By: Terry McGean
Photos by: David Freiburger, John McGann, Terry McGean, Gabe Medway
As I pulled the last box off the hood of the '69, all hopes that it wasn't actually as bad as I recalled were dashed. It looked like hell. I'd been toting this Camaro around for more than 15 years, ever since it had ceased to provide transportation while I was still in college, and being dragged about the country and stored in dusty, damp quarters hadn't helped a car that already looked haggard in 1985. Most people scrap cars when they're no longer useful, but this just wasn't the sort of car that got junked.
In retrospect, I was being stupid, waiting for the perfect combination of time, money, and suitable work space to come together for a total rebuild when I should have been chipping away at it so that it would be on the road and in some way useful, even if it fell way short of my ideal. It took until I was over 30 and living in California for the foolishness of my ways to hit me; I realized that sitting on the car was a waste, both of time and of a Camaro.
At that point my thinking finally shifted to the here and now, and I formulated a new plan to make something happen soon. The revised philosophy was based on the notion that even with a limited budget and timeframe, it should be possible to return a car to some sort of useful state, not necessarily daily-driver useful, but at least cruise-night useful.
The ball was set in motion by tackling the car's worst feature: the dented, rotted body. We covered the installation of quarter-panels in the April 04 issue and soon after ordered more sheetmetal for the front end. With that handled, the car began to garner more respect; it was now a solid foundation for a project. Shortly after, during a staff meeting, Freiburger suggested I take the '69 on Anti Tour, though it was implied that limping it there with its Sanford and Son vibe was not what he had in mind. The rest of the staff chimed in and the "intervention" was in full swing. So, with a mixture of peer pressure, a six-week deadline, and some extra hands for help, the Camaro was officially underway.
The accompanying photos tell the tale.
My old brake lines were in bad shape, with broken hard lines on the axletubes, a cracked flex hose, and rusty feed lines coming from the master cylinder. We ordered a complete set of replacement stainless hard lines from Classic Tube and upgraded to braided flex hoses from Classic's StopFlex line. The new hard lines are an impressively good match for the originals, as illustrated here.
The front suspension and brakes were seriously neglected. The original-style two-piece rotors of the factory disc brakes were real thin, but since they aren't actually required with the new-for-'69 single-piston calipers, one-piece units can be substituted. We used Baer's DecelaRotors, a new line of drilled-and-slotted stock-dimension rotors that cost just a bit more than straight replacements and look a lot better. The stock calipers were simply cleaned, painted and rebuilt then complemented with Classic Tube's StopFlex braided lines.