Something freaky is going down, and a roll of blue painter’s tape is at the center of it all. Every piece of weatherstripping on Mac Bernd’s 1969 Chevy Camaro SS 369 is covered in the blue stuff to keep it from smudging up the trim. He admits that the NOS stripping is notorious for leaving stains, but he uses it anyway for the sake of originality. Sure, it’s an extreme length to go to in the name of keeping the car all original, but there’s good reason for this freakish perfectionism. You see, this isn’t just any ’69 Camaro, but an original, numbers-matching SS396 four-speed car. If that wasn’t rare enough, it boasts a truly bizarre combination of options that leaves people scratching their heads and makes the car even more unique. Throw in concours-quality attention to detail that cleans house on the national show circuit and you’ve got yourself a freakishly rare Camaro that everyone loves to love.
Let’s get this out of the way up front. Mac’s Camaro isn’t a daily driver or a machine that gets hustled down the track, so get over it. To the contrary, it’s a muscle car relic, and a rolling piece of ultra-rare automotive history that demands fastidious preservation. While muscle cars and gear-banging beat-downs go hand in hand, there are plenty of run-of-the-mill six-cylinder cars perfect for that sort of thing. Dropping in an LS small-block and affixing a set of SS badges isn’t a big deal in a more common Camaro, but even hard-core performance junkies would have to think twice before bastardizing a rare original. That’s a pretty apt description of Mac, a man who has no reservations about dumping the clutch in his SS396 ’69 Nova or pitching his LS-powered ’55 Chevy totally sideways.
While it seems somewhat brash for someone with such an extreme proclivity for performance to jump on the show car bandwagon, all it took was the right machine. “My wife, Shelley, and I have had a number of street rods and custom cars over the years, some of which we bought and others that we built. We have had a wonderful time with all these cars, but made a conscious decision to return to our roots and get back into originality,” Mac explains. “As a consequence, I flew to North Carolina to look at an LS6 Chevelle which did not meet our standards in terms of fit and finish, but the trip was not in vain because it was at the same location that I saw the Camaro. It had an unusual color combination with the white hockey stripes and vinyl top contrasting nicely with the Hugger Orange paint. The documentation was amazing because it included the original window sticker, sales contract, warranty with Protect-O-Plate, and maintenance receipts. Further research showed that the car was very unusual because it had a big-block with a wide-ratio four-speed and 3.07:1 rearend. Moreover, it was a radio-delete car with a console but no gauges.”
As someone who was already elbow-deep into building hot rods when first-gen Camaros were still new, Mac immediately realized the car’s potential. “When I looked at the window sticker and saw how this Camaro was equipped, I said ‘Wait a second, this is a very uniquely optioned car,’” Mac recalls. “Cars with center consoles almost always have the gauges, which this car doesn’t, and it’s very strange to have a deluxe interior but no radio or Rally wheels. Researching the published build number statistics indicates that no more than eight of these cars were built with a 3.07:1 Posi rearend, wide-ratio transmission, and a 325-horsepower 396 big-block. If the orange houndstooth interior and other features—such as radio delete and the lack of console gauges—are considered, the car really could be one-of-one.