At Camaro Performers we tend to focus on performance, but let’s face it, looks matter as well. Even the typical track fiend wants their ride to look nice. So long as the aesthetic doesn’t negate the ability to hit the road or track, we’re all for a good-looking Camaro. A perfect example of this is the front real estate of a ’69 Camaro. In its standard, headlight-exposed form, it’s perfectly functional. But nobody can, at least not seriously, argue that the Rally Sport (RS) option doesn't blow it away in the looks department. The main problem is that far more standard Camaros were built compared to those with the RS option.
Sure, it’s possible to convert from standard to RS, but until fairly recently it meant hunting for all the parts, dinking with vacuum-actuated doors, and modifying fenders. Enter the RS conversion kit from the folks over at Camaro Central. They supply almost everything you need to install hidden headlights into your plain-Jane Camaro. Best of all, they replaced the problematic vacuum system in favor of far more reliable electric motors.
Behold the utilitarian nose of our test subject. It gets the job done but doesn't win any bonus points in the looks department. And no, this Camaro isn't a real Z/28, so stop writing that letter to the editor.
To put the new parts in, the old ones need to be pulled out. It's not particularly difficult, but it's more involved than you might guess. We got started by pulling the headlight bezels and then the lights, retainer rings, and buckets.
Don Lee Auto's (Rancho Cucamonga, California) Tim Lee then removed the bumper. We thought we would be able to leave the bumper brackets on but found they needed to be removed as well. Since we already pulled the bumper, we just loosened the bracket bolts so the braces could be swung down and out of the way.
He then removed the grille stiffener and grille.
With the grille gone, he was able to unbolt the headlight buckets. With the exception of the bumper, none of the parts removed will be reused.
And here's our starting point for the new parts from Camaro Central.
The kit from Camaro Central (PN GRI-1502, $1,630) included the grille, center chrome, upper grille stiffener, RS capsules, door chromes, outer plates, right and left inner door covers, headlamps, headlight mount rings, adjuster kits, headlight bowls, and electric motors. It also includes the electric door control module.
A real time-saver is that the light assemblies came preassembled and ready to install. The doors were also pre-calibrated to stop and start in just the right spot.
If you're working with original standard (like us), rather than RS fenders, you won't have the right tabs in place to bolt up the new RS light assemblies. Keep in mind that aftermarket fenders will have the right tabs, so this only applies to original GM fenders.
The solution was a set of 1969 Chevy Camaro RS fender headlight adapter brackets (PN RAL-6, $27). They were easy to install and didn't require welding like other tabs we've seen in the past.
When dealing with 40-plus-year-old cars there seems to be some bit of variance in how parts fit. The new electric light assemblies were supposed to bolt directly to the radiator core support, but when we tried that the angles got all out of whack. We found that small spacers fixed the issue and made the doors sit in the right place to function with the new RS grille. The need for spacers and how thick they need to be is something that's going to vary from car to car.
With the headlight assemblies bolted in place we were able to install the new RS grille and grille stiffener.
Wiring in the system was pretty straightforward thanks to this plug-and-play controller that came with the kit. The box was fairly large, but we found a spot to bolt it to on the back of the radiator core support.
It took some effort to adjust everything with spacers and a slight bracket tweak here and there, but in the end the kit fit our Camaro very nicely, and considering we didn't do any bodywork, the gaps were better than expected.
The end result is an iconic grille that is arguably one of the best looking front ends ever produced.