Cool green! Cool Camaro! Cool, it's a big-block! We'll flick by a zillion Camaros in our magazine half-life without being able to remember whether they were red or orange. Then a bright-green, anatomically correct '69 comes along that makes us remember why everyone likes to build '69 Camaros. To add candy to the ice cream, this car has a 540 that makes it want to go 10s.
The owner, Brian Fiers, is also the builder, having assembled and painted most of the car in his garage during the long, dark Wisconsin winters. As usual, his dad, Larry, was the one who got him hooked. Thanks, Dad.
At the ripe old age of 16, Brian learned the ropes when he purchased an '89 RS Camaro with a V-6 that was a little too slow for anyone's tastes. That engine was swapped for a 355-inch small-block that got him through his teens. Eventually, Brian became interested in Chevy big-blocks, and since he had always wanted a '69 Camaro, he decided to look for a matching pair.
While he was looking, someone contacted him offering a wrecked '69 with a title lien. The car was originally a base model with a blue-on-blue paint scheme. Someone had painted the car green with white stripes and swapped in a 350-inch engine and a TH350 transmission from a '77 Camaro before stuffing the car's frontend into an immovable object. It was perfect. "I drove it back from Oklahoma with no grille and other various missing pieces and it was blowing oil all over the place," says Brian. "The floats were sunk in the carb and the car would struggle to make it up hills at more than 45 mph."
By that time, Brian already had the 454 core purchased, but he started on the body damage first to get the car looking complete. The paint from the cowl back was in good shape, so he replaced the grille, front bumper, and front spoiler with new parts and painted them to match the rest of the car.
He managed to sneak out on the road a couple of times during that summer and then garaged it for the winter build. First he added frame support parts to get the car ready for the big-block swap that was coming up. He also installed a set of 3.90:1 gears to replace the 2.41:1s that were a '77 Camaro-only option that came over in the original transplant. "It was weird," says Brian. "I couldn't believe the pinion it had in there. It was huge."
Brian scrounged an older Tremec TKO five-speed with a 3.27:1 First gear rated at 525-ish horsepower from a friend. He set the block in with one head to fit the exhaust and mocked up the crossmember and driveshaft. Then he pulled the engine back out and assembled it with a cast crank, forged Speed Pro pistons, a Comp flat-tappet hydraulic cam, a set of Edelbrock oval-port heads, and an RPM Air Gap with an 850 Speed Demon carb. It was a pretty average engine build.
The next summer Brian knocked the main bearings out of the engine and destroyed the crank. Since he was into the short-block anyway, he added a steel crank and hydraulic flat-tappet cam, only to knock the mains out again. The engine was rebuilt one more time with a solid flat-tappet cam to go drag racing. That combo produced a 12.00 at 117 mph only to spin a rod at the top end. Eventually the car went into the 11s with a solid roller, but Brian found more bearing wear when the pan was off. Out of frustration he pulled the block out, set it aside, and decided to build a 540-incher.
The 540 was pieced together from Summit and Jegs using all-new pieces. The block was from Bill Mitchell's Hardcore Racing Products, and the rotator was balanced by BK Engines in Buffalo, Wisconsin, and assembled by Brian in his garage. The first time out, the car went 10.97 at 126 mph. "The 60-foot times were all over the place at that point," says Brian. "I got them into the high 1.50s, then went 10.62 at 130 using a pair of slicks, Moog springs, and a set of CalTracs bars."