If you ask Agoura Hills, California, resident Chris Brooks what he considers to be the ultimate muscle car, he’ll probably just point to his immaculate, Hugger Orange ’69 Camaro SS you see on these pages. In our gear-grinding minds, car guys all have what we consider to be the model that embodies what a muscle car should be. Some hold the ’70 Chevelle SS454 as the ultimate muscle machine, others say a Pontiac started it all (pshaw, whatever), but to a lot of people like Chris, GM’s Mustang rival is what they think of when they hear the term muscle car.
After searching high and low for a solid specimen, Chris’ quest ended in New Mexico where he found a rust-free ’69 Camaro that was sitting for 15 years. “I actually have a ’68 Chevelle too, but I always wanted a ’69 Camaro. To me, a ’69 SS is the best muscle car ever, so when I found one on Craigslist, I made a deal with a guy and it was set to be delivered.” Chris almost didn’t get to purchase the car after the seller tried to increase the price at the last minute, but after some negotiating, he was able to drive away with what would become one sanitary ’69.
For the next three years, Chris slaved away in his garage getting his ride ready for paint and assembly. “It was originally going to be a totally stock restoration, but I decided to change some key areas,” Chris says. Those key areas included an overdrive-equipped automatic transmission, which is engaged by a factory high-beam switch, from Hughes and a much more powerful powerplant than what a typical resto build would have. Instead of a boring, flat-tappet factory 350 like the SS came with, Chris opted for a killer 406 from Vrbancic Racing. “Bob and George [Vrbancic] did a great job on the engine,” Chris says. “I don’t ever have to wonder if it will fire up in the morning and when I want to go fast, the power is there.” A pump gas fueled 500 hp under the toe of Chris means manageability on the street, with enough power to get around even modern muscle cars.
We actually got to drive this car on the day of the photo shoot, and we can say with confidence that this ride is much faster than it looks, but you couldn’t tell from the sound of it. Dynomax designed an exhaust system that’s not too obnoxious, but still provides a healthy rumble when it counts. Teasing the Camaro’s floorpan with the bottom of the throttle pedal results in a neck-snapping roar, a squeal from the BFGoodriches, and a grin across your face you cannot stop.
Danny Booker of Team Green Motorsports was a huge help in getting this car together. Details such as wiring the overdrive, installing the progressive throttle linkage and plumbing the dual carbs was all handled by Booker. “I was after a car that would seriously haul ass, but be fun and comfortable to drive, yet look stock-ish,” By the look and feel of the final product we’d say Chris nailed it.