What one classic Chevrolet would you consider to be the hardest of the hardcore if you have to choose? While some guys will undoubtedly choose the Chevelle, and others might say the Impala -both great choices by the say, the Camaro is usually at the top of the list.
No single Chevrolet car model has been available for a longer period of time – the Impala comes close, but when you look at the amount of Camaros that show up at race tracks and car shows, the numbers are hard to dispute.
Our successful acquisition came when we located a basket-case, bare-bones Camaro SS project that the owner had lost interest in completing. He was in process of changing it into a Z28 clone, and lucky for us, he was motivated to sell the remains for a fair price. According to car owner James Lawrence, “I’ve always had a love for the 1969 Camaro. From being a kid and going to Kevin’s Burgers in Van Nuys, it’s an iconic car that always held some magic for me. A few years ago we decided to do this build, and I managed to find one for sale on Craigslist for a steal. It wasn’t the prettiest car on the outside, but it’s bones were pretty good.”
We began by first deciding what we actually wanted to build. Drag car projects are covered ad nauseam within the pages of many magazines, and we do not want to follow the pack, but blaze our own trail. For that reason, we decided that a road race/autocross Camaro would be something different and cool. James told us, “I’ve always been a drag racer, but I saw this ’69 build as an opportunity to build a true dual-purpose threat, something that could handle, go road racing, autocrossing, and street drive. That was the mission from day one.”
But like many projects, we first had visions of what we wanted the car to look like. In the article mulling over paint, we tossed a couple ideas of what to do, but as you can see, they all fell to the wayside in favor of patina.
We also dreamed big when it came to the engine, but we added a twist to the plan. Swapping an LS engine into a vintage car is just about as popular as the Camaro itself, and we decided that building and installing a custom-built 502 cubic-inch monster LS engine was the perfect option for our ride. In fact, check out Part One and Part Two, In fact, when professional driver Conrad Grunewald took the car for a ride around the Willow Springs road course, he called it a monster.
Underneath, the suspension needed to be able to handle “the Monster,” so there were a couple of upgrades in order. We started with a complete Chassisworks bolt-in g-Machine front clip, and a Chassisworks four-bar with coilovers to support the rear of the car. Again, you’ll hear in the video that Grunewald was thoroughly impressed.
When the ’69 Camaro was new, there were – for the time – a plethora of amenities that were available to make the car a pleasurable driver. Since pleasure has different meaning for different people, let us explain what our version delivers. This is a race car, so there is no carpet, sound deadener, door panels or rear seat. All that is required – for now, is the two front Procar Evolution seats, a pair of five-point harnesses, the shifter, dash, steering wheel and pedals. That’s it, just the necessities.
So that brings us to the present. All of these great parts are useless unless the car actually gets used. So, in order to do some testing, we took project Blank Slate to the Willow Springs road course to see how all of the parts we chose for the build actually work together. For part of the day, Mark Gearhart, editorial director at Power Automedia was the guy behind the wheel – except when he handed the driving duties over to Grunewald, so we asked him for some input about the car, and how the testing went.
“It was good to get Blank Slate out on the track, we learned a lot about what the car likes, and even about a few adjustments that need to be made. Overall, the fact that the