Not all restomods are created equal, not by a long shot. The exceptional 1969 Camaro seen here took things to a whole new level—yet without going over the top.
When Steve Priddle first came across the car it had been modified a bit but still looked basic. The previous owner had installed a later-model drivetrain: a 435hp Edelbrock 350 crate engine. Even so, after Steve acquired the car at the Goodguys show in Pleasanton, California, and brought it home he soon realized “it drove like a wore-out ’69.”
Not one to be easily deterred, since he had previously built a ’67 Camaro with his son Chad, he figured he could ratchet up this half-baked project. But he didn’t just jump in with both feet and start throwing parts and money at it. He did his homework, analyzing other cars and thousands of photos on the Web to find the right balance of upgrades. It was really important to tie the whole car together in just the right way.
“Finish comes into play. Not too much shiny, not too much machined, hopefully a nice blend,” he explains. “I did not want show car bling to it—just business front to rear.”
Initially he thought he’d handle the build himself, but after a couple of years went by he knew that wasn’t going to happen, as he had too much on his hands running an insurance agency with his wife, Sharon. Sharon readily agreed when he said he was going to have it done professionally instead. Enter Jason Walroth of Gearhead Garage in Sacramento, California.
“It definitely had potential,” he relates. “It was pretty straight but needed to be upgraded. It was entry level, with too-small headers and brakes, and the rear sway bar was not hooked up right.”
Jason made several recommendations so the Camaro would stop and steer as it should, and then determine Steve’s wants and needs.
Fortunately, all the diligent research Steve had done helped Jason to see what he wanted the car to become. Initially, Steve asked him to install a better suspension and a custom interior, because Sharon wanted it to be comfortable for her as well (“Happy wife, happy life,” as they say).
Gearhead had Shawn Katt add some visual impact to the interior, fitted with a Momo wheel, leather upholstery, a custom shifter boot with Lokar billet trim plate for the TREMEC SST Perfect Fit shifter, and AutoMeter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite gauges. Jason also redid the wiring, installed an audio system, and updated the HVAC with a Gen IV unit from Vintage Air.
As for the exterior, the charcoal stripe laid over the Daytona Yellow body was inspired by a Boyd Coddington Mustang that Steve saw go across the auction block in Scottsdale. He couldn’t get it out of his head so he had Full Talent Auto Restoration first rework the sheetmetal, aligning the front panels, along with some careful cutting and welding to achieve precise gapping. The project began to snowball.
“The stance always comes into play,” Steve points out. “Getting the car’s stance to look right was one of those things that kept eating at me.”
Steve realized that for a true muscle car look he’d have to mini-tub the rear end with a Detroit Speed unit to get 20x12 rims to fit. Which then led Gearhead to fit in a Chassisworks g-Link suspension and narrowed rearend (by 6 inches) to achieve the desired look. Along with those components are Viking front and VariShock rear coilovers and Wilwood four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors.
For brightwork, Steve added LED headlights with integral turn signals, plus Ringbrothers trim rings, door handles, hood hinges, and clutch reservoir.
A week after Steve got his car back, and relishing how much better it drove, Jason received a call. “There’s just one problem,” Steve told him (and Jason thinking “uh oh” to himself). “We need to go ahead with the LS engine.”
Initially, Steve hadn’t agreed to all of Jason’s recommendations so he ended up making some changes after the fact—all of which is more of a challenge on a painted car.
Once the old engine was removed, Steve also had Gearhead add a new front clip with a Speedtech Performance Pro Touring subframe. One advantage of the latter item is that it accepts an LS engine, which was the next phase of the yearlong buildup. In went a 525hp LS3 and a TREMEC TKO 600 five-speed trans.
But it would not be just a simple swap. After Gearhead reworked the engine bay and smoothed the firewall, “the goal was to get the ugly out of the LS.”
To get that done, Gearhead installed a Granatelli intake manifold with customized coil covers provided by Top Street Performance. The engine was transformed from an industrial-looking factory mill into a custom powerplant with eye-popping appeal.
“It’s a modern classic,” Jason sums up. “Reminiscent of a beefy big-block. The blacked-out engine bay frames it so your eye goes right to it.” In addition, a modern carbon-fiber closeout panel from Anvil sits forward of the Paul Davis aluminum radiator.
Once done, the overall effect was startling. A popular ponycar taken to its logical extreme, yet still in good taste. And to a level of handling and performance that exceeds even brand-new street machines. All told, it’s a personal best.
|Owner||Steve Priddle, Roseville, California|
|Cylinder Heads||OE aluminum, 2.165/1.590 valves, L92-style port with 68.4cc combustion chambers, 260cc rectangular intake ports|
|Rotating Assembly||OE, nodular iron crankshaft, powdered metal rods, hypereutectic aluminum pistons|
|Valvetrain||OE 1.7:1 investment-cast, roller trunnion rocker arms, OE pushrods, OE lifters|
|Camshaft||OE hydraulic roller (226/236-deg. duration at 0.050; 0.525/0.525-inch lift)|
|Induction||Granatelli intake, K&N conical air filter, Rick’s Tanks fuel tank (stainless)|
|Ignition||OE, machined TSP coil covers|
|Exhaust||Hedman Hedders 1 7/8-inch shorty headers with Flowmaster 50-series 2 1/2-inch mufflers|
|Ancillaries||American Autowire wiring kit|
|Built By||Gearhead Garage|
|Transmission||TREMEC TKO 600 with Ram LS billet steel flywheel, Sachs 11-inch hydraulic performance clutch set|
|Rear Axle||OE 10-bolt (narrowed 6 inches), 3.73:1 gears, posi, upgraded axles, Moser aluminum diff cover with adjustable girdle support|
|Front Suspension||Speedtech Performance Pro Touring subframe with tubular A-arms, Viking coilovers, Hotchkis subframe connectors, splined sway bar|
|Rear Suspension||Chassisworks g-Link suspension with VariShock coilovers|
|Brakes||Wilwood 12.19-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, front; 12.19-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, rear; Wilwood master cylinder and proportioning valve; Hydroboost|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels||Billet Specialties Pro Touring Grand Sport 18x8 front (4 7/8-inch backspacing), 20x12 rear (5 1/2-inch backspacing)|
|Tires||Michelin Pilot Super Sport 245/40 front, 335/30 rear|
|Upholstery||Shawn Katt for Gearhead Garage|
|Shifter||TREMEC SST Perfect Fit shifter with Lokar trim ring|
|Dash||Detroit Speed Inc. metal dash with custom fiberglass center console|
|Instrumentation||AutoMeter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite gauges|
|Audio||Pioneer AVH-X5800BHS head unit with ARC speakers and subwoofer, mounted in custom package tray|
|HVAC||Vintage Air Gen IV|
|Bodywork||Full Talent Auto Restoration (Woodland, CA)|
|Paint By||Full Talent Auto Restoration|
|Paint||Daytona Yellow with charcoal metallic gray stripe|
|Hood||OE cowl induction|
Photography by Steve Temple