Through the years, the Chevy Camaro has earned a reputation for an awesome high school car. Even though the late '70s and '80s cars don't get as much credit, you have to admit that any Camaro with chrome valve covers and headers got attention in high school. For Andrew Riggs, his high school Camaro is certainly above average, in terms of build quality, appearance, and performance. It's an immaculately restored car with lots of practical modifications to make it fun to drive for this teenager or his dad, Jimmy, who is responsible for building the car.
When the project started in 2006, Jimmy began by stripping the car down to rebuild the subframe. He knew that an LS engine would be the powerplant of choice, so he fabricated mounts and figured out all of the details of the engine swap. Jimmy outfitted his son's '69 Camaro with a great selection of suspension components to make it ride smooth and handle well. These modifications snowballed into a full-on restoration, so the rest of the car was disassembled. For anyone who has a Camaro scattered into a million pieces, you can imagine Andrew's hope that the car would someday run under its own power again. Luckily for Andrew, his dad happens to be an expert mechanic and all-around car guy, so this project car was in good hands.
Jimmy owns and operates Pro Muffler and Brakes, in Dayton, Tennessee, and has a strong reputation for one of the best muffler shops in the area. He understands the wants and needs of car guys, so he's the go-to guy for exhausts, but he also does a great deal of mechanic work on modern cars and classics. Even with his years of experience, Jimmy had a difficult task ahead of him, and prepared for a lengthy time line to finish his son's Camaro. He had never attempted an LS engine swap, so there was a number of hurdles to cross with fitment and making sure it would perform to his liking. Jimmy enlisted Ryan Martin at LSX Power and Development to help sort out the details of the LS swap.
While it took a few years of evenings and weekends, his dad's hard work paid off; Andrew's car is one of the finest Camaros around. Jimmy had lots of help during the project, including friends Grady Davis and Robert “Frog” Riley. Luckily, the car reached completion just in time for Andrew's senior year of high school, so he got to enjoy it for a while before starting college life. The end result is a car that is capable of daily driving, but with Andrew's busy schedule as a college freshman, the Camaro gets the most attention on weekends. Either way, it's the ultimate high-performance toy for a young car guy, and a great excuse for his dad to build an incredible car!
Wheel & Tires
Rolling stock for Andrew's '69 Camaro consists of a set of Boze Pro Light wheels, which are 18x8 up front and 18x10 out back. Grip is provided by a set of BFGoodrich tires, sized at 235/60R18 and 255/60R18. The staggered sizing provides a great enhancement to the already aggressive stance.
Chassis & Suspension
When Jimmy installed the LS1 engine, he made a few changes to the subframe and installed Global West tubular control arms to clean up the front suspension. He then installed QA1 coilovers to offer adjustable handling capabilities, and swapped the original Camaro steering box for a 12:1 power unit, using the LS1 power steering pump. Braking power comes from four-wheel discs, with drilled and slotted rotors, while front and rear sway bars keep the Camaro level during hard cornering. Custom subframe connectors give the car added rigidity. Out back, the car still has leaf springs, but they have been moved inward, thanks to offset shackles. The rearend is a GM 10-bolt, narrowed by Chuck's Pro Chassis in Dayton, Tennessee. The axles are from Moser, and the ratio is 3.73:1.
When Jimmy and Andrew started this project, the body appeared to be in fair condition, compared to most project cars, but further inspection revealed rust issues. When the chassis and suspension work reached a stopping point, the car was handed off to Wally Smith for rust repair, final bodywork, and a fresh coat of paint. Smith replaced every panel besides the roof, and he went the extra mile to make the panel gaps perfect. He then shaved all of the emblems and trim, aside from the stainless window trim. After a few cycles of priming and block-sanding, Smith applied the silver paint, while enlisting the help of Troy Byrd when it came time to lay out the stripes. Many hours of color sanding, buffing, and polishing resulted in a slick finish that continues the professional build standards.
The LS family of engines offers great performance for first-generation Camaros, and Andrew's car is yet another example of the popular swap. Jimmy found a used LS1 and figured out a way to make it work in Andrew's Camaro. He kept the engine mostly stock for the sake of simplicity, but Jimmy fabricated a set of headers, as well as the custom 21/2-inch exhaust system to let the LS1 breathe easily. The cooling system consists of an '02 Camaro aluminum radiator, complete with dual electric fans. Once the engine was ready to run, Kyle Shadden tuned the car, using a new wiring harness and computer. So far, the car averages 18 mpg, thanks to a conservative tune, and the 4L60E overdrive transmission.
Andrew's Camaro is simple and clean, and that theme continues inside, even though the interior has many custom touches. Kyle Wilson at Fully Loaded Interiors handled the stitchwork on the '02 Camaro seats and custom door panels, while the other modifications were left up to Jimmy and Andrew. A Detroit Speed blank dash panel is now filled with Auto Meter gauges, while other in-dash accessories include a Pioneer CD player and controls for the Vintage Air A/C system.