The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro is an icon in the hot-rodding world. Before the Fox-chassis Mustang ever existed, the ’69 was the car that every speed demon lusted after. From drag racers to road racers, everyone had a story about a ’69, and those who were financially able often rescued one of these cars and turned it into something special.
The body lines of the ’69 have been revered for decades as one of the cleanest examples of automotive styling in the ponycar world. So for an enthusiast to commission a build using the ’69 platform—then work with the builder to completely alter those iconic creases to his own liking could have been a recipe for disaster. In this particular case, owner Jon Darbyshire worked with the talented craftsmen at Vintage Fabrication to develop his vision of the ’69 Camaro. Darbyshire came across another Camaro built by Vintage Fabrication at his local World of Wheels show and was intrigued by the possibility of what could be.
“I have always been a Mustang guy, but seeing the unique level of fabrication on that car really caught my attention. In our initial discussions it was my desire to build a one-of-a-kind custom Camaro unlike anything I had seen before. I wanted the overall presence of the car to scream power when you looked at it. At the same time I wanted to bring together the best of the old and new Camaro into a real work of art,” he says.
Darbyshire had a very clear vision of how he felt the project should progress. Not only did he want to build a handcrafted car to showcase some of the newer technology available for Chevy fans, he wanted to work with the builder to bring his concept to life.
“I wanted the opportunity to discuss every aspect of the car with a world-class fabricator who could guide me, but not just build what he wanted,” says Darbyshire. “I give all the credit to Bob Schumacher and his team at Vintage Fabrication for really listening to what I wanted, and then building something that exceeded my expectations.”
Over the course of a year and a half, Schumacher and his team worked hand-in-hand with Darbyshire to develop the lines of the Camaro and then bring them to life. The car is still recognizable as a Camaro, and at first glance, you realize it’s different, but not obnoxiously so. “I could not be happier with the design, style, and fabrication of the car. This is truly a handcrafted car and not something that was just assembled with new parts. There are hundreds of handcrafted parts on this car, and not a single inch of plastic or fiberglass on the body,” he says.
The list of body modifications on the spec sheet is nearly as long as the list of other components on the vehicle, and for good reason. Each of the Camaro’s body lines have been peaked and sharpened, and the car has been outfitted with aluminum inner fenders for weight reduction. The nose has been designed with the appearance of a 2013 Camaro, with the nose peaked 2 inches. The windshield has been lowered 1.25 inches, while the rear glass has been raised 1.25 inches in its framework. Both the front and rear glass have been flush-mounted to provide a sleek look.
The rocker panels have been extended 3 inches not only to solidify the lines on the side of the car but also to give it a lower appearance, and the quarter-panels were raised 1.75 inches. The taillight panel has been enlarged by 1.75 inches, making the sequential taillights 20 percent larger. These were inspired by Lamborghini taillights with the sequential yellow arrows, and are crafted with billet housings machined by John Parman at Excessive Engineering. The taillights sit underneath a NASCAR-inspired rear spoiler. A custom rear roll pan combines with a diffuser and 1971 ’Cuda bumper to complete the ’69 Camaro-but-not visual display. At the front of the car, a Vintage Fabrication custom billet grille helps to complete the ’13 Camaro appearance, while the front bumper’s ’13 look is enhanced through a set of hand-built headlights.
Vintage Fabrication stiffened the floorpan with a set of custom through-floor frame connectors that attach through the seat mounting positions, and they also installed a set of Detroit Speed mini-tubs to provide clearance for the massive rear rollers. B-Forged 530 RL wheels measuring 18x8 in the front and 20x10 in the rear wear 225/40/18 and 295/40/20 Michelin Pilot rubber. Aron Carrender at Carrender Collision smoothed every surface like glass before applying a custom-blended DuPont orange hue to the car’s panels.
In the interest of blending old and new, as well as providing the Camaro with heaps of power and solid driveability, Darbyshire and Schumacher started with a Chevrolet Performance LS9 Connect & Cruise crate engine and 4L80E transmission package. The 427-cube engine has been outfitted with a 6-quart Holley oil pan, Edelbrock water pump, and AutoRad 3-inch-core aluminum radiator. The Dynacorn hood has been modified to give the viewer the same type of glimpse into the engine bay provided by the ZR1. In fact, the hood window was picked right from the ZR1 parts bin and helps to show off the LS9’s supercharger. Excessive Engineering also created the billet engine cover.
Behind the engine, the transmission was beefed up by Bowler Performance Transmission with a Coan torque converter to handle the estimated 730 horsepower and 670 lb-ft of torque in its current configuration. Detroit Speed headers and a Vintage Fabrication stainless 3-inch exhaust system vent the fumes—and enhance the sound—through a set of Borla mufflers and exit with dual tips on each side. The power passes through a custom driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline and runs through a 3.73:1-geared Strange Engineering centersection mounted within a Pro-G independent rear suspension system from Heidts. The suspension consists of Detroit Speed spindles and A-arms up front, along with JRi double-adjustable shocks at all four corners; 14-inch Wilwood rotors and six-piston stoppers are mounted to the spindles while 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers are mounted at the rear to provide whoa power.
The modifications didn’t stop inside the car; the interior, designed by Larry Erickson and executed by Vintage Fabrication, is highlighted by a set of hot rod seats from Tea’s Design covered in black Ultraleather complete with orange accents. The door panels have also been covered in black Ultraleather; with black carpet to complete the dark appearance. Dakota Digital VHX gauges reside in a hand-built aluminum dash created by Erickson, with his handiwork further evident in the design and construction of the custom console. Everywhere you look, there’s something to see that’s not original to the seminal ’69 Camaro design—and that’s OK. It could be argued that there isn’t much ’69 Camaro left to see, but Jon Darbyshire had his own vision, executed to perfection by the Vintage Fabrication team.
“There is not one single aspect of the car that I like the most, and that was the goal of the design. I wanted the style of the car to flow together, and not just feel like one or two features or performance parts were added. Every part of the body has been handcrafted. The team at Vintage Fabrication are more than just talented fabricators, they are true artists. It has been a pleasure working with them on this build,” sums up Darbyshire.