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Efrain Diaz’s 1969 Camaro Ditched Restoration in Favor of Race-Day Supremacy

Efrain Diaz’s ’69 Camaro Ditched Restoration in Favor of Race-Day Supremacy

Evan Perkins Mar 11, 2019
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Once every year Super Chevy hosts a put-up-or-shut-up style suspension challenge and invites suspension manufacturers to show the world what they’ve got. It’s an all-inclusive shootout that tests suspensions of all styles, cost tiers, and ideologies and puts them to work in the road course, slalom and 100-yard dash. Last years’event, the 2018 Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge presented by Falken Tires, took place in Sunny Fontana CA and had great turnout of awesome manufacturers ready to go to toe-to-to, tire-to pavement, and pedal-to-metal to prove they are just as hardcore as their customers.

007 1969 Camaro TCI Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge 2018 Diaz 2/42

The Driver

Efrain Diaz is no stranger in Pro Touring circles. He’s been racing for some time and is a fierce competitor in local autocrosses, SCCA events, and Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge events, where he just took home a win in the GTV class at the Invitational event in Las Vegas.

“I’ve always had a knack for building things, said Diaz. “I was the kid who took stuff apart just to see how it worked. I cut my teeth learning how to drive on go-kart track, and I was a mechanic in the army.” His knack for mechanical wizardry is evident in the fit, finish, and performance of his Total Cost Involved (TCI) backed entry, which was blisteringly fast.

023 1969 Camaro TCI Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge 2018 Diaz 3/42

The Car

Diaz bought the Camaro at the Pomona Swap Meet 16 years ago and he described the condition laughingly as “a big, old, rolling turd.” The car was an original RS car but its condition was extremely rough.

While his original plan was to restore it, plans did what plans often do and took a 180-degree turn. Actually, according to Diaz, the whole change between restoration and complete Pro Touring machine build can be solely blamed on racer, Mary Pozzi.

“I went to a Goodguys event in Costa Mesa and saw Mary running her Camaro there and thought this could be a more fun path than restoring the car and having it sit in the garage and do nothing,” said Diaz. “I wanted to find a way to make it perform.”

That road to performance wasn’t clearly defined and Diaz tried many iterations of parts and suspension systems in route to the car’s current setup.

“I did a lot of intermediate stuff trying to make the car drive better,” said Diaz” “Then I got bit pretty hard when I went to the Run to the Coast event where I saw some guys with high horsepower cars doing some really amazing things with classics.”

Basic upgrade parts evolved into more adjustable components and eventually the stock subframe was yanked in favor of a stiffer, fabricated piece. A modified LS7 engine, refreshed by EVOD garage, became part of the mix, as well as Tremec Magnum transmission, Currie full-floater rear end with Strange center section, Wilwood brakes, and other high-strung hardware. Eventually, Diaz decided to take the car on step further, removing the Frankenstein mix of suspension components accrued during years of driving and racing and turning to TCI for a unifying package.

020 1969 Camaro TCI Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge 2018 Diaz 4/42

The Suspension

Under the car’s four corners is now a quartet of Total Cost Involved (TCI) components consisting of their Pro Touring IFS in the front and Torque Arm rear suspension. “The front is roughly 10 years in the making,” said Jason Wilcox of TCI.  “It uses our custom spindle which is a really neat setup where the four bolt holes are asymmetrical and you can set caster in your garage by setting an angle finder on the steering arm.”

The design of the front suspension was highly developed and tested before landing at this iteration. “King pin inclination, camber gain, it’s all custom and it works really well,” adds Wilcox. “It’s about 120 pounds lighter than a factory crossmember.”

In the rear, the Camaro was treated to a modern, TCI torque arm suspension design. “It starts with what we call a telescoping slider which allows the suspension to not only articulate up-and-down and side-to-side, but keep it from binding while it does so,” said Wilcox. “From there it is connected to the rear housing with some adjustable pinion bars, a Panhard bar so you can adjust roll stiffness, and two lower link bars that use about the same mount point as the leaf springs.

The shocks are kept wide, closer to the axle ends to increase roll stiffness, and upgraded RideTech R joints allow superior articulation without binding.

Torque arm suspensions have been around since the late ‘90s, having been used in fourth-gen Camaros and Firebirds, however, the technology has been perfected and adapted to muscle car applications. “What the torque arm can do between anti-squat and how it plants the tire mid-corner is amazing,” said Wilcox. “It can deliver so much grip you can actually power on mid-corner. Mediocre drivers look good and good drivers look that much better!

Judging by Diaz’s performance at the event, we would have to say he falls squarely in the latter category.

Team TCI 1969 Camaro

What Makes It Handle
Engine:
Type: Aluminum, LS7 built by EVOD Garage in Escondido, CA
Components: COMP Cams, short travel lifters, Harland Sharp rockers, 102mm throttle body, MSD Atomic intake, factory dry sump and titanium rods, ARP hardware.
Power (at the wheels): 600hp+
Drivetrain:
Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum with Centerforce DYAD clutch
 
Rearend: Currie fabricated housing with full-floater ends, Strange center section, 3.89 gears and Eaton TrueTrac
Chassis/Suspension:
Chassis: Factory unibody, with TCI front subframe
Front Suspension: TCI Pro Touring IFS
Spindles: TCI
Shocks: JRi tuned by JJ at Ultimate Performance.
Sway Bar: TCI
Brakes: Wilwood Aerolite 14in brakes with 6-piston calipers,
Rear Suspension: TCI Torque Arm
Shocks: JRi tuned by JJ at Ultimate Performance.
Sway Bar: TCI
Brakes: Wilwood 12.5 in brakes with 4-piston calipers
Wheels and Tires:
Wheels: American Racing
Tires: Falken Azenis RT615K+ 315/30ZR18 front, 315/30ZR18 rear
Cost of Chassis/Suspension: $8,749 retail for TCI front and rear suspension excluding brakes.  
Weight (pounds):
Total Without Driver: 3,379
LF: 875 RF: 904 LR: 789 RR: 812
Percentage
F: 52.6% R: 47.4 %
 
How’d It Stack Up?
  Slalom Average Speed 420-ft 100 Yard Dash TCI Road Course Lap Time
TCI 1969 Camaro 49 mph 4.73 Seconds 1.14.17
2017 Camaro SS 44 mph 5.08 Seconds 1.20.30
Efrain Diaz is no slouch behind the wheel. Connect that wheel to good hardware and he’s quick to ride to the top. With sticky Falken Azenis R615k+ tires, TCI suspension underneath, and 600+ horsepower driving it all forward, the 1969 Camaro was a demon around the road course, blasted through the 100 yard dash and shimmied through the slalom, blowing away the baseline late-model Camaro and earning it a second place finish overall.

Photos by Robert McGaffin, Nick Licata, Taylor Kempkes, and Steven Rupp

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