Purchasing a car sight unseen is a big-time gamble, and finding yourself on the bidding end of on online auction poses the same amount of risk. But for some reason stubborn car junkies, like ourselves, have no problem rolling the dice on a car we know very little about. With no actual vehicle history report and no character reference of its previous existence, you may be looking at the perfect breeding ground for hidden blemishes, rust, and corrosion -- internally and externally. Not even a top-of-the-line high-def computer monitor can reveal what may be lurking underneath that slab of Bondo.
It’s a little scary how that rose-colored screen can have such an influence on making us purchase a car we wouldn’t have given a second glance at a local auto swap meet. But the adrenalin rush of buying a classic car can be intensely overpowering. It’s just how the male species are wired, and we just can’t help it, it’s all about the thrill of the kill. By the way, that ’69 you’ve been looking at on eBay for the last two days; it’s the car of your dreams−or is it?
Bill and Larry Amsley−car guys through and through−began an online search for a low-buck ’69 Camaro they could bring home, follow up with a few minor repairs, dial in some upgrades, and have a cool cruiser to enjoy on the weekends. At least that was the plan. Unfortunately, their digital dilemma began when they won an eBay auction. As Bill explains, “Not thinking I’d actually win, I threw down a pretty low bid on a car that was described as a “nice driver.” As the auction was winding down I was certain someone would post a higher bid, but it didn’t happen.
After taking delivery on this car, I immediately noticed it had more internal issues than a teenage Hollywood celebrity.” Bill decided to hedge his bet and flip the car in hopes of getting back what he’d paid. He re-listed the car on the same auction site and set the reserve at his original winning bid, but as luck would have it, there were no takers. Needless to say the Amsley’s were stuck with a Camaro that was worth a whole bunch less than what they had paid.
Being the owner of an auto collision repair business and self-proclaimed metalworking junky, Bill informs us. “I told my dad, Larry, since we can’t get our money back on this car, we have no option but to just build it.”
After tearing apart the car, closer inspection of the sheet metal revealed shoddy bodywork repair and more holes than a block of imported Swiss cheese. “Fortunately, my Dad and I really enjoy working with metal,” states Bill, “so, we decided to go with something a little outside the box.” Needless to say, the Father and Son duo didn’t just replace the rotted sheetmetal with off-the-shelf product. Nope, they went in and sculpted some very cool, custom pieces.
It took four long months of working weeknights and weekends, but the outcome definitely paid off. What they ended up with is a uniquely-styled, custom ’69 Camaro that is full of subtle, but tasty nuances that even the most versed Camaro freak would need to take a couple extra laps around to fully notice. Most notably, the ‘69s scallops on the quarter panels have been replaced by aggressive-looking air vents. Camaro purists would certainly consider this a risky move, as messing with perfection can easily bite you in the ass. But the Amsley’s pulled it off. Continuing with the one-off pieces are a custom chin spoiler, front valance, rocker trim, and firewall, and they even extended the cowl hood 3-inches. The dash and roll bar are fully custom, as are the rear body panel and spoiler.
“My Dad and I wanted to make sure when we pull in to a car show and park next to another ’69, our Camaro will stand out from the rest−just not too exaggerated or freakish,” says Bill. “I spent over 20 hours doing different spray-outs to get the color combination just right, but we think the most unique features of the ’69 are the gills on the quarter panels. We just took what was there, ran with it a little and made them vented. That’s half of the reason we came up with the name Vented 454. The other reason? That’s pretty simple−the 454ci big-block.”
Speaking of the 454. Shawn Ridgley took over assembly duties and topped the big-inch mill with some Edelbrock goodies, including an Air-Gap intake and 800 cfm carburetor. The rotating assembly consists of off-the-shelf GM stuff and ol’ Shawn keeps cam specs under wraps, but claims the Rat tops out at 450 hp at 5000 rpm.
Patriot 1-3/4-inch Clippster headers ease exhausted fumes into BBR 3-inch steel tubes cycling through a set of Borla mufflers. Billet Specialties dresses up the engine bay with pulleys, brackets and thermostat housing, giving the engine’s home a stately appearance.
By utilizing GM’s turbo 400 and a 2,400-stall converter, the Amsley’s kept the drivetrain on the simple side. With the big-block belting out plenty of torque down low, Bill chose to go with a highway-friendly 3.08:1 gear ratio housed in a GM 10-bolt rear end.
As mentioned, the drivetrain was fashioned on the relatively mild side, as emphasis was placed on handling and stance. They acquired a full Martz front subframe to help get ‘em through the corners quick-like, while netting the necessary 2-inch drop in ride height. Out back, the 1.5-inch lowering Hotchkis leafs are accompanied by one-inch lowering blocks gaining ‘Vented’ the aggressive posture it so deserves.
The 5-spoke Boze ZE Forged Tach rollers, 18-inch up front and 20s out back, allow just a glimpse of the Willwood “stoppers” on all four corners. If you’re playin’ with big-blocks you’re gonna need serious stopping power. Suffice it to say, this car will be spending plenty time on a playground of curved asphalt, so quick weight transfer is of the utmost importance. Just as important is traction, so the Amsley’s installed aggressive rubber throughout−Nitto 245/40/18s wrap the fronts while the same brand in 275/35/20s smother the rears.
The interior consists of the Amsley’s custom work throughout. Starting with the dash, Bill got busy creating a one-off piece that possesses a slightly modern look, but he was careful not to alienate The General’s familiar operating quarters. Stewart Warner Maximum Performance white face gauges are meticulously aligned and aggregate the necessary performance data. What’s left of the dash has been smoothed and painted, playing perfectly into the look of the matching gray stitching installed by Helmans Upholstery. The unique roll bar is another custom piece the Amsley’s fabricated for aesthetics as well as functionality and safety. As alluded to previously, this car was built for the sole purpose of driving−not just for show.
Originally, the Amsley’s weren’t too fond of the car and it’s seemingly endless amount of sheet metal issues, but with the duo’s experience and talent, they were able to turn an online blunder into a show-stopping hot rod.