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Reality Resto - Saving a Camaro Convertible

It is said that every car has a personality and that the personality develops further with every experiance you have with that car. This '69 Camaro Convertible illustrates this concept very well. See why this car had to be saved and lovingly restored for

By Jeff Trush, Photography by Anders Oldeholm, Jeff . Trush

With the brakes and chassis sorted out, I turned to Tyler Crockett Marine Engines to build a powerful and capable small-block for the car. Tyler delivered a 352ci small-block that puts out 470 hp and 430 lb-ft on his engine dyno-plenty of power to push this Camaro around. I wanted the car to have a unique look to the engine compartment, so I called on Kyle Tucker at Detroit Speed to hammer out a new airbox based on my design and using parts from a used Winston Cup airbox I bought from Muscle Motorsports. Kyle delivered big time, punching out the firewall to allow cool air to come through the cowl vent and into the carb. I also tried to keep the engine compartment as clean as possible, hiding all of the wiring, and relocating all of the ignition components under the dash. Another area that almost everyone comments about is the brushed exterior trim that gives a more modern high-tech look.

The interior also yielded to more modern styling cues. I installed a custom Covans Dash filled with carbon-fiber Auto Meter gauges. I acquired a set of Viper GTS seats, and, believe it or not, had new covers made by Kay in mid-Michigan. The work she does is outstanding. I delivered two stock Viper seats and two rolls of material, and two weeks later Kay calls me up and says "they're done"-all for a whopping $100 total. I gave her $200. (She is my little secret, so don't call me looking for her number.) The seats still retain the original look with the houndstooth material but are bolstered for those open-track days and are comfortable enough to drive cross-country.

In order to drive cross-country, a mere four-speed wasn't going to cut it. I needed overdrive, or better yet, two overdrives. I called on Tyler Beauregard at American Touring Specialties in Las Vegas for a T56 installation kit. The transmission is an LT1-style Borg-Warner T56 six-speed that bolted right in. I chose a Centerforce flywheel and a McLeod clutch with a custom shifter from Detroit Speed topped off with a carbon-fiber shift knob from a European Escort race car. There is nothing quite like blasting down the left lane on a freeway in a 30-year-old car at 75 mph turning 2,000 rpm. It is truly a religious experience.

The 13-inch steering wheel is from Grant. I also relocated the e-brake between the seats, much like a modern car would have, using Lokar E-Brake and cables. When it came time for the top, I called on Jerry at All American Auto Upholstery in Romulus, Michigan, who installed the new top perfectly.

It is hard to believe that what started out as a quickie fix snowballed into a 3-year nut-and-bolt restification completed with equity loans and creative refinancing. OCD indeed. Obviously, I have been to hell and back with this vehicle, and I plan on enjoying it now more than ever. I have touched, modified, painted or replaced literally every part on this car and could not be prouder of the way it turned out. I have realized my goal of having modern acceleration, handling, and braking wrapped in the classic style and attitude of a '69 RS/SS Camaro. I especially commend my wife Kari for putting up with the long nights and literally hundreds of hours I spent in the garage, all while trying to build a house and raising two wonderful kids along the way. She has never been anything but supportive. The memories, both good and bad, make these cars part of our family, part of our history, and part of Americana. I wouldn't trade them or the car for anything.

The Details
Car: '69 Camaro convertible
Owner: Jeff Trush
Engine: 352ci small-block, 0.010-over, four-bolt-main block, steel Eagle crank and H-beam, 4340 steel rods, SRP forged pistons, 11.7:1 compression, Comp Cams hydraulic-roller cam, 244 degrees duration at 0.050-inch tappet lift with 0.600-inch lift and 110-degree lobe separation angle, aluminum World Products Sportsman heads with 2.05/1.60-inch valves, ported Victor Jr. intake with a Gary Williams-modified 830-cfm Holley carb, Hooker 131/44-inch ceramic-coated headers, 211/42-inch exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers and H-pipe, Moroso road-race oil pan and pickup, Optima battery and Detroit Speed battery mount

Transmission: LT1-style T56 six-speed manual, American Touring Specialties install kit, crossmember and hydraulic master cylinder, Centerforce flywheel, McLeod clutch, Detroit Speed-modified shifter

Rearend: 12-bolt with GM 3.73 gears, Eaton limited slip and Mark Williams axles

Front suspension: Hotchkis dropped springs, hollow 111/48-inch sway bar, Detroit Speed upper control arms, AGR quick-ratio steering box, Bilstein shocks

Rear suspension: Hotchkis dropped multileaf springs and hollow 71/48-inch sway bar, Bilstein shocks

Front brakes: Baer Track system, 13.5-inch two-piece Eradispeed drilled rotors, two-piston calipers

Rear brakes: Baer Touring 12-inch drilled rotors and two-piston calipers

Wheels and tires: Center Line Lazers, 18x8, front; 18x9, rear. Toyo Proxes T1-S tires, P235/40ZR18, front; P245/45ZR18, rear

Paint: PPG Dover White base with Orange Pearl overlaid with PPG Hugger Orange Candy stripes applied by Jim Bielecki of JimTech, Clinton Township, MI

Body modifications: Stripping by Ace Stripping, complete new floor, custom sheetmetal work required to replace upper rear shock mounts, custom subframe connectors-all work performed by Jim Bielecki at JimTech

Interior: Covans carbon-fiber dash insert, Auto Meter carbon-fiber insert tach, speedo and gauges, Grant steering wheel, Lokar emergency-brake handle and cables, Viper seats re-covered in original houndstooth material, top by All American Auto Upholstery

Cost to build: Priceless

We crossed a major milestone when I finally decided on wheels and tires. I agonized over the decision for months, finally landing on a set of 18-inch Center Line Lazer wheels with 235 and 245/45ZR18 Toyo Proxes tires.

By Jeff Trush
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