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.
Schwartz Performance in Woodstock, Illinois, supplied the LS7 engine, complete with Peterson Fluid Systems’ dry-sump tank and ancillary hardware. Schwartz preps its “crate” engines with align honing, squaring and decking the block, and internal balancing. It’s accepted that a stock LS7 produces about 540 hp at the crank, but modest changes provide something on the order of 675. Where does that extra oomph come from? By tweaking and refining the performance affinity of the LS engine with finite tuning, a COMP Cams camshaft and related items (springs and pushrods), and a streamlined exhaust. No duration figures available, but valve lift is 0.646/0.652 inch. The rotating assembly is original equipment and untouched. Since the cylinder heads flow like crazy right out of the box, they were also left intact, but attention to the exhaust tract produced 17/8-inch primary pipe stainless steel extractors followed by an X-pipe and a 3-inch stainless system channeled to race-oriented Borla XR-1 mufflers. For the waving of the wand, Shay dragged the car down to Lane Culver Automotive in Laceys Spring, Alabama, to get the close-tune and parameter adjustments. The drivetrain commences with a hydraulically activated LS7 clutch and flywheel that transfer torque to the Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed. A PST aluminum driveshaft is 31/2 inches in diameter and fitted with 1350 yokes. Grunt turns right in the narrowed (54 inches) Moser 12-bolt that’s been fitted with 3.73:1 gears and Positraction.
All was underwritten with an American Autowire harness, applied to the DSE dash insert and joined with a swarm of Auto Meter Ultra-Lite II gauges. A MOMO Race steering wheel circulates above it all on an ididit tilt column. The renowned Paul Atkins Interiors in Hance, Alabama, played its hand well, hanging leather all over the scene and redoing the interior panels and headliner to match. As a hedge against the torpor of Alabama summers, Shay included a Vintage Air HVAC system. Always alert, Shay winds out the Alpine deck, 6x9 speakers, and JL W3 10-inch subwoofers through a 1,500-watt Alpine amplifier. Yeah, there’s a party tonight!
Found in fairly clean attire, the Camaro got its requisite metal addendums followed closely by the 12-times-over massage. Joiners Corner Paint and Body in New Market, Alabama, rubbed on it a lot and then applied the Sikkens base clear and eyeball-scorching Viper Red overcoat.
Chassis & Suspension
All Camaros need a little help in the superstructure department, especially when torque output is double that of the original engine. Todd’s Rods in New Market, Alabama, is owned and operated by Todd Blichardz. He used DSE components at both ends of the car and straight down the middle. A six-point ’cage shores up the lateral wiggling along with the usual frame connectors. A DSE four-bar rear suspension employs 25-lb/in springs and adjustable coilovers. In front, the hydro-formed subframe hosts tubular control arms, 450-lb/in coil springs, and DSE shocks. DSE splined antisway bars are posted at either end of Red. Gotta say that the stance on Shay’s phosphorous puppy is low down and straight up. Phew! A nicer one we have not seen on a car with mechanical suspension.
Wheels & Brakes
The Pro Touring hallmark fatties include Forgeline ZX3P 18x9 and 19x12.50 modular wheels. They are capped with Michelin Pilot Sport 2 P255/40 and P345/30 skins hawking a silent challenge without respite. Nestled close behind them, big Baer six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors all around as plied by a Wilwood master cylinder. CHP