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."
The car is driven on the street primarily, but it's also raced a lot. "I'd like it to be good at both, but it's a compromise," says Brian. "It goes to car shows 150 miles one way, and it cruises at 75 mph at 2,400 rpm." Is he satisfied with 10-second quarters and driveability on the street? "I want it to go faster," he says.
Who: Brian Fiers
What: '69 Chevy Camaro
Where: Onalaska, Wisconsin. Brrrrr! Cold!
Engine: The block is an iron Merlin II with a 4.5-inch bore. Brian added a set of 6.385-inch Eagle H-beam rods and a Scat 4340 crank with a 4.25-inch stroke for 540 inches. The cam is a Comp solid roller with 254/260 degrees of lift at 0.050 and 0.660/0.666-inch lift.
Heads: The heads are Pro Topline (now RHS) 320s with polished combustion chambers.
Induction: The intake is a rectangle-port Edelbrock Victor Jr. with a BG Speed Demon 850-cfm carb with down-leg boosters. This combo made 525 hp and 525 lb-ft at the wheels during the '07 Car Craft Nationals.
Exhaust: Hooker made the Competition headers with 2-inch primaries. Brian made the 3-inch tubes and welded them to a set of Flowmaster 40-series Delta Flow mufflers.
Ignition: The 540 uses the standard MSD Pro Billet distributor with an MSD 6AL box, Super Conductor wires, and a Blaster II coil.
Swap: To switch a small-block to a big-block, you need to change the frame mounts on the crossmember and corresponding engine mounts. Brian's are from Energy Suspension. He also changed the heater core so the valve covers don't hit the hoses and added a big-block radiator and fan shroud. The master cylinder booster was changed to a smaller one to clear.
Transmission: To go from a TH350 to a Tremec, Brian had to drill and tap the hole for the Z-bar linkage that he scored at a swap meet. The crossmember was moved back an inch or so, and the mounting pad had to be cut and rewelded.
Rearend: Originally the rearend had an 8.5-inch 10-bolt. Brian planned on running 10-second e.t.'s and was contemplating a 9-inch until he read about a Camaro in Car Craft with a Dana 60 swap from Strange engineering with 4.10:1 gears and a Detroit Locker, so he used one of that combo.
Wheels/Tires: For the track he uses 15 x 10 Weld Pro Stars in the rear with 4.5-inch backspacing and 29.5 x 9 ET Drag tires. He still had to have the Dana narrowed 1 inch on each end, and there was a little trimming to do on the inner fender. On the street Brian uses a set of 15x8 Stars with 275/60R 15 ET Street Radials. On the front is a set of 15x5 Weld Pro Stars with 205/70R15 Cooper tires.
Trunk: The battery location is to save room to haul stuff, tools, and extra parts in case something should happen.