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Unexpected downtime led this hot rodder to build his killer 1969 Pro Touring Camaro

Idle Hands

Tony Whatley Apr 2, 2018
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They say that nothing good comes from boredom. Take, for example, the biblical proverb “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” which suggests that Satan will find things for you to do if you don’t stay busy. Rather than take my chances with the horn-headed one, this ’69 Camaro SS is how I decided to stay busy.

In December 2015, I found myself unemployed as a result of a downturn in the oil industry. The first few weeks I was off, I was feeling a lot of stress as I had not been unemployed for almost 30 years. I was spending several hours per day looking on job sites, reaching out to contacts, and applying for dozens of jobs. I could tell this stress was ruining my mindset, and the time spent looking for work seemed largely unproductive.

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By late January 2016, I decided that I needed to be more productive with my time off. I needed something that would provide small accomplishments each day, which would help improve my mindset. Just prior to being laid off, I had received my freshly painted Camaro from the body shop. I also had a huge pile of boxes full of car parts sitting next to it. So I got to work!

This convertible SS was a completely hollow shell, laid out in a beautiful shade of the car’s original code-72 Hugger Orange. GAP Racing in Houston had completed the sheetmetal and floor replacements, and installed Detroit Speed subframe connectors and mini-tubs. GAP also notched the framerails and pulled the fresh quarter-panels outward by a half-inch per side to tuck the ultra-wide tires underneath. RF Customs in Spring, Texas, completed the final bodywork and paint. With the most time-consuming phase of the project completed, it was a perfect time to put all the pieces back together.

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Rather than go full modern appearing like many recent Pro Touring builds, I wanted the car to retain the classic appearance yet have all the modern amenities. To add a touch of modern visuals, all of the normally chromed accents were powdercoated hyper silver or brushed. This includes each of the emblems, side markers, hood vents, rear bumper, and all the stainless trim. The outer lips of the wheels were also powdercoated hyper silver to tie the theme together. Miscellaneous body panel seams were also filled and smoothed to give the car a sleeker appearance. This same classic appearance theme carried over into the interior. Traditional houndstooth inserts on the seats and custom-designed SpeedHut gauges within a DSE dash insert offer a ’60’s throwback feel. But the car has navigation, Bluetooth, Vintage Air A/C, and even a couple of USB charging ports.

A car is only as good as its foundation. This meant all-new Speedtech Performance suspension found its way underneath. Up front, tubular upper and lower A-arms were combined with forged aluminum ATS tall spindles. The rear suspension is their unique torque arm system. To accommodate the ultra-deep-lipped wheels, we installed a narrowed (by 4 inches) Moser 12-bolt axlehousing. QA1 adjustable coilover shocks suspend all four corners. Halting potential is provided by a set of Wilwood 14-inch rotors, with six-piston calipers front and four-piston calipers rear. Wheels and stance are the two most critical visual aspects of any vehicle. Now that we had the proper stance, the wheel choice became a set of three-piece Forgeline GZ3 wheels, measuring 18x8 front and 19x12 rear. The rubber consists of Toyo R888 tires, 245mm wide front and a whopping 345mm wide out back.

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My goal for the engine design was to go fully modern. I wanted this engine to look completely out of place within the classically styled ’69 Camaro. The centerpiece is the intake manifold built by John Beck. It has CNC billet runners in a cross-ram configuration underneath, topped with a sheetmetal plenum. John, who has since passed away, was truly a master at his craft. This intake sits on top of a custom-built 427ci LS7, which was machined and assembled by Texas Speed & Performance. The engine has a custom-grind Comp cam, CNC-ported Mast Motorsports LS7 cylinder heads, Compstar rotating assembly, and a Wegner serpentine system. Exhaust is expelled from the cylinders via a set of 1 7/8-inch Hooker long-tube headers that feed into a custom-fabricated exhaust system with MagnaFlow mufflers. Engine management chores are handled by FAST’s self-tuning EZ-EFI system, with EZ-LS timing controls. The engine is backed up with a built TREMEC T-56 six-speed manual transmission and Ram billet dual-disc clutch system. The build puts down approximately 650 hp, enough to propel the car down the quarter-mile to an 11.5 at 125 mph, with a soft launch.

While building the car I worked about 12 hours per day for a period of four months. I documented the entire build on Instagram (@365driven), Facebook, and on Pro-Touring.com. I greatly appreciate the encouragement of my online pals,and the wrenching by my local friends that offered a hand when needed. My goal was to have the car completed for Hot Rod Power Tour in June 2016. I finished the car at 3 a.m. the day we were to leave for Power Tour. The very first time I ever drove the car happened to be the 4.5-hour trip from Houston to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Once I arrived at the event, the Camaro was featured in the Comp Cams booth. It has since completed the Power Tour Long Haul and still gets driven to numerous events. Now I’m looking forward to my next road trip!

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Photos by Larry Chavarria


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