The ’69 Camaro is fondly remembered for its long options and features lists, special factory and dealer-inspired COPO cars, and for how many were built that year, the longest run in the marque’s history.
GM extended the 1969 production run of the Camaro—and F-body sibling Pontiac Firebird—into November 1969, due to labor issues and tooling problems that GM’s Fisher Body Division, had with the 1970 F-body’s rear quarters. Those problems led to Fisher Body redoing the tooling, which helped keep the new ponycar twins out showrooms until February 26.
But, what if—to keep fresh product rolling out of the Norwood, Ohio, and Van Nuys, California, assembly plants—GM, Chevrolet, and Fisher Body came up with a “transition” F-body, one that kept much of the existing Camaro and Firebird intact while adding styling cues that foreshadowed the all-new ’70 Camaro Rally Sport?
Jody Parker had that idea, and he and builder Alan Pound styled and built the ’69 “Transition” Camaro seen here. “We always considered what if Chevrolet had ever decided to make a ‘combination’ of the 1969 and ’70 Camaro, and merge them together,” he says. “That’s what we were looking for.”
Jody had teamed with Alan on a ’67 Camaro Rally Sport, which Alan’s A&R Classic Restorations shop in Emory, Texas, built for Jody as a driver. For his next Camaro, Jody wanted to raise the bar with it.
That started with an unfinished ’69 Camaro. “It was a project that had been going on for at least three or four years,” says Jody, “and it never did get off the ground.” It had an Art Morrison MaxG chassis under it, but very little else. “Someone stuck the frame under it, and did some of the floorpans,” Alan recalls. “They made a custom console and dash, but they were so hideous that we cut it all out and started over.”
There was plenty to do before the Medium Quasar Blue, a ’95 Chevy C/K pickup color, would grace this Camaro. “There isn’t a panel on that car that hasn’t been changed somewhat,” says Alan. “We shaved the driprails, but we added a feature line to them.” He notes that that feature line gets wider going down the rear roof pillar, which he got from a same-vintage American Motors AMX that was in his shop at the time.
That two-seater also inspired the hood. “We cut the center out of a ram-air hood off a ’70 AMX, and turned it backwards,” says Alan, who adds that Greening Auto in Tennessee made the louvers.
In front, Alan fashioned a grille surround and a split front bumper similar to what the early second-gen Rally Sports wore. In back, he reworked the quarters, taillight panel, and rear valance to accept a stock ’70 Camaro rear bumper, and make it look like it was Chevrolet Styling’s idea all along.
Underneath went a powertrain beyond the dreams of Chevy engineers back then, starting with a modern-tech engine. “It’s a tall-deck LSX, that Late Model Performance out of Houston built,” notes Alan. “It’s a 469-cubic-inch engine that’s probably somewhere around 850 horsepower,” thanks in no small part to its World Products aluminum heads and FAST fuel-injection system with a 102mm throttle body. Backing it is a GM 4L80E overdrive automatic with a 9-inch rearend (with a Strange Engineering centersection) that came with the Art Morrison chassis.
The cabin received plenty of multi-generation style, too. “The console at the front is all ’70,” adds Alan. “We started with a ’67 dash that we took out of another car, but the top part of it—and the center console—is all hand-made.”
When painting time arrived, on went the Medium Quasar Blue color, in BASF Diamont basecoat/clearcoat form. As many projects go, the final assembly was hectic but Alan and Jody had a deadline: to get it ready for its debut at the Detroit Autorama. “As the deadline approached, we all worked long hours to get the car done in time,” remembers Jody. “We finally finished it at 2 a.m. on the morning that we had to leave for Detroit.” He adds, “It was too close, but we made it.”
Once at Detroit’s Cobo Center, they unloaded the “transition” Camaro for its first-ever showing. “We had done it with another car the year before, so we kind of knew what was going on,” says Alan. “We learned a lot of things that we did differently with this car.”
Their work paid off as the “Transition” Camaro scored big, winning Best Street Machine, as well as First Place in the Autorama’s Pro Touring 1955-Current class, and Outstanding Individual Display honors. It’s so perfectly crafted that the Super Chevy Show judges placed it in the invitation-only Gold Class, the highest honor available in our series.
What’s it like to drive? “It’s perfect on the hardtop [roads],” says Jody. “ It drives like it’s on a rail. It’s just perfect. It doesn’t sway, and it drives nice and straight all the time.”
And it’s one whose styling upgrades are so subtle that many people never notice them. “If you really didn’t know Camaros, you’d walk right by it and think that it was stock,” says Alan. “Some people actually do—they’ll walk by and go, ‘Oh, that’s a Camaro,’ and they wouldn’t have any clues as to what was up with it.”
But they’d know if it was one built by Chevrolet in the summer and fall of 1969, if a “bridge” between the first- and second-generation F-bodies was built, and if they’d seen one that looked like Jody’s Camaro way back when.