Before we knew it, 45-year-old Shay Campbell (Huntsville, Alabama) had turned our Camaro Q&A sheet into a quick about-face. Now he was acting like the curious one. “I’ve seen your byline for years, and you say you’re 67? Hell, then you should be writin’ about vans, about the inevitable van come-back,” voice lilting like a kid who’d dropped a thumbtack on a nearby chair just before an unsuspecting fanny hit the seat. Smooth, affable, felt like we’d known him for years, but it had only been a few minutes.
Luckily for Shay, he pretty much escaped the van fiasco by several years, thus sparing his formative conscious the indignation and embarrassment of that easily forgettable, twisted slip of “automotive” history. While he came up he was far from idle, though. He built a ’69 Camaro and infused it with supercharged big-block. He moved on to a more concise iteration, a ’67 Nova packing a dual-turbo little-block. Now he’s back with this ’69, a sleeker ’69 carrying an LS7 engine and all the trappings of a contemporary Pro Touring killer.
“This is my third Pro Touring car build,” Shay says. “The first was that ’69 with a ProCharged ZZ502, Fikse wheels, mini-tubbed, nice car. The next was “Venom”, a ’67 Promax [fiberglass replica body] Chevy II. It had a twin-turbo 406, custom leather interior, and man it had power; 1,266 at the flywheel.” Note that Shay’s wraiths are professionally constructed. The Nova was probably one of the finest ever built—understated elegance wrapped in pinpoint accuracy. Both cars made the buff book pages and excited the chat room junkies. Shay’s act is first class.
“Phosphorus Red” was completed in spring 2011, the joint effort of several industry notables, Todd Blichardz, Jeff Schwartz, and Paul Atkins among them. “This Camaro has not been on the road since 1984, when I got it,” Shay says. “I had it soda-blasted to find any bad metal. It has two [new] quarters, trunk pan, and floorpan. The favorite part of the build for me is the final assembly, and then the first testdrive. That’s when all the hard work and long hours pay off. This was a yearlong project with a lot of weekends and late nights.”
Compared to its precursors, the ’69 is a model of civility and decorum. Engine output is roughly aligned with the power of the suspension that supports it, as if balance were the most important aspect of the entire project. Likely Shay drives his ride to the venue, in which case a slightly breathed-upon 7.0-liter does the job more than well. Something snaps, you go to a Chevy dealer and get a new one. Normal aspiration means an immediate linear power curve, minimal heat underhood, and a 100,000-mile maintenance schedule.
Shay completed the car in April 2011. Near the end of September, when he completed the tech sheet, the Nova had already rolled up 1,600 miles. Shay drives his investment every weekend that weather permits and has since sidled over to Goodguys Nashville and has appeared at the Holley LS Fest. It is a fact that Shay is somewhat fickle. He’s likely to become a little jaded with his new dog and wanting to extend the family line with something new and strange. Until then, he’ll continue to excite the troops and antagonize civilians.