'69 Camaros exist in myriad forms when owned by car enthusiasts. Some become race cars tubbed with monster balonies and wheelie bars; others become modernized amalgams of old sheetmetal with new elec-tronically controlled everything; while some become painstakingly restored 100-point showroom cars; or, as our featured example, a clean, drivable street car with just a hint of modernization.
Christian Kneller of Redondo Beach, California, had been looking for a '69 SS for several years, something he'd wanted since high school. Having lived in Pennsylvania and Colorado, finding a rust-free edition was somewhat problematic. After relocating to California, however (as he calls it "The Mecca of car culture and rust-free cars."), the search only took a few months. He located an excellent prospect owned by a San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy. The clean example already had excellent paint and bodywork, giving Chris a chance to play with the mechanical stuff. As a bonus, the car had working factory air conditioning!
The color may not be as eye-grabbing as Daytona Yellow or Hugger Orange, but the deep Fathom Green paint job, along with the traditional white stripes, gives the car a more mature appearance. "It may not be the most popular," says Chris, "but I love it." With the cowl induction scoop and spoilers front and rear already installed and painted, Chris could get down to the nitty gritty of making the Camaro his.
Since he appreciates cars that handle well, Chris first tuned up the suspension with Hotchkis springs front and rear, dropping the stance 2 inches and 1 1/2 inches respectively. At the same time, KYB gas shocks were installed on all four corners, and the A-arm bushings renewed with N.O.S. rubber. Hotchkis antiroll bars finished off the suspension package.
To take advantage of the new suspension, the stock wheels were ditched in favor of Vintage Wheel Works V45s, 17x8 front and 17x9.5 rear. These wheels maintain a period-authentic look while adding a more modern stance with the 17-inch diameter. The wheels are wrapped in Kumho Ecsta MX tires, 245/45 in front and 275/40 out back. The suspension work combined with the big sticky meats allows the vintage Camaro to stay with the sport compact crowd through, as they say, "the twisties."
Since big wheels look silly with little brakes, Chris chose Baer to supply the 13-inch four-wheel discs, Track models in front and Sport in the rear. The Camaro now, to say the least, stops with alacrity.
All that cornering and braking can leave a driver hanging on for dear life if the factory flat seats are retained. So some nicely bolstered Corbeau TRS seats were bolted in, and retractable three-point belts replaced the OEM two-parters. A nice, fat Momo steering wheel replaced the factory skinny.
Once the twisties get straight, though, horsepower is what you need. Chris found his in Boulder, Colorado, and obtained it in a unique way. "My friend Andy Maass put the engine in the back seat of his LT1 Caprice and drove it all the way from Boulder." The four-bolt main 350 was decked out in traditional hot rod manner, with ported factory 041 heads, an Edelbrock intake manifold, Hooker headers, and a COMP Cams bumpstick. The tried and true combo put out 321 hp at the rear wheels, which is more than adequate to generate a "big smile when I mash the gas," says Chris.
The rest of the drivetrain is a stock TH-350 with a Jeg's 2300-stall converter. A 10-bolt 8.5-inch rear built by Tim Moore contains 3.73 gears and a Posi. Although Chris says the 10-bolt has been bulletproof, the slushbox is ready to retire, to be replaced (he hopes) by a five-speed manual. This would be more in line with the car's eventual intent of autocrossing and track days.