If we were to tell you we saw a cool 1969 Camaro at a show, you’d likely think: “seen one, seen ’em all” and we wouldn’t blame you. While there are definitely some very cool first gen Camaros out there, sometimes seeing too much of one car can eat away at the appeal and you just scroll past it. The 1969 Camaro has arguably been the most popular musclecar for years.
But as many times as you’ve seen a nice ’69 Camaro, we’re going to take a chance and say you’ve likely never seen one like Michael Feinstein’s Z409 Camaro. We love Camaros, too, but this one stopped us in our tracks at the Sacramento Autorama a couple of months ago, and we couldn’t pass it up.
From a distance, it's another 1969 Camaro. But closer inspection and this classic has gone retro.
We’ve picked a few cars to feature from the show, and while we have a ways to go to get all of them covered on our site, it’s time that we share the Z409 Camaro with you, because it’s so unique that you never stop finding cool touches that remind you of other popular musclecars from the Bow Tie brand in that era.
Emulating A Steve Standford Design
In 2009, well known automotive illustrator Steve Stanford inked up a custom 1969 Camaro with a few tweaks to it here and there. The illustration showed cues from the Impala, and a roofline similar to the Corvair. Michael set out to create that very same car the Standford imagined, and began searching for a car.
He found a roller that was being set up for drag racing, but it was missing the drivetrain. That was good enough for Michael; he brought the car home and for the next seven years he put time into building the ultimate 1969 Camaro.
Michael showed what can happen when you dream the bigger dream. Steve Stanford dreamed up the two-dimensional car, Michael dreamed up the life-size car.
While many builders like to put modern touches in their classic cars, the Z409 went the opposite direction and it’s built with parts from early 1960s Chevrolets. Michael’s shop, Nostalgia Motor Sports, was founded on this build to develop the company, and showcase the work they can do. And what better way than to take a concept drawing from print to reality?
First, a couple of model kits were used to try to incorporate the design and to see what it would take to change the roof line and the C pillar. After some grafting and finish work, the Z409 body was completed in 1/24 scale, which gave Michael and his team the ammunition to get to work and knock this Camaro out of the park.
Working in plastic scale was a little easier. That needed to be transferred to the real car.
Motivation Under The Hood
With a name like Z409, it’s pretty obvious that the mill is also retro Chevrolet. It started life as a 409, but with a little bit of bore and stroke it’s now measuring out to 472 cubes. With a potent 500 horsepower, Michael says that’s enough for this beauty.
Of course, you can’t have a classic 409 without slapping a pair of Carter carburetors atop a restored aluminum intake manifold. Helping to dress things up is custom valve covers and air cleaner done up in black wrinkle finish. Dressing up the front of the 409 is a Billet Specialties serpentine front drive kit.
472 cubes of nostalgia right there.
Pumping out all the spent gasses is a set of one-year-only 1965 rear-dump factory cast iron headers, and a dual exhaust system with Magnaflow mufflers and tips. The exhaust is snaked under the chassis between subframe connectors and a lot of custom suspension work.
The suspension comes from Heidts in the form of a modified ProG front and rear suspension tied into those subframe connectors, with adjustable four-link in the rear. The rearend is a custom aluminum third member with a John’s Industries posi-traction, propelled by an Inland Empire Drivelines driveshaft.
Custom built wheels and custom red-stripe tires. Nothing was left untouched here.
Putting the Z409 Camaro to the pavement is done with a set of custom knock-off wheels by EVOD Industries, using Corvette knock-off nuts. The wheels are wrapped with Nitto Invo Pro tires, modified by Diamond Back with the nostalgic red stripe.
The built mill can get the Camaro up and moving, and bringing all that go to a whoa si a set of Wilwood brakes, with 13-inch rotors all around. The four-piston rear calipers aid the six-piston fronts, fed the stop juice by an SSBC master cylinder.
The Z409 Camaro started as a roller - a former drag car. It's come a long way.
A Little Of This, A Little Of That
When we start with the body, moving front to back, we see a 1969 Camaro in there, but the front grille and valance are not like most ’69 Camaros we’ve seen. If you see some hints of an early Impala, well, you’ll find them all around the car, not just in the front.
