Full Throttle and Pitched Sideways

November 3rd, 2011

Text and Photos by Michael Shartsis

Rich Jones; 1969 Chevy Camaro; Tucson, AZ

Rich Jones of Tucson, Arizona, stumbled across his ‘69 Camaro a couple of years back when it was an unfinished project for sale in the classifieds. Call it custom car karma, but Rich always wanted a pro touring Camaro and what better year to build than a ’69, considering this was the pinnacle year for Chevrolet’s pony car program of the late-‘60s as well as the basis for GM’s retro-themed ‘10 Camaro of today. Having owned and built his fair share of hot rods and muscle machines in the past, Rich found himself ready to wrench again when he spotted this diamond in the rough.

Not many are willing to buy someone else’s headache. Not to say this car was in poor condition, rather, this Camaro was well on its way to what you see today, sporting fresh DuPont Yellow paint and a small-block 350 beneath the black striped hood. After doing a little mental math, Rich made the decision that this unfinished Camaro was well worth the asking price of $30,000, and once completed would be well below his original build budget of $50,000. “Parts alone were well worth the asking price,” says Rich, adding, “It was the quality of the work already performed that closed the deal for me.” However, once he was home with his project, Rich’s wife Jenny found herself questioning why her husband was dismantling his newly acquired Camaro? Rich’s answer was simple, “To make it mine.”

A closer look reveals the DNA of a true pro touring effort, starting with the engine and drive train. Rich really scored under the hood considering the original plan was to swap out the previously installed 350 for a newer LS2 power plant. That was until further research revealed his newly acquired Camaro sported a Performance Unlimited built 9.5:1 small-block Chevy pumping out 475 hp and 465 ft-lbs of torque. High performance components within this bored and stroked 383 include an Eagle crank and rods, Speed Pro pistons and rings, COMP Cams camshaft with roller rockers arms, Melling oil pump and MSD ignition system capped by a Moroso oil pan and topped by an Edelbrock RPM intake with matching 750-cfm carburetor. Better breathing is provided by a K&N filter for incoming air, while Jet Hot-coated Hooker headers exhaust spent gases via a set of Flowmaster mufflers. Finishing off the engine compartment are color-matched GM Performance valve covers, a badass Billet Specialties pulley setup and a Be Cool aluminum radiator. Backing up this mighty small-block is a tried and true pro touring-inspired Tremec T-56 six-speed tranny linked to a Strange 12-bolt Chevy rearend via a B&M Ripper shifter.

Chassis-wise, Rich’s Camaro has been fit with Global West front suspension components combined with Precision coil-over shocks for an adjustable stance. Out back, the suspension retains its factory configuration with the addition of a panhard bar, subframe connectors by Jegster, Monroe shocks and a Hellwing anti-sway bar for added pro touring prowess. Steering input comes from a Street Performance quick steer rack. Keeping things planted on the pavement is a set of American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels measuring 17 x 8 inches in the front with 235/45-17 Nitto rubber and fatty 17 x 9.5 inches with equally fat 275/40-17 Nittos in the rear. Bringing things to a stop with sincerity are a set of Baer disc brakes at each corner.

As mentioned, Rich’s ride came with the Chroma-One Yellow paint already applied. Brackman’s Paint & Body is also responsible for the bodywork, which features a clean shave of unwanted side makers and body badging. Adding to the muscle machine styling is a duckbill front spoiler, crystal clear headlights and custom carbon fiber Bow Tie crafted by the present owner himself. The rear of the Camaro also sports a custom carbon fiber Bow Tie that sits nicely between a trick set of black billet aluminum taillights from Fesler Designs. A blacked-out bumper and trunk-mount spoiler round out the rear.

Inside the driver’s compartment you’ll find a set of reupholstered seats featuring gray cloth inserts on black buckets. Year One gets the credit for the interior door panels, carpet and dash pad. Keeping with the pro touring theme, carbon fiber was the material finish of choice for the Covan’s Classic dash and door sills. For modern monitoring of the engine, Autometer carbon fiber face gauges were also installed. To keep the Arizona heat at bay, Rich added a Vintage Air AC/heater unit beneath the dash, along with dark tinted windows. Wrapping up the interior is a gray, leather -wrapped Grant steering wheel together with an Alpine CD sound system featuring an amp in the trunk along with an Optima battery.

With everything said and done, Rich has put together one top-notch ’69 Camaro that he’s not afraid to drive on both straight and curved roadways with authority. Maybe next time you run across an unfinished project you’ll think of Rich, and if the math is right, you might consider making that unwanted ride yours. It worked for Mr. Jones!

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