1969 Chevy Camaro - Fitting Tribute

Fred Martinez's Sunoco-Themed '69 Gives More Than A Nod To Its Famous Cousin.

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The idea of a tribute car is nothing new in hot rodding. Hell, how many General Lees, Bandit Trans Ams, or Starsky and Hutch Grand Tomatoes have been seen prowling the highways and show grounds around the country? The reason for this urge to copy something that's already been done is twofold. First, is economics; after all, buying the original is way more expensive than most of us could hope to afford. Second, is nostalgia; these cars invoke memories that make our right foot quiver in anticipation. Most likely, the best case for a tribute car, is that it's not worth a small (or large in some cases) fortune, so you can beat on it like you're Bo Duke running from Roscoe P. Coltrain. Is it the same as owning the real deal? Nope, but it's pretty damn close.

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Besides cars made famous on film, the other category are cars made renowned by their exploits on the racetrack. Here, the added benefit is that the copy can be made to pass legal muster for the street. Race car style and street car manners, it's a perfect match. And when it comes to famous race car Camaros, few are as iconic as the Sunoco (referring to the Sun Oil Company) Camaro. Back in the '60s Sunoco/Penske was, for all purposes, the Chevrolet factory team in Trans Am racing. Backed by Rodger Penske with Mark Donohue behind the wheel, they crushed the competition in 1968 (in a '68) winning 10 of the 13 races that year. In 1969 they switched to the new body style and again won the championship by placing first six out of 12 times. The reason they didn't dominate as decisively in 1969 compared to 1968 was that Ford caught up a bit in the performance department with the introduction of their '69 Boss 302 Mustang. Still, we're happy to point out again; the Camaro came out on top.

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All that history wasn't lost on owner Fred Martinez and the builders at G-Force Design Concepts. Fred became hopelessly hooked on fast cars early in life back in Brooklyn, New York. Fred recalls, "When I was 15, this guy named Jose had a black '69 Z/28 with silver stripes, a 400ci small-block, and a four-speed. He was well known as a street racer. One day I saw him prepping his car for the races and asked if I could help. At the end of the day I was getting ready to go home and Jose asked me if I wanted to come with him to the races. For a kid with no car, getting to ride in a very fast '69 Camaro was like hitting the lotto!"

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That was that. Fred was now hopelessly addicted to muscle cars, especially early Camaros. Three years later, a buddy of Fred's picked up a '69 with a 396 big-block underhood. Turned out the ride was fast-too fast, in fact, for his friend to handle, so racing duties were handed over to Fred. Eventually Fred ran into Jose again, but by now Jose's '69 was a full-on 9-second race car. Smack was talked and before long the two were lined up against one another. Fred was spotted three cars but his 11-second Camaro still came up four car lengths short at the end of the race. Fred remarks, "I still felt like I won! That had to be the best night of my life."

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Fast forward 21 years and Fred was dying for a 1969 Chevy Camaro. Being a working guy, he also needed to adhere to a reasonable budget. He met with G-Force Design Concepts owner Jason Huber and the two started hashing out a plan. Originally, Fred leaned towards more of a restoration vibe, but once he spied a drawing Jason had of a Sunoco-themed '69, Fred pulled the trigger on having the blue tribute car built. The idea evolved with the G-Force team going for more of a loose interpretation rather than a nut-and-bolt recreation of the famous Penske ride. They would also try to get great performance without shelling out for the best parts money could buy. "Maximum bang for minimum buck" became the mantra of the build.

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