Sometimes with a project, it's better to start on a car in worse shape, rather than build on someone else's work. This way you know how everything was done, and if something doesn't fit or goes wrong, you've got no one to blame but yourself.
Before Brendeon Schoening found this '69 Camaro, it was sitting virtually abandoned near an old potato cellar the car had once resided in, until said cellar collapsed around it. Not titled since 1980, the '69 was covered with a tarp, and left to rust away in a Montana field.
Then one day a friend saw the tarp flapping in the wind, and the vehicle underneath it. Recognizing the front face of the most popular Camaro ever, he had Brendeon go with him to take a look at it and decide if it was worth restoring. Schoening owns a body shop, Collision Craft, in Polson, Montana, and could give a good estimate on the cost of fixing the car. It proved to be an original RS V-8 example, factory Garnet Red with red deluxe interior.
After looking things over, it was obvious that most of the sheetmetal would need replacing, due to rust and damage from the cellar falling in on it. For his friend, the cost was too much, but for Brendeon it was just what he wanted to start his next project. After negotiating a price of $5,500 (this included a stock 325 HP 396 and M21 four-speed, along with the 12-bolt rear already in the car) the '69 went into rehab at his home shop. To finance the project and not put a strain on the business' finances, Schoening sold a '70 Pro Street Chevelle, '72 Chevelle big-block restomod, and a '70 Buick GS he'd already built. This put enough cash in the bank to really build the Camaro right.
The driving force behind the theme and direction of the build was spite. Running a body shop, Brendeon had a steady stream of customers coming through his office, noticing the pictures of muscle cars adorning the walls. The more aloof European sophisticants walking through the door would observe the pictures with disdain, uttering remarks along the lines of, "Those are horrible cars to drive, they can't stop and don't handle very well."
"I guess most ignorant people don't know what the aftermarket is building for these cars. You can't tell me these cars were designed all that bad, when 95-percent of everything to make these cars go fast, stop, and handle is a bolt-on part."
The doors, roof, and cabin floors were in good shape and savable, but everything else metal-wise needed replacing. Over the course of eight months, the '69 saw a total transformation into a solid street machine.
The steel front clip was pitched for a new Auto Metal Direct (AMD) aluminum nose, and in back a DSE mini-tub kit installed to fit some Toyo RA1 335/30R18 rubber that would hook up under the ground pounding torque of the car's big-block. The front subframe was blasted clean, re-welded and gussets added for stiffening, coated, then a DSE Speed Kit 2 bolted on. Stiffening up the body is a set of DSE subframe connectors, and a set of Cal-Trac bars installed on the rear leafs to keep them from twisting like a pretzel under hard acceleration and launches.
For motivation, Dan at Bradford's Balance and Machine built a stout 548 inch Rat that cranks out 680 very streetable ponies. Behind it is a Tremec TKO600 sending power to a Strange built Dana 60 rear. The whole combo puts this Camaro solidly in the fast lane, with a best quarter-mile e.t. of 10.87 so far, on 91-octane pump gas.
But this car isn't just a straight line warrior. Thanks to its DSE-bolstered suspension, it easily handles twists and turns whenever necessary. And because he did 90-percent of the work himself, there's an extra level of pride and enjoyment for Schoening whenever he climbs behind the wheel. c
You can't tell me these cars were designed all that bad, when 95-percent of everything to make these cars go fast, stop, and handle is a bolt-on part."