1969 Chevrolet Camaro - Influential Hybrid

Over 13 Years in the Making, Mike Cornelius’ ’69 Consists of a Potent Combination of Ideas Gathered From Some Pro Touring Heavyweights

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As we go through life, it’s not uncommon to grip onto a couple of influences that make us do things we might not normally do on our own. Yes, some are bad while others work out just fine. But without a rock-solid plan, it is common to reach a crossroad when it comes to choosing a build style while piecing together a classic Camaro. Influenced or not, a decision needs to be made. And with the popularity of so many build styles to choose from these days, said decision might not come so easy.

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When Mike Cornelius of Bowling Green, Kentucky, bought this ’69 in 1998, the car was Bahama Blue and featured 15-inch wheels, a TH350 with 2.73 gears, and drum brakes; not entirely cutting edge, but it was definitely cool for the time.

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“When I bought the car, the Pro Touring movement was just getting started,” states Mike. “I was reading a lot of magazines at the time, and these sorts of muscle cars were in their early incarnation. To see this new build style come into its own was very exciting. I remember Mark Stielow as the main guy doing it back then and I’ve since followed all of his Camaros. From the early white ’69, The Mule, Red Witch, and Red Devil—those cars were, and still are, major influences which molded the build direction with my ’69.”

What’s it take to get the wheels rolling on a build like this? For most it’s money, and for others it’s time, but more often than not, it’s a combination of both. Mike’s ’69 has been marinating for over 13 years, and in that time it’s seen various parts and pieces come and go. With varying trends and the aftermarket introducing bigger and better parts, change is inevitable. “This car has continually evolved from one project to another,” informs Mike. “I’m on my third engine, fourth set of wheels, and second brake setup. A lot more than I care to list have been changed since I started on this car.”

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While hitting some of the major car shows in the country, Mike attributes the 2004 Columbus Goodguys show as the one where he really got the Pro Touring bug. “That and other big shows are a huge influence on the parts I’ve acquired,” mentions Mike. “I’d have to say this Camaro is sort of a hybrid of all the cars I’ve seen at these shows.”

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The integration of seeing the latest and greatest parts on show-winning first-gen Camaros kept Mike busy searching for the perfect combo for his ride, and his budget. Mike explains, “I wanted a clean, understated look with some cool details. I shaved the driprails, filled the side marker lights and the cowl vents, and hid all the underhood wiring as much as possible. The only ‘bling’ on the car is the paint. Everything else is brushed except the bumpers, window trim, and door handles.”

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Although a bigger LS engine is in the works, for now a 5.3L LS takes up residence between the rails. Steve Hoff doctored in the transplant that features mostly stock internals garnished with GM Z06 heads bored .030 over, COMP pushrods, and a COMP custom grind cam with 218/222 degrees duration at 0.050. Lift is .595 on the intake side and .598 on the exhaust end.

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Mike went old school on the intake with his LS and propped a Holley 670-cfm Avenger carb on top of an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold. A supercharger is on the “wish list,” but for now the naturally aspirated mill relies on a 125-gph Holley pump for fuel delivery. A PRC aluminum radiator ensures the F-body keeps cool while an MSD 6010 keeps the fire alive. Intruding air gets treated by a K&N element housed in a brushed aluminum Allstate Performance air cleaner box. Along with the brushed DSE closeout panel, the ensemble blends quite nice with the painted gray block and valve covers. The color-matching combination would easily gain the approval of any HGTV fashion host.

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