Whenever a family member reaches that point in life when it’s time to hang up their driver’s license, it’s common for the car to be handed down to a close relative or offspring—most often a child or a grandchild. Although it’s a nice gesture, not much can be expected on the side of the recipient. This becomes even more evident when the person handing down the used ride happens to be a grandparent. Seriously, what could Grandpa Joe have driven into his golden years that would make someone less than half his age proud to own? How about an early ‘80s-era Cadillac? Nah, Cadillac’s cool factor was long gone at least 25 years prior. What about a tired four-door Ford from the mid-seventies? Nope, we’re talking at least two too many doors, and way too long.
When Jeff Stiller was a young, impressionable teen, there was no question that the ride he would someday inherit was way high on the cool meter. Never mind the Landau top, used up 307, or the less-than-muscular 10-bolt; this was a ’69 Camaro! It’s the coolest of cool no matter what mill or driveline motivates it.
“My grandparents bought the car new when I was 12-years-old and my grandmother drove the car for what seemed like forever,” informs Jeff. “I remember washing and waxing the car on weekends. I was thrilled just to drive the car up and down the driveway.”
Although he took his driving test in the car a few years later, he received somewhat unconventional lessons at age 14 when he would drive his very Irish grandfather to his favorite watering hole for a few “pops.” “While my grandfather was in the bar, I would drive around the parking lot until he was ready to go,” remembers Jeff. “As you can imagine, I became a pretty good driver at a fairly young age.”
Jeff, now in his early fifties, took ownership of the car about eleven years ago. With no real hurry to rip into the car, it sat relatively quiet until about three years ago when he finally figured out the direction he would take the restoration. Although a simple resuscitation would have been nice, Jeff was really becoming fond of the Pro Touring builds he had seen recently. With that being the chosen build path, it also had to be something his grandparents would be proud of.
Handling performance was high on the build list, so the ground-up restoration started with a Lateral Dynamics three-link rear suspension system complete with Eibach springs and KYB shocks. ATS 2-inch drop spindles and Global West tubular A-arms reside up front. Accommodating aggressive-sized rear rubber was part of the drill, so he had the experienced crew at Best of Show Coach Works in San Marcos, California, expand the wheelhouse real estate by way of Detroit Speed’s mini-tubs. With the Detroit Speed catalog left open, Jeff ordered up their subframe connectors and half-cage for extra chassis stiffness.
These days exotic engine combinations can sometimes be the norm, but Jeff decided to go with a street friendly and reliable 9.9:1 compression 383. Air Research aluminum heads are accompanied by an Edelbrock RPM Airgap intake manifold and BG 700 cfm carburetor. The combination nets Jeff 500 hp and 404 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm. A Be Cool radiator keeps the small-block temps in check while the engine compartment’s race-inspired appeal is provided by a Vintage Air Front Runner drive system, K&N filter, and GMPP’s aluminum valve covers.
Doug’s ceramic-coated headers provide immediate exit of spent fuel, while Flowmaster mufflers handle the task of keeping the mill’s exhaust note at a neighborly acceptable decibel.
Besides the leather-covered Corbeau seats and Billet Specialties steering wheel, James Perales at Southern California Upholstery, followed Jeff’s vision and kept the interior on the mild side by going with a relatively stock appearance. The black loop carpet, center console, OE-style gauges, and door panels keep the classic Camaro period correct. During the summer months triple digit temps are common in Southern California’s Inland Empire, so Vintage Air’s A/C system provide Jeff with a comfy captain’s quarters.
As mentioned earlier, cornering performance would play an important part in this restoration, so Intro Twisted rollers are smothered by Nitto rubber (295s rear, 235s front) on all four corners. With 18x11 hoops out back and 17x8-inchers up front, the ’69 can now be afforded the right to take corners as liberally as Jeff’s abilities allow. And with Wilwood’s 14-inch binder kit up front and 11-inch rotors holding down the rear, there’s no compromise when going deep into the corners.
Thanks once more to the crew at Best of Show for transitioning the looks of the classic grocery getter into modern muscle with a good slathering of brilliant red PPG pigment. “I’ve been a hot rodder all my life, so I had to go with the black SS stripes on top of the bright red paint,” shares Jeff. “I really wanted to announce the car’s presence and I think this color combination does just that.”
Jeff points out that it takes a good amount of time, plenty of encouragement, and quite a bit of knowledge to get a car completed to this caliber. “Without the help and positive outlook of my friend Kirk Swanson, I couldn’t have gotten this car built to this level. Although my grandparents are now gone, I know they would be proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with this little hand-me-down.”
So, when your great aunt Edna offers you the same car she used to cart groceries around in, it’s a good idea to think twice before giving your initial answer. You never know, that hot rod blood in your veins may have come from her side of the family.