We know what you're thinking-it's blasphemy to even think of not building your own car. But consider the state of the musclecar market right now. Much like real estate values here in SoCal, those who didn't grab their own piece of the action five years ago are sorely regretting their lack of motivation now. A few years ago you could still buy a decent musclecar for under 10 grand and drive it away. Sure it wouldn't have been a factory Hemi car or an LS6 Chevelle, but it would have been something you'd be proud to motor. Now even six-cylinder Mavericks can command over five Gs based simply on the "potential" of the finished project-a project that would take most people many, many months to complete, not to mention the additional investment.
It was precisely this state of affairs that faced L.A. resident Neil Porter a year or so ago when he was finally able to search for the musclecar he'd been wanting for years. Starting a family and a new business had postponed such recreational spending, but with those priorities sorted, it was time to shop. Then came the sticker shock. The original plan had been to find a decent fixer-upper-something that needed to be renovated, but not a complete basket case. Turns out, mainstream muscle from the late '60s through early '70s in such condition commands in the neighborhood of $15K, and these were vehicles that couldn't be driven even if the buyer resolved to endure some ugliness. Your $15,000 would buy you the rights to some raw material and title to a favorable pedigree-think of it as the deed to a blue chip location with a ramshackle shanty standing on the property. You'd be buying the privilege of building your dream home ... or car, as the case may be.
Needless to say this was a discouraging proposition for Neil, and the price of admission was only half the problem. "I tend to be impatient," he says, referring to his nagging desire to get behind the wheel. The thought of a lengthy restoration was as unappealing as that of a costly restoration.
Keeping an open mind, Neil kept looking at sale listings, and early one Sunday morning he spotted a stunning '69 Camaro at the Pomona swap meet. The car was trimmed with the Rally Sport grille and tail treatment, a cowl hood, houndstooth interior, and LeMans Blue paint with white deck stripes, plus it wore Super Sport emblems. In short, he was staring at one of the most coveted musclecars, and one that was outfitted with quintessential Camaro equipment. Fully expecting the price tag to exceed the cost of contemporary luxury offerings, Neil was pleasantly surprised to find that it amounted to only a few thousand more than the projects he'd been shopping. That same day he drove home with a need fulfilled.
But has Neil been denied the satisfaction that comes from the creative process? Not really. He's spent considerable time tweaking and tuning the Camaro to perfection, bringing up its rear-wheel power figures, and enhancing the overall driving experience with other upgrades. And all while driving his dream to work several times a week.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: Have you had other performance cars?Neil Porter: I've had a lot of cars, some performance oriented, but this is the first "real" car I've had so far.
CC: What made you want it?NP: I used to be around roaring V-8s all the time when I crewed for a circle track team in Northern Washington, and I missed the whole aura of American muscle. So I decided I needed a musclecar to enjoy daily, and that's when I found the Camaro.
CC: Any more plans?NP: I'd like to have a lot more power, but I like the reliability of this car, so rather than mess that up, I'm thinking about building something else-something to house about 800 hp on the street ... just for fun.
The DetailsCar: '69 Chevrolet Camaro SS/RSOwner: Neil Porter, Los Angeles, CA
Engine: Chevrolet small-block 383ci
Heads: Edelbrock Performer aluminum with 2.02/1.60-inch stainless valves
Induction: Edelbrock Performer RPM intake with Holley 750-cfm double-pumper and 1-inch phenolic spacer
Camshaft: Comp Cams Xtreme Energy with 274/286-degrees duration (adv.) and 0.480/0.490-inch lift
Exhaust: Hooker ceramic-coated Super Comp headers with 2-inch primaries feeding 2 1/4-inch custom exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers
Transmission: TH700-R4 automatic overdrive with 2,500-stall converter
Rearend: Chevy 12-bolt with Posi-traction, 4.10:1 gears, Superior axles
Front suspension: Global West tubular control arms and coil springs, PST 1 1/4-inch sway bar
Rear suspension: Stock multileaf springs with polyurethane bushings
Brakes: Stock-type disc, rear drum
Wheels and tires: American Racing Torq-Thrust II, 16x7 front, 17x8 rear with BFG g-Force T/A 205/55-16 front and 255/50-17 rear
Paint: '69 Camaro LeMans Blue with white stripes by Greg at Outrageous Paint/GTS Customs in Simi Valley, CA
Cost to build: $23,000