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Garage-Built 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Street Machine

Reincarnation: The story of a rusted-out first-gen Camaro turned showstopping street machine

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The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro is one of the most iconic and drooled-after muscle cars—and has been for years—so when given the chance to purchase two first-gen Camaros for $3,000, wouldn’t you take it? As fate decided, the person fortunate enough to find this deal was Jimmy Stark of Blue Springs, Missouri.

Jimmy was in the middle of a couple of other projects he was building, a 1970 Nova and 1967 Chevelle for his son and daughter, when he noticed the pair of Camaros sitting out back of his painter’s shop in Kansas City, Kansas. They were undeniably rough with more rust than any tetanus shot could keep you safe from and were missing the front subframes, rearends, engines, transmissions, and glass. Jimmy almost passed on the cars but before the day was over he ended up with two more project cars for the low, low price of $3,000.

1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Driving 2/30
1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Front Quarter 3/30

Rather than trying to bring two Camaros back from the dead at once, Jimmy started with one. Like his last two cars, he built this ’69 in his own garage, only outsourcing for paint and interior. The obvious starting place was fixing the rust, so Jimmy got to work replacing quarter-panels and patching up any gaping holes left by Mother Nature over the past few decades. He then had it sprayed in custom-mixed House of Kolor paint with pewter on the top half and orange on the bottom, both using a generous dose of pearl additive.

Next up, it was time for suspension. As the car was completely missing the front subframe and rearend, Jimmy at least had a clean slate to start with. In the front, he went with a Chris Alston’s Chassisworks front subframe and a Detroit Speed Engineering rear four-link with Koni coilovers at all four corners. In the midst of the Detroit Speed four-link lives a Moser 12-bolt with a 3.73:1 rear gear and limited-slip differential. To take care of the braking responsibilities, Jimmy installed Wilwood four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors all around assisted by a Hydratech Hydroboost brake master cylinder.

1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Grille 4/30
1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Side 5/30
1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Rear 6/30

With all the handling capabilities Jimmy built into his Camaro so far, he needed an engine and transmission to match, and he wasn’t about to go easy on the power. He decided on an LS7 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance. But that was just the starting point. He added a little forced induction in the form of a Magnuson roots-style supercharger. This mean combination of 427 cubic inches and a supercharger meant Jimmy’s ’69 Camaro was now packing 687 rear-wheel horsepower. To handle all that power, he backed the LS7 with a Richmond Super Street five-speed transmission and a beefed-up clutch.

1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Engine Bay 7/30
1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Engine Side 8/30
1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Engine Detail 9/30

The LS7 was dressed up a bit thanks to a Street & Performance front runner in addition to bracketry that hides the coil packs. Jimmy also used Edelbrock valve covers and an aluminum radiator from AutoRad. Doug’s Headers feed into a 3-inch exhaust system with an X-pipe and dual Cherry Bomb mufflers.

Jimmy’s first-gen was shaping up to be quite the driver, but it wouldn’t be anything without a good set of wheels and tires. He decided Billet Specialties were the way to go so he ordered a set of their Velocity wheels in 18x8 for the front and 18x12 for the back. Jimmy wrapped his new wheels in Nitto rubber with 245/40ZR18 NT555 Extremes in the front and 335/30ZR18 NT555R Extreme Drags in the back to help get all 687 horses to the ground.

1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Interior 10/30
1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Steering Wheel 11/30

As if the rest of the car didn’t stand out enough, Jimmy had the guys at Vintage Fabrication go all out on the interior. They used TEA’s Seats for the front of the Camaro and fabricated a custom seat for the rear and wrapped everything in Chamois ultraleather. Custom door panels were added to tie together the rest of the interior. A Billet Specialties steering wheel is mounted to the Flaming River column behind which lives Auto Meter gauges in a Detroit Speed metal dash. Between the front seats is a custom center console built by Vintage Fabrication. The modern stereo head unit is hidden in the trunk but controlled by the repurposed stock radio and powered by two Pioneer amps that push sound through Pioneer speakers. Finally, a Polar shifter is connected to the five-speed transmission to give Jimmy’s Camaro that classic muscle car feel.

1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Seats 12/30
1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Interior Rear 13/30

In retrospect, it’s easy enough to look at everything that goes into a build this detailed and only see a parts list—what we generally don’t see is the immense amount of time that goes into it. Jimmy spent the better part of six years turning a pile-of-junk Camaro into his dream ride. After all the blood, sweat, and tears had been shed, the end result was exactly what he wanted. It’s got the looks, the style, and most importantly, the performance. “It’s the fastest car I’ve ever been in,” exclaims Jimmy, “It’s just fun, period.” Now every summer he gets to enjoy the car by cruising the boulevard and wowing the crowds in a stunning 1969 Camaro that he is proud to have built.

Photography by Grant Cox

1969 Camaro Magnuson Blown Ls Orange Pro Touring Rear Quarter 14/30

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