit each week began to take its toll, however, and it was soon time to take his automotive hobby in a new direction.
A staunch Chevy fan, Ronnie previously owned an ’89 and a ’77 Camaro. He decided a classic ’69 SS would be next on his list. With the Internet as the perfect source, Ronnie discovered this beautiful ’69 Camaro in Tennessee. Unfortunately, it was snapped up by a man in Georgia, but sometime later it surfaced again in Alabama. Happy for a second shot, he contacted the new owner and quickly closed the deal.
The beautiful PPG Lamborghini Orange Pearl paint job turns everyone’s head and it’s about the only thing unchanged during the five years that Ronnie has worked on the car. Although much of the Camaro had been restored to original condition, Ronnie was looking for something that better reflected his tastes. “I wanted more of a Pro Touring, low-profile hot rod that I could eventually use on the autocross circuit.”
In true hot rod fashion, the transformation began with motive power high on the list. The original 350 was tired and it was time for an upgrade. The new 383 stroker motor, built by Wheeler Power Products in Jacksonville, Florida, started out as a 350 small-block, upgraded with Wheeler’s 383 stroker crank and rods, Keith Black forged pistons, an Xtreme Energy COMP cam and valvetrain, along with a pair of Strike Force aluminum heads. Delivering the air/fuel mixture is a Quick Fuel Black Diamond series 650-cfm carb on an Edelbrock Performer intake. MSD HEI ignition creates precisely timed explosions while the Dynatech long-tube, ceramic-coated headers blow the soot out through a 2.5-inch exhaust and X-pipe. Guaranteed to make any enthusiast smile, the Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers relieve backpressure while creating an authoritative tone. Ronnie installed an AFCO aluminum radiator and single electric fan to keep the new motor cool. Then he added a little bling to the engine room, beginning with the GM Performance Products chrome valve covers, a Billet Specialties air cleaner, and a March Sport Track serpentine system. Twist Manufacturing produced the polished fender braces in the satin black engine compartment. Ronnie estimates the rejuvenated V-8 sends about 400 hp to the 700-R4 trans, reworked with a 2,000-stall by Best Transmissions in Jacksonville. On the short list for the future might be a six-speed Tremec, making it a stronger competitor when blasting ’round the cones.
Everyone loves the iconic lines of the ’69 Camaro so external changes were held to a minimum. However, the suspension technology that was fresh back when Nixon was president had to go. Fortunately, the aftermarket has lots of options and Ronnie chose a coilover suspension package. It features a four-link that holds the 12-bolt Moser rear, updated with 30-spline axles, 3.08 gears, and an Eaton Posi. Up front, tubular control arms ensure modern handling. A steering upgrade includes taller spindles for extra camber adjustment and a raised spindle pin to lower the car by 2 inches. The monotube shocks with 2 1/2-inch HyperCo coilover springs were installed on each corner to ensure crisp handling.
Rollers & Brakes
Since wheels are always a vital element in both appearance and handling, Ronnie contacted Jason Rushforth from Tacoma, Washington, maker of Rushforth wheels. Jason recommended his aggressive five-spoke 18x9 and 19x10 Livewires, polished with gunmetal gray centers that accented the Pro Touring look. “I liked the style of these wheels as well as the option of choosing different center covers,” Ronnie told us. Nitto 555s were used in the rear (275/35), putting enough rubber on the ground to launch the car like an artillery round. Slightly smaller (265/35) versions up front provided a sticky grip in turns. Wilwood’s Superlite brake package slows the car quickly with their distinctive logo showing through the wheel spokes. Six-piston calipers up front and four-piston versions in the rear clamp onto 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors, front and rear.
Changes inside began from the floor up with new ACS carpet and sound deadening. A supportive set of SCAT Procar leather front seats cradles the driver and passenger while adding an air of luxury inside. The rear bench seat was covered to match. The Detroit Speed dash holds a six-pack of Auto Meter Pro Comp 2 gauges that keep tabs on the high-performance powerplant while the B&M Shifter with reverse lock out controls the 700-R4 trans. Ronnie likes the feel of the billet wheel from Performance Online and the Vintage Air A/C keeps everyone cool during warm Florida summers. Concert hall sound comes from the JVC CD receiver that controls a pair of 1,000-watt Logic amps. They energize twin 12-inch Logic subs behind the rear seat, firing through the rear package tray. Also under the tray is a pair of Focal 6x9s creating the mids and highs with a second pair of 6.50-inch Focal components in the kick panels. Don Costa Designs is responsible for the upholstered-to-match trunk with the rear wall displaying a unique plaque of Ronnie’s own design, created with input from several of his hot-rod buddies.
The plan was to retain the iconic looks of the ’69 since the factory got it right in the first place! The few exterior accents include the rear spoiler, the cowl induction hood, and the Marquez Design rear taillight housings fitted with eye-catching Digi-Tails LED panels. Ronnie credits the previous owner for the color choice, the beautiful PPG Lamborghini Orange Pearl with custom pinstriping. Everyone comments on the color and it was one of the things that attracted him to the car in the first place. Of course, the Rushforth wheels add to the look and became the perfect finishing touch.
With the exception of that stunning paint job, Ronnie has done everything on the car in his garage, personalizing it by replacing the engine, transmission, suspension, rearend, tires and rims, and interior. The five-year journey of transforming the vintage stocker into a modern muscle machine has been worth every moment and the car is still a work in progress. Special thanks to his supportive wife, Pam, and the many friends he’s made along the way.