Classic Car Watch
Day 2 1969 Camaro

NOTE: This column displays cars I have found on the Internet. I am not selling them. Please follow the links if you are interest in a car. Be mindful of the date this article was published. For an explanation why I do this read the original column here.

February 1, 2017
By Scott Lewis

This month is going to be very different. I found a super original, and very plain 1969 Camaro. It inspired this article. Enjoy!

1969 Chevrolet Camaro - $27,998 (you can find this car for sale here on Hemmings web site.)

Description: Nice unmolested, #s matching 69 camaro. 87,831 original miles. Rare, factory code 67 burgundy. This car still has its original 2 barrel carb and correct single exhaust with transverse muffler! The underside is original, clean metal. Straight, nice fitting body. Smooth, glossy paint. Excellent original vinyl top. Nice original chrome and trim. Weatherstrips and window seals replaced. Very well cared for, impressive, original interior. Upholstery, headliner, door panels etc are original and show minimal age. Dash area is not cut and shows very well. Original motor compartment. Still has factory air cleaner with the original stickers. Excellent running and driving car. Front end is gone through. Air conditioning is updated to R-134 freon, compressor is replaced. It's turnkey ready to enjoy exactly the way it is.

1969 Camaro! This is probably my favorite Muscle Car. Yes, it is really a Pony Car. The point is, it is one of my favorite cars, if not my single favorite car from the mid-sixties to early seventies.

The car above seems to be so original that it begs the question... leave it stock or modify it. I am not a purist, so I would choose to modify it. After all it is not a special edition car in any way. Regardless, I would do my best to make sure all modifications could be undone, and the car returned to stock, if that became necessary.

Day 2 Build

Below I will outline the steps I would take to modify the car. This is generally known as a Day 2 build. Meaning, what would someone in 1969 consider doing to a car on the second day of ownership (but with today's technology). You see this today. Go to a Cars & Coffee event and see how many people have already made modifications to brand new vehicles. Granted, its takes longer than what could be done on the second day of ownership, but you get the point.

I would love to take this car and see how little I could put into it to make it a respectable car at Cars & Coffee, as well as a decent car to drive regularly. Then later I might consider a high end build with hard core parts to make something close to a Pro Touring car, but more streetable for everyday driving.

Today we will just cover the basics to get this car up to a nice level of appearance, performance and drivability. As you read below there will be some hesitation on some modifications. For instance, as-is this car screams for some raised white letter BF Goodrich Radial TA tires. They would surely be better than the tires on the car now. Both in looks and performance. However, BF Goodrich's Radial TA is very outdated. I don't think they have updated it in decades. They still provide a great Muscle Car LOOK to a car. What about the wheels? If they are 14 inches they are too small to put over large disc brakes, which we would surely want to add down the road. Do we buy the Radial TAs now for a quick improvement, and then replace them in a few months for better wheels AND tires?

Let's begin.

If you take a quick look at the pictures you can see it is a very plain looking Camaro. However, it does have the front and rear spoilers. Tires? Yes... we wait for wheels AND tires. For this car I would go with a set of Year One's updated Rallye wheel. It looks very much like the wheel on the car but comes in 17 x 8 inches (the size I would get). There are a lot of options on Year One's site, so I am just going to say these are $1,100. We want to mount some good tires on them. I would LOVE it if BF Goodrich sold a Comp T/A tire with raised white lettering. Alas, that is not the case. To get to a tire size... I needed to first get a tire diameter that would be close to what the car has now. I looked up a P215/70R14 tire. This tire has an overall diameter of 25.9 inches. This will be important when trying to select a 17 inch tire. I checked out BFG for a set of G-FORCE SPORT COMP-2, in size 225/50ZR17 (dia. 25.9) for the front, and 255/45ZR17 (dia. 26.1) for the rear. Price is $563.96 for all 4. Regardless, we should be all in with mounting, balancing and anything else needed for under 2 Grand.

