Mr. R is a 47-year-old software configuration manager from San Diego, a real smart cookie, or so it would seem. Naturally, his $69,000 plan was highly detailed and was always in sight. Here he gives us the cogent reasons for what he's accomplished and how he did it. "I wanted to build it rock-solid and with a bitchin' but not overly flashy or overstated appearance inside and out," he explains. "I wanted there to be some modern touches but no modifications that took away from the classic look of the '69. It had to be blue because I'm a surfer and a fisherman and the deep blue color of the ocean has been a constant part of my life. I used my computer and digital skills to visualize different paint schemes, graphics, and stripes for the car and determined that modifications to a solid blue base only looked different, but not better, so I stayed with a solid blue scheme.
"I had a big-block in both my Trans Ams when I was younger, so I decided to stay a bit nostalgic and go with a classic carbureted Rat. Last but not least, being the stubborn do-it-yourselfer that I am, I wanted to build it all myself so that I could have something I was really proud of and also pick up some new fabrication and bodywork skills along the way. I thought it would take a little over a year to finish, but it took a lot longer. My cost estimates were equally inaccurate. I knew it couldn't be something that dragged out, so I dedicated so much of my time each week to getting it done and doing it right. Nearly three years later it's actually done and I still can't believe I finished such a large project." If you want every detail go to his website, www.69camaroproject.com.
Chris bought the car off eBay sight unseen, a risky and often disappointing proposition. But he lucked out. The car wasn't really drivable, but it was mostly solid and had all its original sheetmetal, and that mattered more to him. The OE metal was there to stay; the drivetrain wasn't, so he got on with it. He did every part of the build (fabrication, restoration, bodywork, suspension, interior, audio/electrical, and welding) alone in his garage, with the exception of the final paint and the rear seat covering. Kandie, his brand-new wife, lent him a hand now and then but was there to dutifully and digitally document the whole deal.
"When I was in high school, we'd race anything that moved. We constantly repaired our cars after school and on the weekends, always trying to make them faster or look better even though we had no money," recalls Mr. R. Then he fell into the inevitable trap of early adulthood, which is making his way through school and then making his way toward self-sufficiency. All of that takes lots of money and time, enough time to incur changes in attitude and the direction of the project. His favor changed from muscle cars per se to the popular Pro Touring or G-Machine substratum, where the car is crafted to stop, handle, and squirt beyond its tires in one happy, well-matched conglomeration. According to his profession, his hobbies so noted, and his rampant subjective personality, there was really no other place Chris would have been happy.
He kept his head and made sensible choices, and didn't run away with the cow that jumped over the moon [That's the title of this month's other feature. Delete?-CJ]. The grunt-laden ZZ454 fits well here. Chris soon realized that buying one (warranty included) would cost about the same as building it in his garage. He put a tried-and-true 2004R (0.67:1 OD) and a sensible 2,600-stall-speed converter behind it and the 454 unlocked the universe, as he knew it would.
So what's the tagline? "When I walk out to my garage, it just blows my mind when I see it sitting there and realize it's something I built and not just something I bought." Amen, Chris.