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The Aluminator

An all-aluminum supercharged 540-inch big-block is the crowning jewel of Stuart Adams' '69 Camaro

By Tony Huntimer, Photography by Johnny Hunkins

When the average guy purchases a completed car, the last item on the agenda is to disassemble the car and make even more modifications. However, Stuart Adams isn't your average hot rodder, he's a highly skilled optometrist who had a "vision" for his next Camaro. When he found this '69 Camaro wearing Daytona Yellow and black, it lacked some of the equipment he wanted. His vision included mini-tubs, but didn't let that stop him. The deal was struck.

To help build a picture of the revisions made to this Camaro, we have to take a ride back in time. Just a few years ago, this '69 Camaro was a ZL-1 clone. It was built with all the correct factory parts, including the most distinguishing option, the all-aluminum 427-inch GM big-block engine. The car was a collector's dream car. Jody Bernard purchased the clone with visions of bolting on a few parts so the car would be more fun to drive without cutting it up. Since the body, paint, and everything else was flawless, the car turned into a street car most would be afraid to drive. He installed a bunch of g-Machine equipment, including Baer brakes on all four corners, 17-inch wheels and tires, and fuel injection.

In normal hot rodding fashion, Jody wasn't happy with that combination for long. He wanted the car to perform much better around corners and in a straight line. The front suspension and powerplant had to be revised. Jody came across a sweet deal on a Wayne Due front clip (Wayne is known for bolt-in Camaro and Nova front subframes for adapting the late-model Corvette front suspension), so he swapped out the old GM subframe and swapped in the new one. The power was addressed by swapping out the GM aluminum block and installing a 540 cubic-inch Arias Century aluminum block that could reliably handle more than 600hp. These 6-bolt main blocks are typically found in Pro-Outlaw and Blown Alcohol applications, so holding ludicrous amounts of power would not be an issue. Jody added an ATI D-1SC ProCharger with an overdrive pulley to pump out some serious horsepower. During early stages of tuning, the supercharged combination produced 15 pounds of boost and pounded the dyno with nearly 1000 hp at the crankshaft. To confidently harness that kind of power, a Fab-9 rearend with all the best parts and 4.11:1 gears replaced the GM 12-bolt rear axle. Jody also installed a Tremec TKO 5-speed transmission to do battle between the engine and the differential. With pump-gas, this combination netted him a whopping 19 mpg on the highway.

Now move back to the time when Stuart parted with his money and took possession of the Camaro. He sent his newly-purchased g-Machine directly to the engineer and hot rod visionary Kyle Tucker and the rest of the more than capable crew at Detroit Speed & Engineering. Who better should perform the mini-tub, than the company that invented the Deep Tub? Stuart knew DSE had an eye for detail and perfection, since they had previously done work on a Camaro for him in the past. The first surgical procedure involved cutting out the factory rear wheel tubs, notching the rear frame rails, and installing the complete DSE Deep Tub kit.

The interior was in great shape and basically stock. The Corbeau seats had been previously installed to control the occupants when putting the updated suspension through its paces. Further modifications were requested to bring the cabin to current specs. A DSE steel dash insert was painted to accent the body color and the new Autometer Ultra-Lite gauges. A new Vintage Air system was installed to keep the car comfortable in any climate. Dynamat was installed from the firewall to the rear seat in order to keep some of the unwanted road and car noises to a minimum. More noise was minimized with a coated exhaust system fabbed up with Flowmasters and an x-pipe. With less outside audio input, Stuart would be able to hear the tunes coming from the Sony sound system. The rear seat area was modified by DSE when the Deep Tubs were installed, but they were able to retain function of the factory fold-down rear seat, which is a plus for Stuart and his family.

For external visual impact, Stuart added Fikse Profil 5 18x9.5 (front) and 18x12.5 (rear) wheels encapsulated by 275/35ZR18 and 335/30ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sports. This combination filled the wheel wells and made for a well-rounded g-Machine that can be driven without fear of scraping on every speed bump and driveway. Other changes include different badges and the addition of Marquez Design & Fabrication billet side markers and taillights.

The engine compartment went through a complete overhaul as well. Stuart recalls telling Kyle, "I want the engine compartment to be as uncluttered as possible." He also wanted a uniform look under the hood; he wanted to see two things--aluminum and black. These requests took some careful planning to execute. In order for the firewall to be smoothed, the stock and aftermarket components that previously adorned it were relocated out of sight. They moved the Optima yellow-top battery to the trunk for better weight distribution, while cleaning up the vacant space in the engine compartment. DSE fabricated an entire cold-air intake system out of aluminum, which has an air box that tucks behind the grill where it shares tight quarters with the Rally Sport headlight mechanisms. While they were at it, they ditched all the bulky vacuum-operated headlight door equipment and converted the system over to a much more compact electric system. Knowing that Stuart wanted a sanitary-looking engine compartment, the DSE crew built custom shrouds to cover the air-box, hood latch, and BeCool radiator. The aluminum and black color combination was fairly easy to execute, since the 540 Arias block, heads, intake manifold, supercharger, and many other components were aluminum. Earl's black hoses and black anodized fittings were used throughout to complement the look. All the other components were painted, coated, or anodized to carry out the theme.

Once the car was completely reassembled, tuning and tweaking of the Fuel Air Spark Technologies (FAST) fuel-injection system was necessary to adjust for the new intake system. To keep Stuart out of trouble with the government officials, installation of a larger pulley producing 7 pounds of boost and dropping the power closer to 800 hp was agreed upon. (Stuart would like to thank Dave Henniger of FAST for his fuel-injection expertise.)

The newly revised car has classic body lines, but drives and handles like a late-model muscle car...on steroids! Stuart's Camaro is no longer a ZL-1 clone. The combination of talent and vision has earned this flawless all-aluminum big block powered g-Machine a new title. Stuart has the perfect name: The Aluminator.

By Tony Huntimer
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