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1969 Silver State Chevy Camaro SS

Tracy Castro turned this 1969 Camaro SS into a real canyon-carver

Photography by Marko Radielovic

Building a first-generation Camaro into a corner-carver has becomeextremely popular since the whole Pro-Touring movement started buildingmomentum. But Tracy Castro wasn't influenced by visions of g-machineswhen he started planning the '69 Camaro SS he'd just acquired back in1990. Even though the musclecar resto craze was in full swing at thetime, and Castro's Camaro was a genuine Super Sport with factoryfour-speed, he never considered doing the numbers-matching resto deal onit. Instead, the plan was to "build it to turn," as Tracy puts it.

Initially, the idea was to set the Camaro up for autocrossing and theoccasional road-course jaunt. The body was in good shape, as was the 350engine and the four-speed, plus it had a healthy 12-bolt rear. Thesuspension was rebuilt using aluminum bushings in the control arms alongwith Global West springs and Quickor sway bars. Once the car was backtogether, Tracy spent a year autocrossing to get the car sorted out forthe road course. But by the end of the year, he realized that the shortcourses were doing nothing to help dial the car in for road racing, andeven the long courses were only marginally helpful. The next season, theCamaro hit the racetrack.

After a couple seasons of fine-tuning the Camaro's suspension, it was acapable handler, and according to Tracy, a blast on a road circuit. Butsometime during the second season, one of Tracy's racing buddies beganassembling a '67 Mustang for the Silver State Classic, an open road raceon public highways in Nevada. Tracy helped with the car and attended theevent, and that was all it took to infect him with a new need for speed.

The following year, the Camaro was a participant in the Silver Stateevent, which really didn't necessitate much work since all of the safetygear required for the entry level class--a maximum of 110 mph--wasalready in place. Over the following seasons, he upgraded the safetyequipment, which allowed Tracy to compete in increasingly fasterclasses. Of course, the Camaro has seen other upgrades as well, like the500hp small-block and Tremec TKO II trans, which both help to propel theF-car to greater velocity. At the 2003 running of the Silver State,Tracy (along with navigator Ernie Cross) competed in the 130-mph classwith a 165 mph "tech speed"--the maximum speed that the sanctioning bodyfeels the car is safely capable of, based primarily on safety equipment.In fact, the Camaro has hit a terminal velocity of 163 mph, and Tracyreports it handles the speed with ease.

Despite the Camaro's race-bred nature, it remains a street car, and seesfrequent road use, though road course action is still the main part ofthe equation. What's in the future for the little orange screamer? Morespeed!

Car Craft Q&A

Car Craft: What made you decide to build a handling carwhen you first picked up your Camaro?

Tracy Castro: Well, I've always liked cars that can goaround corners fast, and I've had a thing for the early Camaros since Iwas a kid. It just seemed like the obvious route to take.

CC: What kinds of tricks have you employed to get thecar to stick in the turns?

TC: Nothing all that trick, really. The control armsare all stock, though the lowers are boxed; we just fitted them withGlobal West bushings--the uppers even retain the stock mountinglocation. Global's springs and bushings make a big difference, and fromthere, it's a matter of tuning the shocks and alignment settings.

CC: You drive the car on the street still, but do youactually drive to the Silver State?

TC: No, that's a 900-mile trip, and even though the carwould make it there with no trouble, there's always the possibility ofbreaking something during the race. That would make getting home aproblem. I do drive it often locally though.

CC: Do you still use the car for road race events?

TC: Sure, in fact we just ran an event at Buttonwillowat Thanksgiving. The car still works great for road courses, and goingback and forth is a simple matter of adjusting the shocks, tirepressures, and alignment specs.

The Details

Car: '69 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Owner: Tracy Castro

Engine: Chevy 350 GM Performance four-bolt-main block;SRP pistons (10.3:1), Callies forged crank, Scat H-beam rods; machinework by Joe Testa and Larry Klean/Mustang Ranch in Santa Clara, CA

Heads: Pro Action cast-iron, ported and fitted with2.05/1.65-inch valves and Jesel shaft-mounted 1.6:1 rockers

Induction: Edelbrock Super Victor Jr. intake withHolley HP 750-cfm, double-pumper carb and Holley electric fuel pump

Exhaust: Hooker Super Comp headers with 17/8-inchprimaries; custom 3-inch exhaust with SpinTech race mufflers

Camshaft: Crower custom-ground solid roller:0.614/0.645-inch lift, 286/290 duration (advertised); Jesel beltdrive

Power: 503 hp at 7,000 rpm and 430 lb-ft at 7,000 rpm(flywheel); 445 hp and 380 lb-ft at the wheels

Transmission: Tremec TKO II five-speed with 0.83:1overdrive, McLeod clutch, pressure plate, and aluminum flywheel

Rearend: Moser Engineering Chevrolet-style 12-bolt withFord 9-inch-style tube ends and axle bearings (C-clips deleted).Clutch-type limited-slip differential, 3.55:1 Richmond gears, and Moseraxles

Front suspension: Boxed stock A-arms with Global Westaluminum bushings and springs, Koni adjustable shocks, and Quickor11/8-inch anti-sway bar; AGR fast-ratio power steering box

Rear suspension: Global West leaf springs with aluminumbushings, Koni adjustable shocks, Quickor 11/4-inch anti-sway bar

Brakes: Baer Racing 131/4-inch front, Baer 12-inchrear, all rotors drilled and slotted

Wheels and tires: OZ 17x81/2-inch wheels with YokohamaP245/45R17, front; P255/45R17, rear

Body modifications: None

Paint: Hugger Orange by Cliff Duggins of CD Body andRestoration in Oakley, CA

Best speed: 163 mph

Cost to build: $70,000 and counting

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