Throw almost any stock 1969 Camaro at speed into a 90-degree corner on a race track and typically one or two things happen: It'll resist the urge to turn, continue on straight, and make a mess. If you get lucky and it does follow your orders, the Camaro will start rolling over on its tires of the era, and you'll go sliding across the flat hunk of vinyl that passed for a bucket seat during the Nixon administration.
That is decidedly not what happens when you perform the same feat in the 1969 Camaro built by New Jersey's Ty Rudyanski. No, this green g-machine gets with the program. Your wish from behind the driver's seat is the car's command. You are wrapped in grippy cloth seats from Tenzo R, and you need ever bit of the support they provide because this F-body has the underpinnings of a C4 Corvette.
While Camaros are favorites of drag racers everywhere (especially first-gen cars), they have an extensive road-racing heritage, too. From the famous late-'60s Roger Penske/Mark Donohue Camaros of Trans-Am fame, to the timeless IROC racers and beyond, there's a legacy of twisty-track success with the Bow-Tie legend. Lately there has been a resurgence of vehicles that have "crossover" capabilities-cars that can be driven to the dragstrip or road course, then compete in various bracket race, HPDE, and autocross events, and then are driven back home to their nice, climate-controlled garages. When we laid eyes on Rudyanski's home-built hot rod, we immediately jumped at the opportunity to feature the poster-child for this type of performance vehicle.
Ty originally wanted to build a "streetable road racing car," but as the project progressed, he decided to make it even more of a street fighter, and the car took a little bit of a different direction. He included A/C and heat, two accessories that are rarely found on road racing vehicles. A few years ago Ty began the process of searching out the perfect donor car for the project. The '69 was purchased when Ty and a friend were going to look at a '74 Corvette.
"I found it in a corner under some rubble where it had been sitting for about 10 years," Rudyanski explained. A mere $4500, netted him the car, a 12-bolt rear end, and some miscellaneous sheetmetal. Work started about a year later, as Ty was working on another Camaro at the time of the purchase.
Without any interior or nose, Rudyanski started replacing all the sheetmetal with pieces from Goodmark, except the roof, which was retained.
Power comes from a '99 Corvette LS1 that Ty picked up. The motor seems to fit perfectly under the hood of the '69, and when mated to the Tremec Viper T56 6-speed tranny (sourced from D&D Performance, Wixom, Michigan), the powertrain is a veritable work of art. Except for long-tube headers and a K&N filter, the 346-inch mill is bone stock, which made its performance on the dragstrip much more memorable. With Ty handling the powershifting chores, the 3,145-lb car ripped off a pair of mid 12s, with the best being a 12.59 at 111 mph. Given a set of drag tires, there is no doubt this is a low 12-second beast.
The entire front suspension comes from a '93 Corvette, and Ty added QA1 R-series adjustable shocks and springs to get the bite he wanted in the corners. In the rear, a complete '84 Corvette independent setup was employed, again with the same adjustable QA1's keeping the rear tires planted coming off the corners. A Dana 44 rear axle with 3.73 gears, and a limited-slip puts the power to the rear wheels, entirely assembled by Rudyanski himself. His good friend, Dave Overbaugh, helped measure and set the IRS brackets to make certain they were in straight.
This car is truly a weapon on the street, and a road course carnivore. We had the opportunity to take it for a number of laps at the Super Chevy magazine road course-13 turns and 1.35-miles of high- and low-speed fun complete with long straights, sweepers, hairpins, and even a banked left-hander. This pro-touring Camaro definitely rose to the challenge of high-g loads and insane terminal velocities.
Of course, when someone entrusts you with a one-off he hand-built in his garage, you ease into it a bit differently than you would your own hot rod. We slowly built to speed in Ty's Camaro and this allowed us to learn the car's traits. The first thing we discovered was that the QA1 shocks were adjusted to a setting that was way too stiff for the track. It was literally skating across the corners when you encountered any bumps. Back in the pits, the owner (at our suggestion) set them on full-soft and away we went.
Much better. While the car was still sprung and the shocks valved too stiffly, loosening the shocks allowed us to knock 2.5 seconds off our lap times. We went from a very average 1:30.99 to an above average 1:28.40 on the first lap. We followed with a 1:28.50, and were incredibly consistent after that.
One thing we didn't have to worry about was a lack of grip from the tires. The Pirelli P-Zero Corsas stuck like Velcro to the track's surface. The Corsa is Pirelli's DOT-legal road race compound and Ty has 315/30ZR18s on OE Direct ZO6-style wheels (18x10.5-inches, 7-inches of backspacing) at all four corners. Combined with the C4 suspension and relatively low weight (3,345 with driver), the Camaro was an animal, far exceeding our expectations.
The quick-ratio steering also impressed us. It was fast, perhaps too fast for some, but we liked it. The feedback was also excellent. We'd rate the handling as first-rate.
As for the engine/tranny combo, it is just about ideal for this car. The car ran flawlessly on both the strip and the road course. Moreover, Ty drove the car the entire length of the 2006 Hot Rod magazine Power Tour, some 1,500 miles, without incident. "The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia were a blast in this car," Ty reported. The Vintage Air (with heater and defrost capabilities), Kenwood CD changer, and XM satellite radio ensured that the trip was a comfortable one, as well.
Ty painted the car Lexus Desert Sage Metallic in the spray booth at Terry's Auto Body. He also set in the fuel filler door in the B-pillar, which flows to a gas tank that was raised up into the trunk and acts as the trunk floor, a'la first-generation Mustang.
We'd say Ty built the perfect vehicle, one that turns heads everywhere it goes, runs like a scalded cat, and handles like a dream. Of course, if he had to do it over again, there is one thing he'd change: "I'd use a complete C5 Corvette drivetrain with twin turbos."