There are restomod Camaros, and then there’s this. There are Pro Touring Camaros, and then there’s this. There are widebody Camaros, and then there’s this. It’s not too often we run across a Camaro that carves a path all its own—especially when it comes to 1969 Camaros—but this one certainly does. The car you see pictured here is Josh Hodges’ ’69 Chevrolet Camaro built by Born Vintage of Bakersfield, California.
The goal of the build was, according to Kamaka Pocock of Born Vintage, “to produce a Camaro that was radical yet subtle and tasteful.” Not to downplay the first part of that goal, but “radical” is relatively easy these days. With the rise of the Internet, it’s become harder and harder to stand out because it’s easy enough to throw on a bunch of crazy aero and a bright paintjob. Building a car that’ll make people look twice without the flashy “look at me!” modifications, now that’s the real challenge and that’s exactly what Born Vintage was going for.
Their starting point was a pretty good, mostly rust-free ’69 Camaro that had been sitting at another local shop for quite a few years before its owner decided it was time to let it go. That’s when Josh came in and bought the car, which immediately went over to Born Vintage for the renovation to begin.
Being that they were relatively local to our office in Southern California, we hopped up I-5 to Bakersfield and checked in on the build midway through. At the time, much of the heavy fabrication was done and the car sat in bare sheetmetal ready for paint. So we know firsthand that the guys at Born Vintage (formerly HED Industries) didn’t take the easy route when creating this beastly machine. Some might have used fiberglass or stuck-on fender flares to achieve a widebody look, but they kept it all legit to show off their metal-fabbing abilities. Furthermore, they didn’t go easy on the custom body modifications, they went all out with 2 1/2 inches added to each side of the car making it a total of 5 inches wider overall than a stock ’69 Camaro. They also brought the whole suspension and chassis up into the body 2 1/2 inches, giving the car a static stance that you just can’t replicate with simple lowering springs and drop spindles.
Kamaka admits that while actually executing the custom fab work was time-consuming and had its challenges, the real challenge was the game plan. As he rhetorically asked, “What do you do to a ’69 Camaro to set it apart from the rest?” That’s what made their goal of a standout ’69 Camaro so difficult and that’s why they touched practically every inch of Josh’s car. “All of the custom metalwork from the body drop to the widebody, scratch-built bumpers, hood, rollcage, headers, exhaust and so much more we did to try and separate our Camaro from the rest.”
So instead of asking, “What did they do to set it apart?” the more appropriate question might be “What didn’t they do?”
On top of the body drop and widening, Born Vintage also fabricated a custom front bumper and splitter along with a one-off grille. The hood, too, was completely custom and includes a large center vent to evacuate hot air from the engine bay. Out back are more custom touches, including a diffuser and a flush-mounted rear bumper with the exhaust tips hiding behind mesh vents that match the front grille. Then, when all the metalwork was completed, the car was sent over to TL’s Rods & Resto in Bakersfield, California, for paint. TL’s sprayed the car in a pure white from Axalta to keep the subtle and tasteful vibe going.
The guys at Born Vintage didn’t stop at the fancy metalwork either. Underneath the Camaro, they basically pulled out all of the stock components and built in a custom framing structure with crossmembers to support suspension systems from Detroit Speed Inc. Up front is a complete Detroit Speed subframe with JRi coilovers—a solid setup but nothing as trick as what they did out back. In the rear, they fabricated new framerails that were much narrower than stock to accept some seriously meaty wheels and tires. It gets even more interesting because instead of just bolting in the Detroit Speed QUADRALink like most would, the guys at Born Vintage made a choice modification, namely converting it to a 1:1 ratio cantilever setup. That meant the JRi coilovers were then mounted in the trunk. Because, why not?
The wheel and tire combo they went for were a set of staggered Forgeline CV3C wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires to match. The front rollers are 18x9.5s with 275/35R18 tires while the rears are 19x12s paired with 345/35R19s. Behind the Forgelines are Wilwood disc brakes with 14-inch rotors at all four corners.
The rear 345-section tires might seem a bit overkill, but they planned on making some serious power so those big, sticky Michelins were a necessity if Josh was ever going to get his Camaro to hook. They started off with a nice and stock LS7 powerplant but it was never going to stay that way. The block went over to ERL Performance for some machining. There, the cubic inches were taken up a notch from 427 to 441 and then passed along to Jim Voyles of CalSpeed & Performance in Bakersfield, California, for the rest. “The rest” entailed putting everything back together and bolting on a Magnuson Heartbeat supercharger paired with a Wagner front drive. When the engine came back to Born Vintage, they made a set of custom stainless headers that dump into a 3-inch custom exhaust system and out a pair of MagnaFlow mufflers. Finally, an AutoRad radiator keeps the LS7 cool while a Vintage Air A/C unit chills the occupants. When it was all said and done, this combo produced 730 hp and 750 lb-ft of torque.
Sending the power toward the rear is a TREMEC T-56 Magnum six-speed transmission assembled by Born Vintage. A McLeod clutch was used to make sure all that supercharged power made it to the gearbox reliably. Continuing rearward, Born Vintage put together a Ford 9-inch rearend that could handle all the torque and grip that would be thrown at it.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s not one inch of this Camaro Born Vintage wasn’t going to go all-out on, including the interior. Ron Mangus Hot Rod Interiors of Rialto, California, were tasked with putting together a highly unique experience inside the ’69, and that they did. Brown and black leather cover most of the cabin, such as the Procar by Scat seats, the custom door panels, and even the center console and underside of the dash. The top of the dash is another standout custom piece that flows around the interior, across the tops of the doors, and back to the rear package tray. Dakota Digital VHX-1100 gauges and a Budnik Chicane steering wheel, along with a Bowler shifter, tie together the custom and sophisticated look. A custom rollcage built by Born Vintage blends seamlessly into the background so as to not pull your attention away from the rest of the interior.
So when Kamaka asked, “What do you do to a ’69 Camaro to set it apart?” the answer was all of what you just read. Regardless of whether you think this is the baddest Camaro you’ve ever seen or sacrilegious because it’s so far departed from original, you have to admit Born Vintage most certainly delivered on creating one radical 1969 Camaro.
Photos by Robert McGaffin