When you make your living off of your passion, sometimes you don't get to enjoy it as much as you'd like. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it really isn't. For skilled builders like Bill Jelinek, who spend all their time creating cutting-edge, asphalt-scorching iron for a living, when there's actually a chance to take a break from work, they don't have a car of their own to enjoy because they're always building them for others.
Bill started Route 66 Motorsports (www.rt66motorsports.com) over 30 years ago, and as time passed the shop eventually grew into a 16,000 square-foot factory cranking out restored and restomodded Detroit iron. The business has even grown to include a car detailing product line, and aftermarket performance products retailer. Bill and his crew at Route 66 have been responsible for our two latest Project American Heroes cars (a '69 Camaro and '70 Chevelle) that have been auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation. This year's Chevelle sold for $250,000 at the Costa Mesa affair. That speaks volumes about the quality of the work at Route 66 Motorsports.
Bill wanted a toy to not only enjoy when he actually had some free time, but to show off the skill and building prowess of his business. After sitting down and doing some thinking, he decided on a '69 Camaro. Easily the most popular Chevy on the planet, it would be the perfect vehicle to have for fun and display use.
The starting point was a typical, fairly rust-free roller from California. A pair of good, used front fenders were acquired, then the real work got started. The body was completely stripped, with the first modification being a set of mini-tubs to make room for the wider rubber needed for the car's Pro Touring theme. Moving inside, the rear seat area was totally reworked, the stock seat scrapped, and recesses made for a pair of rear buckets. Between the front and rear buckets a complete custom console was fabricated stretching the length of the interior.
The stock dash was cut out, and a fabricated unit was welded in that blended with the center console. In the engine compartment, a pair of trick inner wheelwells was dropped in to complement the newly-smoothed firewall. Topping things off (no pun intended) was a one-of-a-kind hood with dual rear-facing air inlets, built by Route 66.
Pro Touring was the theme set for the Camaro, so the stock subframe and suspension were pitched for a Chris Alston's Chassisworks front subframe and suspension with Ridetech shocks and Wilwood 12-inch brakes. Cradled between the new framerails is a 383 built by A-Team Speed cranking out 525 hp. The stroked Mouse is stuffed with forged internals and capped with a pair of GM Performance Parts alloy heads. A Street & Performance multi-port EFI system takes care of fuel delivery, while on the bottom end a Milodon six-quart oil pan keeps things well-lubricated. A Griffin four core aluminum radiator stops the engine from blowing its top, while a billet serpentine system spins all the accessories. A Richmond five-speed and Centerforce clutch send the motivation to the rear.
Out back, a Chassisworks four-link suspension system is bolted to a Moser 9-inch-style rearend stuffed with an Auburn third-member with 3.50 gears, and Moser axles. It uses Wilwood brakes on the ends. Two more Ridetech shocks complete the suspension system.
With the body and mechanicals set, the car was wheeled into the spray booth to be covered in layers of PPG paint. The two-tone color scheme of burgundy and tan was applied by Bill and his son Nick, then shot with clear for a mirror-like finish. The stock bumpers were modified, painted, and tucked into the body for a cleaner look. The finishing touch was a set of Billet Specialties wheels (17x8 front, 18x10 rear) wrapped in Nitto NT555 rubber.
The interior was treated to the same two-tone color scheme of the outside, with a set of leather-wrapped Kris Kustom seats keeping driver and passengers comfy while cruising. Route 66 custom-made new door panels for the car, and installed a Custom Auto Sound system to supply driving tunes. Mark's Interior finished up the rest of the inside work for carpet and other stuff. Auto Meter gauges keep tabs on the 383 for the driver, while a Billet Chicayne steering wheel tells the car where to go.
After spending over 30 years fabricating award-winning cars for others, Bill finally has a tricked out machine of his own. Building the Camaro along with his son provided countless memories, and both enjoy showing off the skill and handiwork of the Route 66 Motorsports crew wherever they go. If you want to see photos of the actual build of the Camaro, check out the "Projects" section on the Route 66 website.