Regardless if you’re into muscle cars, hot rods, or customs, there is one common thread that binds us together: your first encounter with a sleeper. No, we’re not talking about sitting in a classroom during a boring lecture or being subjected to more than one bad drive-in movie. We’re talking about the surprise you got when you pulled up to the light and literally got your socks blown off by a “mundane” looking competitor in the next lane. You know the one: the ride with a nondescript exterior hiding a badass combination under the hood. It’s then you imagine just how many greenbacks have been handed over to the driver of a car that looked like it couldn’t beat you to the corner if you gave it a formidable lead.
Brett Stevens of Highland, Maryland, saw more than his share of hopped-up cars running the strip in his hometown during the heyday of the muscle car explosion of the ’60s. Everything from blown and injected big-blocks, to high-strung small-blocks made the scene, but the cars that caught his attention most were those that were subtle and unassuming. For Brett, the ultimate killer combination was that of a ’69 Camaro wielding an unsuspecting V-8 under its hood looking for action on a Saturday night.
Already owning a mint, numbers-matching ’70 Chevelle SS396, he felt it was time to get his son Zak involved with him in a father-and-son team effort. The original plan was to build a neat ’69 Camaro that Zak could use as a driver for high school. So, the search was on for a workable ’69 that the pair could get cleaned up in a short period of time as a low-buck project. He put the word out to good friend and classic car broker Rob Hudlow. In a snap, he had located a base ’69 in Ohio while doing some racing. It wasn’t long before the ’69 was on its way from Ohio and heading to Brett’s garage. While it was an original, numbers-matching car, a thorough evaluation proved that it was in need of far more than he had planned to be a simple driver for Zak. The car still proposed a challenge for the pair, and they began its disassembly with a somewhat uncertain eye on what style they would go with for the build. Brett reached back into his memories and decided the car would be reborn as a 1969 Chevy Camaro Z/28 RS with an edgy attitude and a “little” secret lurking under the hood.
With the car partially disassembled in the garage, Brett enlisted the help of ace fabricators Tom Flash and Javier Torres of Burtonsville, Maryland, to complete the teardown and begin the arduous task of reconstructing the body. After evaluating the panels and seeing that very little was worth saving, a call was placed to Denny’s Camaro Parts in Mountville, Pennsylvania, to order up fresh stock, including floors, doors, rear quarters, fenders, trunk, dash, and hood. As Brett told us, “if there was a replacement sheetmetal part available, I bought it. I really didn’t want to cut any corners on this build.”
With sparks flying and welders working overtime, the ’69’s body was whipped back into shape as the pair worked tirelessly to kick-start the resurrection. With the body beat going strong, Brett called on Rob Morris of Mount Airy, Maryland, to massage the steel to perfection while ensuring every line was razor sharp. Rob laid down a decadent coating of PPG Red Jewel vibe accented by white Z/28 stripes, which he buried in mile-deep clear coat.
Once the body was gleaming with a fresh flavor, it was time to address the mechanical side of the build. Having worked with Robert Norris of R&C Fabrication of Westminster, Maryland, before on his Chevelle, Brett knew that Robert would share his vision of creating a low-slung razor-sharp ’69 with loads of attitude. Robert signed onto the build and laid out a base, which would get the car down low and ready for action. Up front, the original subframe was blasted clean, powdercoated, then treated to Hotchkis tubular upper and lower A-arms combined with SSBC 2-inch dropped spindles complemented by QA1 adjustable coilover shocks. Out back, a Strange 12-bolt rear filled with 3.73:1 cogs is suspended in place by Calvert Racing’s split monoleaf springs and CalTracs traction bars combined with QA1 adjustable coilover shocks. To bring it all to a halt, 11-inch SSBC rotors and calipers reside up front while factory drums get the job done out back. A set of Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels shod with Mickey Thompson Sportsman rubber seal the car’s aggressive stance and demeanor. Now armed with “the look,” and to make sure any stoplight challengers would get their money’s worth, Brett contacted Scott Shafiroff to build a pump-gas friendly beast. One that would leave your guts on the floor once the go-pedal was planted. The result: a 582ci stroked Rat packed with all the endless innovation Shafiroff is known for. The ensemble includes an Eagle crank and rods, JE 10.5:1 slugs, COMP Cams stick, and Dart Pro aluminum heads. A 950cfm Holley sucks air and fuel through an Edelbrock Victor Series intake with spent gasses getting dumped through a set of Hooker headers. Pulling 745 hp on the dyno is enough to peel back anyone’s eyelids and a make scrap metal out of any transmission that’s not quite up to the task. So in went a Coan Extreme 400 Pro trans and B&M Quicksilver shifter to handle the abuse.
At this point, Brett began the final assembly stage working with good friend Carl Davidson to take on the painstaking task of getting the car’s vital systems up, including wiring, fuel system, brakes, and cooling. It was time for first fire-up. It shook the earth. It was epic!
The interior was then glammed up with the seats recovered in black and white houndstooth by Todd Meyers while Robert Norris returned to install the balance of the interior.
Classic touches like a rosewood steering wheel and trim melds perfectly with Auto Meter gauges and carbon-fiber dash accents. The completed car exemplifies what a clean yet subtle execution in a build can bring to the table.
Brett and Zak Stevens’ modern interpretation of a classic packs more than its share of heat. And once they rip away from a stoplight, it’s obvious that this ’69 is no sleeper. Far from it …
“If there was a replacement sheetmetal part available, I bought it. I really didn’t want to cut any corners on this build.”