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1969 Chevy Camaro - Chi-Town Hustler

Chalk One Up To Exeperience As Larry Wolyniex Builds A '69 With A Killer Stance And More Attitude Than Should Be Allowed.

Ro McGonegal Feb 17, 2009
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Larry Wolyniec has been around very fast cars most of his life. He built 10-wide racers at his Competition Cars in Bridgeview, Illinois, for more than 18 years, and during that stretch he’s seen and done everything imaginable with them, gaining experience, gaining knowledge, and discovering what delineates a good job from an ordinary build. To him, the details are the crux of it all. Word was if you (Spiro Pappas, Nick Gaglione, Nick Scavo, etc.) wanted your Super Street piece to the nth-degree, Larry was the guy. It helped that Larry knew most, if not all, of his customers on a personal level as part of a group called the “Chicago Mafia” (no, not that mafia) and those who patronized Fast Times Motorworks in nearby Morton Grove.  

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We met Wolyniec at an NMCA race in Florida in the late ‘90s. We never forgot the conversation one night riding back to the motel: “Tuning a nitrous motor is pretty much the same as how you’d tune a nitro motor.” For some reason, that became an indelible statement to us. We thought, “Why would a door-slammer guy be onto something like that?” To Larry, it was simply about information he might be able to use somewhere else down the line. It was stuff he’d accumulated on the road with the “Chi-Town Hustler” Funny Car in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. As of late, Larry often crews for Bill Miller’s Top Fuel Dragster.

But what about cars of his own?  Larry’s had but one street raider he says is worth talking about. In ’91-92, he had a ’35 Chevy Outlaw fiberglass shell tied to a tube frame of his own design. He broadened his scope a little more by investigating the possibilities of body panels as produced by the “Queen of Carbon Fiber” Eluisa Garza in Indianapolis. As a result, the nasty bantam-weight was a streeter that ran 8.20s at 160. Later on, he used that feather-weight stuff (for wheel tubs, at least) in his 10-wide cars.

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The point is that Larry got around, met a wide variety of business contacts and entrepreneurs. Billet Specialties owner Glen Grozich was one of them. Three years ago, Grozich approached him about showcasing his products in a highly visible street machine built specifically for Goodguys events to get feedback in a place swarming with the people Grozich is trying reach.

They knew that the owner of Bump and Grind Auto Body down in Homer Glen had a very clean, unmolested ’69 Camaro. This was important because neither of them wanted to wait out a Body Shop Jail term and they wanted a solid rendition. Nothing special, no historical-value SS or Z28; just a pristine starting point would do nicely.  The car they got was right on the money. It had a 396 and a four-speed.

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Had it not been for a road incident coming back from a Goodguys venue in Ohio, things might have turned out differently. Because of its limited drivetrain capability, they trailered the Camaro down to the show. Another one of Glen’s cars was being driven to and from the same venue. Along the way, it become inoperable, so the boys loaded it in the box and drove the Camaro instead.

Larry: “At freeway speed, the motor was zingin’ over 4,000 with the 3.73s and we had a long way to go, but we figured it would make it from Ohio to Illinois, no problem. It didn’t. It damn near threw a rod or two out and we had to limp it home.” But here was opportunity rapping at their driver’s door. It set the stage for a complete drivetrain change-out that included a much more modern engine and transmission, ones that would facilitate highway driving as well as satisfy Larry’s penchant for burying the speedometer needle.

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He outfitted a ZZ502 Base crate engine with a 502 intake manifold, Barry Grant carburetor, and a Holley G-rotor electric fuel pump. He stuck it with an MSD 6AL box, Billet distributor, and Blaster coil. He fixed it with an Edelbrock water pump and a Billet Specialties Tru-Trac accessory drive, the first one finished in black anodize. He mounted a Comp Cams timing cover and screwed on a Moroso 8-quart sump. Then he customized the rest with Billet’s new solid billet rocker covers, 2-1/8-inch primary pipe Hooker Super Comp headers (modified to fit the engine and chassis better than they do out of the box) and introduced them to a ceramic film by Coating Specialties (Chicago Heights).

 In keeping with the Camaro’s quasi-original scheme, Larry fabbed a 3-inch exhaust system (cinched with an X-pipe) and ran it all the way to the rear of the car in factory fashion. He populated it with three-chamber Flowmasters for a very good reason: The payback was that familiar metallic howl through the gears, but at cruising speed, there is no resonance.

The second part of new powertrain was an overdrive transmission. No wimpy slushbox for Larry the Hustler. He wanted a beefy stick-shift companion, but he didn’t need any more than five forward gears. He attached a McLeod pressure plate and 600-series bronze disc to the back of the engine and covered them with a Lakewood scatter-shield. The package was completed with a Tremec TKO 5-speed trailing a 3-inch diameter steel driveshaft to the 12-bolt. One more trip to the operating table, and the Camaro’s drive train conversion would be complete. “Although the Tremec fit okay, I didn’t like the way it did, so I cut out that part of the floor and made custom hump with a flatter top that gives the cockpit a more spacious feel.”

Since the Camaro is strictly a havin’ fun driver, Larry didn’t see the need for an exotic suspension system. Mainly, he wanted the look, the stance, and all that it implies. In the front, he planted QA1 coil/overs between the stock control arms because they are adjustable. No tubular stuff, no drop spindles. To bring the back of the car down, he added generic Monroe shocks, had the leaf springs re-arched, and put a 1-inch spacer block between them and the spring pad. He could have spent a whole lot of money doing this the “cool” way, but nobody has ever accused Larry Wolyniec of living a lavish lifestyle.

For the focal point of the entire mission, Glen whipped up some one-off 18x7 and 20x8.5 customs that are somewhat reminiscent of his GTX70 rims. Larry wrapped BFG g-Force 35-series sneakers (215/40ZR18 up front and 255/35ZR20 rear) around them and called it quits. The silky, slick hoops cover ECI’s 12-inch disc brake conversion.

Then it was back to Bump and Grind for the brilliant, not-of-this-earth ’08 Corvette Atomic Orange metallic. In the work room, the scene is a lot more subdued. Larry doesn’t need a pair of shades to see everything clearly. The coal black stocker-than-stock interior is merely a stage for more of Glen’s bright bits. Twin carbon fiber instrument pods, cheery by comparison, cosset a half-dozen or so Auto Meter instruments on either side of the Chicayne-style 14-inch steering wheel. At Larry’s feet, his dancing partners, Glen’s billet pedal pads painted black and then machined to mimic rubber pads.

Reverie is interrupted. “Let’s go play Gibson’s,” Larry smiles. We smile, too, wondering what took him so long. It’s the best of downtown Chicago: steaks and chops nearly two inches thick and dynamite Martinis.



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