Below the bumper, you’ll see the same bumper treatment on a 1960 Impala where the license plate mounts. Above the bumper, the grille has been reshaped slightly to match the shape of a 1957 Chevy emblem, with a custom grille behind it.
Cues from years gone by, Impala, Corvette, Corvair, and '57 Chevy.
The bumpers have been painted and slightly reshaped to fit the body a little tighter. Moving to the fenders, you see the Z409 emblem that represents the blending of the Z28 and the 1962 409 high performance engine. Covering up the engine, you’ll find an early 1960s Corvette style scoop and treatment.
Even the interior fabric was taken from years gone by.
Open the doors, and you’ll find red cloud pattern fabric used in 1957 Chevys with custom upholstery throughout. The seats, front and rear, are similar to what you’d find in an early Impala, with the center rear speaker like they had back in the day.
Remeber: this is a Camaro, not an Impala.
Looking at the dashboard, you’ll likely wonder why it looks right at home when your realize that the entire dash is also from an early Impala, including the steering wheel. All of that was fabricated right into the Camaro, but at this point you’ve forgotten that the car is a Camaro.
Keeping with the retro theme, an early Sun Tach is mounted in your face on the Impala steering column, with custom Dakota Digital gauges handling some of the other readings.
Between the seats, you’ll find a console, also from a 1962 Impala, with a floor shifter just ahead to move through the gears on the built TH400 automatic. Of course, the shifter console is also from that 1962 Impala, as well.
Moving back outside we see the one treatment that completely stood out for us: the C-pillar. Seeing this car is almost an optical illusion, because you know it’s a 1969 Camaro, yet the back window and C-pillar treatment look so right on this car.
That roof line at the C-pillar, it’s different, and it works for the overall design.
How can it be that this blend of popular musclecar and Ralph Nader-hater come to be as one? As we mentioned, it was all based on a Steve Stanford design, but Michael pulled this off like it was the two-dimensional paper that Steve had inked it on.
There’s a lot of forgiveness when you’re working in two dimensions, and a little bit when you’re working in scale. But pulling it off on a full size car and making it look like it should have come from the factory like that? Well, that’s just skill and a little bit of magic all rolled up into the Z409.
More cues from the Impala abound on the Z409 Camaro.
But that’s not where the body modifications end, because if you move onto the trunk of the Z409 Camaro, you see more Impala treatments. The recessed area of the Camaro’s trunk is taken from the 1961 Impala, as is the crossed-flags emblem on the back panel.
Drop down below the color matched bumper, and you’ll find more 1961 Impala, with a contoured license plate. The whole car is emulating the early 1960s Chevrolet, right down to the PPG Concept single-stage 1962 Chevrolet Roman Red finish.
When you pop the trunk, you’ll find a concealed 1,400 watt Memphis Audio sound system, and a remote gas filler concealed as well, moved from the rear of the Camaro. All of it with the matching material used in the interior.
Long Process, Great Rewards
Michael bought the Camaro as a roller and started the build in 2009, completing it in December of 2016. Taking the car down to just about nothing, grafting some early 1960s nostalgia into the Camaro body and finishing it up with a few 1st Place awards from GNRS, Sacramento Autorama, and Portland Roadster Show.
What would a Camaro factory show car look like had it debuted in the 1961-1962 bubble-top era. -Michael Feinstein, Nostalgia Motor Sports
The car may not get driven much, as it’s a showpiece highlighting the skills and efforts of Nostalgia Motor Sports, kind of a company mascot, if you will. The whole experience was brought about by the will to do something that hasn’t been done before, and to take a two-dimensional concept into reality.
By combining the popularity of the 1969 Camaro and blending it with early 1960s Chevrolet, Michael said, “The premise is what would a Camaro factory show car look like had it debuted in the 1961-1962 bubble-top era.”
The Z409 does just that: it gives us an idea of what the Camaro might have looked like had it been introduced a bit earlier. Who knows if Chevrolet would have thought to blend the Impala cues into a sports coupe like this.
Definitely not your typical 1969 Camaro. This Northridge, California, based Z409 Camaro pulls it off with style.
The Z409 Camaro shows you what can happen with a little bit of creativity, a smattering of out-of-the-box thinking, and a lot of hard work. We’d venture to say that Michael pulled it off with a one-off creation that we wouldn’t be surprised to see being emulated in the future. Meanwhile, enjoy the gallery below.