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Meet The 409-Powered Camaro Chevrolet Should Have Built

Brandan Gillogly Jun 9, 2017
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In 2009, Michael Feinstein, owner of Nostalgia Motor Sports, spotted a rendering in the September issue of HOT ROD created by artist Steve Stanford. It was a red 1969 Camaro, but it was unlike any of the Pro Touring F-bodies that had become popular. This car drew inspiration from Chevrolet's late '50s and early '60s performance cars, adopting a bubbletop roof and 409 W-engine, as if Chevrolet had introduced the Camaro a decade earlier. Michael was captivated by the rendering and decided to see if the car could actually be built, starting a build process that would culminate in this complete car nearly seven years later.

The first step was a scale model as a proof of concept. Michael posited that if the car could be built properly at 1:25th scale, it could be built in full size. Model builder Rob Glucksman completed the scale model slicing by grafting the rear portion of a 1965 Corvair roof onto the Camaro and reworking the rear and quarter glass. It wasn't a simple installation, but the transplanted roof looked like the rendering and proved it could be done. On to the real thing.

03 1969 Camaro Z 409 2/73

Michael sourced a relatively clean 1969 Camaro on eBay without an engine or transmission and the rusty floorboards were replaced with panels from Auto Metal Direct. Then the rear custom work began. The surgery done on the model was mimicked by Magoo's Street Rods in Canoga Park, Californiathis time in metal. The rear third of a 1965 Corvair coupe roof was added to the Camaro's roof and melded into what remained of the thinned Camaro C-pillar. The Camaro's roof is wider than a Corvair, so custom, flush-mounted glass was made with a matching curve. All driprails were shaved and the roof's edged were rounded, and the front window was flush-mounted to match the rear. Steve Stanford's rendering included much more than the roof, and the Z/409 is faithful by tucking the front and rear bumpers into the body, integrating a recessed waterfall in the deck lid like a 1961 Chevy, and using a 1957 Chevy emblem in a custom grille.

Mark Selkirk at The Custom Shop, also in Canoga Park, sprayed the car in 1962 Chevy Roman Red using single-stage PPG Concept DCC paint with a final cut and buff by Albert Godoy.

05 1969 Camaro Z 409 3/73

The rendering also hinted at the interior, which uses a 1961 full-size Chevrolet dash fitted to the narrower Camaro. The door-mounted arm rests were also sourced from a 1961 Chevy, as were the steering wheel, rear seat waterfall speaker, and the shifter console, which was modified to fit the Camaro tunnel. Camaro bucket seats were trimmed down and covered in red Seville-grain vinyl with 1957 Chevy black and red cloud pattern fabric by Zuniga's Auto Upholstery. The center glove box conceals a Pioneer head unit and the factory buttons for a AC now operate a Vintage Air Gen IV system that runs through restored 1961 Chevrolet AC vents.

52 1969 Camaro Z 409 4/73

Keeping with the early '60s styling, the engine of choice is a 409, Chevrolet's dragstrip and NASCAR contender during the early days of the Impala SS. The 1962 block and head castings were sent to QMP Racing in Chatswroth, CA, where Michael Consolo handled the assembly of the four-inch Eagle stroker crank and 4.342-inch Ross pistons that up the displacement to 474 ci. The top end uses the factory 409hp heads, ported by QMP, and factory dual quad intake topped with twin Carter carbs. Hydraulic roller lifters, rockers, and a healthy cam from Isky, along with valvesprings from Comp, move the valves to the tune of 498 hp at 6,000rpm, with a plateau of torque that doesn't dip below 450lb-ft between 4,000 and 5,700rpm.

10 1969 Camaro Z 409 5/73
09 1969 Camaro Z 409 6/73

Underneath the Camaro is a chassis that's a far cry from a 1961 Chevrolet Impala, but it is detailed as finely as the topside. A Heidt's Pro-G front subframe and Pro-G four-link with double-adjustable Adco shocks were painted and polished and are linked together by subframe connectors. They're not there just for looks, as their lowered ride height, unique suspension geometry, and Ford Thunderbird rack and pinion steering all combine to modernize the handling and feedback from the F-body into something that could hardly have been imagined when the last of the 409s were dominating NASCAR. We'll take the sytle, but we'll definitely let that part of the '60s go.

04 1969 Camaro Z 409 7/73
02 1969 Camaro Z 409 8/73

Z/409 is strikingly different from the rear. The curved rear glass was custom made in Finland, side glass was sourced locally.

06 1969 Camaro Z 409 9/73

Like the rendering, the Z/409 uses a custom hood with a 1967 Corvette stinger hood scoop.

07 1969 Camaro Z 409 10/73

Evod built the custom designed, billet aluminum wheels to use vintage Corvette knock-off caps. The front wheels measure 18x8 inches and wear 245/40ZR18 Nitto Invos while the 18x10-inch rears use 295/35ZR18s. The '60s-appropriate red sidewall stripe is by Diamond Back Classics.Wilwood six-pistons front and four-piston rear calipers each clamp down on 13-inch rotors. The wheels were designed with this brake and suspension package in mind and fit perfectly.

08 1969 Camaro Z 409 11/73

With the '61 Impala steering wheel and dashy and '50s upholstery fabric, the Camaro's interior is a definite time warp.

22 1969 Camaro Z 409 12/73

A fuel filler is hidden in the trunk beneath a trim panel. Also in the trunk is a Memphis Audio amplifier and Pioneer CD changer.

23 1969 Camaro Z 409 13/73

Despite using 55-year-old factory intake and head castings, the W-engine cranks out 466lb-ft of torque and nearly 500hp at streetable engine speeds.

24 1969 Camaro Z 409 14/73

Ignition comes from a Chevrolet dual-point distributer converted to Pertronix electronic ignition, and powered by an MSD 7AL box.

25 1969 Camaro Z 409 15/73

Cast iron headers were smoothed and given a high-gloss ceramic coating. They look like cast aluminum.

26 1969 Camaro Z 409 16/73

The intake and Carter carbs are numbers matching for a 409hp 1962 409.

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