THE SECOND COMING – 1969 Camaro

Around 10 years ago, Stuart Vernon made the long trek from Perth, WA to the USA on the hunt for his dream car. Like many before him, that dream consisted of a ’57 Chev, but clearly, something went wrong: “I went to the ’States to buy my dream car, a ’57 two-door, then came back with a ’69 Camaro. It was a supposedly a fully restored car, but it basically sat in my backyard while I renovated the house and then the paint started peeling out of it and bog was lifting, and before I knew it, it needed rear quarters and door skins and became a full resto from that point. It went from being a car that I could freshen up and drive straight away to a five-year, full restoration. I ended up getting a ’57, it’s in my shed now.”

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With the car looking a bit worse for wear, Stuart decided to get the car blasted at Stripped Bare Diamond Blast: “That’s where I met Greg Hogan [ we featured his ’69 Camaro in SM, Dec ’15] and Chris Spaulding and it turned into a mild 350 with an auto.” Obviously those plans changed considerably thanks to the influence of Chris who is renowned on the west coast for turning out a bunch of killer Chevy Pro Tourers, usually big block-powered and riding on Detroit Speed suspension.

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But before any of that fun stuff could happen, Stuart had to get the bodywork squared away and those very dodgy looking quarters replaced. “Travis Arnold put all the rear quarters on, the door skins, the panel in front of the windscreen. The floors were probably the only decent things on it, the bonnet and bootlid were fairly new,” says Stuart. Someone in the US had already had a go at repairing the quarters, but it wasn’t the greatest job: “They had cut just below the top of the quarter from the tail-lights to the door and then lapped another guard on top, pop-riveted it and smeared it with bog. There were holes everywhere from where they’d welded rods on to slide hammer the dents out.” Needless to say, the job’s been done properly this time with two new repro quarters going on, but it took 80 hours of work to get them to fit!

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With the mild 350 and auto idea well and truly out the window by now, Stuart turned to Scott’s Performance Engines to screw together a 468ci big-block based around a brand new Gen VI 454 four-bolt block. There’s a pair of Dart Pro1 alloy heads with 325cc intake runners with a matching Dart intake manifold. Initially, there was an 850 Ultra HP Holley feeding the fuel, but Stuart recently upgraded that to an FiTech EFI system that supports up to 600hp and he couldn’t be happier – although after putting it on the dyno he was a bit worried about whether that was enough.

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“It made 520 at the rears on the Monsta Torque dyno, and when I rang FiTech, they said they underestimate the horsepower, and it will safely handle 600hp, so it won’t be a problem. I’ve been around Wanneroo Raceway with it, and it hasn’t missed a bit, no flat spots and excellent acceleration.” The other benefit with the EFI over the carby is that it was always difficult to get to the carby due to the custom air intake which was beautifully crafted by Clint Di Giovanni at SRM.

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Helping make all that grunt are CP pistons, SCAT crank and rods and a hefty hydraulic roller cam. The full stainless exhaust comprises of 2in primaries on the headers and a twin 3in system handled by Dom at Prestige Exhausts. There’s a Magnum T56 6-speed backing it up, and that goes back to a Fab9 9-inch on a Chris Alston g-Link triangulated four-bar. Rounding out the Pro Touring package are KWC Forged wheels measuring up at 18×8.5 and 18.9.5 and wrapped in Nitto 245/40 and 275/40 rubber respectively. As you’d expect, there are massive brakes on all four corners from Baer, with 14in rotors and 6-piston calipers up front and 13in with 4-piston calipers on the rear.

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With the mechanicals all sorted the car was finished off in a silver metallic, which, after it was all said and done, Stuart found a little bit boring. Heavily influenced by many trips to SEMA – both for inspiration and parts shopping – Stuart followed the trends of the time and added a hockey stick stripe and a shopping list of go-fast stickers down the side of the car. That’s how the car stayed for several years until recently when a minor bingle instigated a fairly significant update. “I reversed out the driveway and hit my wife’s Calais and damaged the rear quarter.” Oops.

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Stuart had planned to repaint the car in the original Mercedes Iridium Silver, but after some dramas trying to match up the silver paint he decided to go right away from the previous look and had Meltham Motors repaint the car in Nissan Gun Metallic, a Skyline colour. For a bit of contrast, Z/28 stripes were ghosted on in a slightly lighter shade. “The whole car got stripped right back to the bare bones again and put on a rotisserie. Basically, it was another full resto again, and I tidied up a few things that I wasn’t happy with, just little bits and pieces,” says Stuart.

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The interior remained unchanged as with the Sparco Milano front seats and door trims finished in black leather and suede tied in nicely with the new exterior colour. A Momo wheel sits in front of a Detroit Speed instrument panel filled with AutoMeter carbon fibre gauges, and the factory console houses the Mal Wood billet shifter and switches for the electric windows – you’ve got to have some creature comforts.

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Stuart’s plan was always to create a multi-purpose vehicle, one that’s happy to be in the show or cruise scene, and he’s definitely achieved that. “The car has gone around Wanneroo in 1min 10sec and run a quarter-mile in 12.4@123mph on my street tyres with wheelspin in all gears. It’s more economical and easier to start when it’s cold, you can take off at the lights without having to feather the throttle, it’s much more driveable.”

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

// Story Boris Viskovic

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