Next I would want to enhance the appearance for as cheap as possible. How? Lower the car. I will do a fair amount of measuring before buying those wheels and tires. I don't want a car that looks weird with tires that don't look right. Regardless, the car still sits too high. The least expensive, and safest way to lower a car like this is with dropped spindles on the front and lowering blocks in the rear. Let's cover the rear, since it is easy. A 1 inch lowering block kit at Summit Racing was just $35.50. 1 inch should be enough to help us get just a bit of rake when paired with a 2 inch drop in front. Lowering blocks are simply a block that goes between the rear axle and the leaf spring. By raising the rear end up in relation to the springs the car comes down. And since the shock mounting point is below the lowering block, this does not effect the suspension geometry at all.

As for the front, a pair of 2 inch dropped spindles should work nicely. These work by moving the rotor and wheel higher, hence lowering the car over the them. Since all the other suspension points stay the same, this too does not effect the geometry of the car.

Here is where throw away money comes into it. It is possible to just get a pair of dropped spindles for less than $200. Or, get them in a basic disc brake kit for $500. Both of those are temporary since we will eventually want to go with a nice set of 4 wheel disc brakes. Just to keep the car safe until we can afford really good brakes, I will get the disc brake option now (and likely through away the spindles and brakes when I upgrade to a better suspension and brakes).

What's next. Assuming "Front end is gone through", we should be able to just bolt on those spindles and brakes. If not, then a basic rebuild of the front suspension would be in order. Let's just assume we will put in a Polygraphite Performance Super Front End Kit from PST. $399 covers the front end kit. Yes, again, we will likely replace much of this with a better performing suspension later. We might also want to consider a heavier front sway car now. A larger that stock replacement bar is not expensive, but again, will likely be thrown away when we build a proper suspension in the future with all new components. As long as we are here, we might as well spend the extra $79 for the Polygraphite Rear Leaf Spring Bushing Set. We might want to consider a rear sway bar, too. This might be more involved though and maybe waited on for a full suspension swap.

At this point the car should be able to handle and stop better than a new 69 Camaro.

Next up is to start seeing how drivable we can make the car for the least amount of money. OK, not the least, but pretty low if we can. This is going to sound like a weird thing to do so early in a car's build... what with a simple 327 and 2 barrel carb... but my next addition would be an overdrive automatic. Summit has a fully rebuilt 700R4 for $1,399.97. This would be very interesting to see what kind of mileage improvement this provides... with all the other 60's stuff still in place. Also, the first gear of the 700R4 is lower than whatever is in the car now, so you should see an improvement in both acceleration and highway mileage.

Not necessarily the cheapest way, here is were we have more throw away money. Holley's new Sniper 4BBL TBI Master Kit with Fuel System costs $999. It is a self learning fuel injection system. You answer some questions and it loads a baseline profile. Then tunes itself as you drive. Again, I would be interested in how much this does for mileage and drivability on a base engine this old. Of course, I would also add either an electronic ignition conversion kit or an HEI distributor. Worse case, $200 for the new distributor.

At this point we need to address the "look" of the car in the audible way. Meaning it will sound weird pulling into Cars & Coffee with a stock single exhaust. I would go with shorty headers, mainly because long tube headers typically hang too low and reduce ground clearance. We are not making enough power that it would be much of a difference. So, ceramic coated shorty headers from Summit are $292.46. A Magnaflow performance dual exhaust system is $830.42.

With the car looking, sounding and driving well, we have to decide where to put our money next. I like the idea of updating the interior with a decent stereo, Custom Autosound's USA-630 with the Bluetooth kit is $324.90. I also want to update the dash with a nice set of gauges. $361.95 gets you the 4 console gauges. I would like to update the dash itself, too. I am having trouble locating a kit that just gives you a nice, complete dash panel with gauges to drop it. Dakota digital has something nice for $755.25. The dash part looks very reasonable and it is not too modern looking. However, I prefer a factory look. I might have to buy the items piece meal. This will be hard to do this exactly right.

At this point we have to get serious. We could get a set of Edelbrock aluminum heads and a nice camshaft to boost horsepower. Or do I consider an engine swap. If an engine swap, do I get a nice "regular" small block Chevy crate motor, or do I make the big switch to an LS motor. Hmmm. Then the suspension and brakes need revisiting.

Up to now the throw away amount was in the hundreds. Continue down the wrong path from this point and its thousands of dollars lost to switch direction.

That is for another article. Let's just enjoy the car with all these goodies for now.