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1969 Chevy Camaro SS - An Automotive Gold Chain

Brett Hankins Built This Amazing '69 Camaro SS-Twice.

By , Photography by D. Randy Riggs

It's hard enough taking a pile of parts that used to be a car and building them into a show-winning street machine. Now, imagine doing that and then deciding to re-do the vehicle in a completely different style.

That's exactly what Brett Hankins did with his '69 Chevy Camaro SS. Acquired in 1988 for the dear price of $700 and a gold necklace (with a Mercedes emblem dangling from it), over the course of two years he and his father turned it into a 396-powered Pro Street brawler. Brett was just out of high school at the time and had previously been into Volkswagens-but let's not hold that against him. Like millions of other teenagers, the '69 Camaro was his real dream car.

OK, perhaps not one that was a shell with no fenders or doors or hood or trunk or front clip. That's called a nightmare by most. Still, he was willing to look past this. "I got all the parts with it," Brett recalls. "It was my first muscle car."

On the plus side, it was a genuine SS with a four-speed and every inch of the exterior was rust free-even the parts that weren't attached. There was no rot anywhere, and to this day every body panel is original.

Brett's dad was an old hot rodder and drag racer so when it came time to resuscitate the flat-lined F-body, he shared his knowledge with his son. "My dad said we'd build it, but he wouldn't do it for me," Brett says. "He knew it all and I knew nothing. My dad forever changed me with this car and I attribute my direction in hot rods and fabrication to starting with this car."

Over the course of two years, they back-halved the car. It had a rumpety-rump big-block and "the look" everyone wanted back then. This pleased him for a long while, nearly 10 years, but about three years ago he decided to change the style of the build. This time, however, Brett was an accomplished custom car and motorcycle fabricator. He was able to do everything himself. Whether it was the stereo, the glass, the interior or the paint, he handled it in his shop, Pro Street Choppers & Rods, in Sonora, California.

When it came time to re-do the SS, he looked to one of Chevy's best for inspiration (not to mention parts)-the C5 ZO6 Corvette. He bought an LS6 engine, upgraded the valvetrain and added an F1 hydraulic roller cam. There's also a custom tune. Backing up the LS mill is a Tremec T56 and GM Performance Parts LS7 11-inch clutch.

What sets this Camaro apart from most others is its suspension. The front subframe is a custom piece made by Brett's shop and it uses all C4 componentry (with the exception of double-adjustable QA1 coilover shocks and 1 1/8-inch sway bar). A C4 Vette IRS was also employed. Together, this lowered the car some three inches at the nose and two at the tail.

To make the rear fit, it was narrowed four inches on each side and a pair of double-adjustable QA1s coilovers were used there, too. The front suspension, anodized by Milner's Anodizing in Santa Rosa, California, was fitted with shock and sway bar mounts that were custom-made by the owner.

Brakes are C5 Corvette pieces, 13-inch rotors up front, 12 out back, and all are clamped by four-piston ZO6 calipers. Foose Nitrous wheels (17x10, 17x13) keep the car from dragging on the ground. They're wrapped in Michelin X6V tires (295/40ZR17 and 335/35ZR17, f-r).

Taking the Corvette theme one step further are the sweet C4 electric seats covered in Katzkins leather with custom ZO6 embroidery (they retain their electric air bladders and side bolsters). Brett added Vintage Air A/C, then modified a '71 Trans Am console to enhance the interior even more. And if the modified LS6 powerplant doesn't blow you away, the full-on JVC stereo and MB Quart speakers just might.

The exterior was assembled, massaged, and sprayed by Brett and his father in simple white with green stripes. West Coast Chrome in Modesto, California, got the nod for the plating (though it was Brett who plated the IRS).

So what's it like to drive? According to Brett, "I've never driven anything like it, except a natural race car. It's like a slot car. Zero body roll and it turns instantly. Just turn the wheel and it's right now."

He says reaction to the car is always positive and that when people see the IRS underneath they pull him over and ask what it's from. Brett really wouldn't change a thing, though sometimes he wishes he had the extra cubes of an LS7.

Why do we get the feeling that's not too far off in the future?

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