A decade ago, Colby Donaldson made one of the biggest moves in his life. When he was accepted for the second season of the hit reality show Survivor, he figured he’d get a free trip to Australia, lots of adventure, and maybe some dough out of the deal. He ended up deciding to move to California and make a career for himself in the entertainment industry. It was at this point, early on in his new endeavor, that Colby received some sage advice from one of Hollywood’s elite: Do not give up your passion. Whatever it is outside the entertainment business that makes you happy, don’t lose it. Donaldson has moved through several appearances in the Survivor universe, along with a smattering of TV roles, and is now host of History Channel’s Top Shot, which is currently filming its third season. If this gig isn’t every guy’s fantasy we don’t know what is, with contestants taking aim with everything from tomahawks to Tommy guns to long bows as well as just about any other weapon you can imagine, along with explosions aplenty. About the only thing missing, as far as we’re concerned, are fast cars but not to worry, cause Colby Donaldson has that covered as well. He’s an individual who loves to build cars, and if this bullet-sleek back burner ’69 Camaro is any indication, the man’s not only hung onto that passion, he’s intensified it as well.
Although almost everything changed when Colby moved to California, the desire to build custom cars stuck with him. All the equipment in his tiny little Texas shop made the move with him to California, and after landing some shop space, he commenced doing what he’d been doing since the age of 15building cars. To be more specific, his specialty was fixing up and customizing vintage SUVs: Land Cruisers, Broncos, Blazers, and the like. Vintage SUVs were so popular, he recalls. Anything with a top that comes off, sold. But there was always the desire to do a classic American muscle car simmering beneath the surface, and they don’t get more classic that a 1969 Chevy Camaro. Colby actually began two ’69 Camaro projects simultaneously. The crazy thing here is that the Camaro you’re looking at now, the one that was finished first, was the back burner project, the one meant to be less extreme, the car meant to be just a driver. So much for that
Colby began with a running, driving, original California black-plate car with a fresh black paintjob and a numbers matching 350 small-block under the hood. Colby bored and stroked the four-bolt main block to 383 ci, then topped it off to good effect with a selection of Edelbrock components: Performer RPM heads, a matching Performer RPM intake, and a Performer RPM cam for good measure, teamed with Erson stainless rockers. With it’s street performance friendly specs (0.488/0.510-inch lift, along with 234/244 degrees lift at 0.50, intake and exhaust), and when fed by a 750 Holley double-pumper prepped by Bob Jennings Dyno Shop of North Hills, California, the result was an excellently balanced street/performance engine, making an estimated 430 hp and at least that much in torque. The fires are lit with a MSD Pro Billet distributor activated by a 6AL box, while the spent gasses are evacuated by coated, full-length Dynatech headers, along with a Dynatech stainless exhaust, crossover pipe, and mufflers. A Northern aluminum radiator and shroud fitted with two Spal fans keeps the works running cool, and a March drive system controls the accessories, including a Vintage Air Compac A/C system. In keeping with the driver ethos he had planned for the car (i.e., sitting in L.A. traffic), Donaldson backed the peppy small-block with a Dana Sniff Transmissions-built 700R4 trans.