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1969 Chevy Camaro - Best Of Both Worlds

The classic lines of '69 with the 21st century handling of a Corvette

By , Photography by Robert McGaffin

Love 'em or hate 'em, even the staunchest anti-'69 Camaro partisan can't deny the fact it is one of the most popular models Chevrolet ever built. Or deny it being one of the most popular cars--ever. Case in point: In 1969, Chevy built 243,095 Camaros total, compared to 302,971 '69 Mustangs from Ford (with the F-body having an extended model year, no less). Go to any car show today, though, and what do you see more of? At the 2011 Bristol Super Chevy Show, we had one of the largest Camaro classes of the year, and over 20 of them were '69s.

Because of its popularity today, the '69 is also one of the hottest classic bodies into which people transplant modern engines and drivetrains. Enter our subject vehicle. The current owner was mesmerized by it at an auction, a car that was the brainchild of ex-GM/Delco products employee and enthusiast Greg Jackson.

Greg's first car had been a '71 Camaro, and while his strong passion is for the '67 Corvette, his love for the '69 was always lurking in the background. After a career working for GM's Delco Products division on their manufacturing side, Greg went into business for himself, setting up manufacturing plants for the auto parts industry in Mexico. He eventually gave that up to start his own custom car building business. Along the way he owned some impressive Chevys, both originals and restomods. One jewel was a legit, all-original, L78-equipped '70 SS396 Chevelle convertible, one of only six known to leave the factory with that engine.

The discovery of Cleveland Pick-a-Part, an Ohio-based salvage business, fired his synapses about the idea of building a '69 Camaro with the heart of a C5 Z06 to show off his shop's abilities. Cleveland had a salvaged '02 Z06 drivetrain--complete--for an affordable price. A deal was struck, and soon enough the running gear from the Corvette arrived at Greg's doorstep.

The next step was building a chassis that would meld body and drivetrain into one. Together with chassis builder Carl Pendergraft, Greg sketched out the design for the car's chassis on a cocktail napkin. Three and a half weeks later, Carl wheeled the completed chassis out of his Las Cruces, New Mexico, shop for Greg to handle the next step.

That was working with Richard McWhirter to dry-build the Camaro, using an original '69 body Greg himself had already resurrected from a clapped-out mess to arrow straight. Richard's business, One Stop Auto Parts & Service in Alamogordo, New Mexico, does everything from selling parts to repairing and restoring cars. Richard set to work putting everything together, checking fitment, and making the necessary mods to mold both pieces into one. Some minor tubbing was needed out back, and all four wheelwell openings needed to be flared a little extra for the perfect fit.

The engine compartment saw a few mods too, with the firewall being smoothed and a special recess for the engine built in. To polish up the engine compartment, fabricator Eddie Landers made a special radiator cover, and billet hood hinges were fitted. In the back, to make way for the Corvette exhaust routing, Richard moved the gas tank up into the trunk but still left room for useable storage space. Controlling the LS6 is a Street & Performance wiring harness, computer, and one of their polished accessory drive systems.

After the dry-building was complete, Richard disassembled the whole car, then Greg took it to his home shop to spray the body in a suitable Corvette hue. He chose DuPont Inferno Orange Chromabase, four coats in all, topped with four coats of clear. The underside of the body was painted in three coats of single-stage paint, and to brighten it up, Eddie Landers made the polished exhaust cover.

After that, the interior work began. A Covan's carbon-fiber dash was fitted then stuffed with Dolphin electronic gauges. The '85 Camaro front seats, along with the rear seats, door panels, and other interior surfaces were covered in ultraleather (even the one-piece headliner). A Vintage Air climate system makes sure the interior doesn't turn into an oven in the sun.

After the hot rod was finished and shaken down a bit, Greg took his newest show piece to the 2011 Russo Steele auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, where current owner Rudy Froese anxiously awaited his chance to bid on it.

Rudy wanted a car that was different from anything else running around his home area of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He already had a '70 Chevelle for a restomod project to do a late-model drivetrain swap into, but when he saw the Camaro in an online ad for the auction, it was love at first sight. After some thinking, he figured the better course to set would be buying something that was already built, saving him the time and money of the construction costs. A winning bid of $78,000 was all it took for the '69 to be on its way to the Great White North and its new home.

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