Readers of MuscleCar Milestones enjoyed Bruce Caldwell's recent “Muscle Car Timelines,” in which Caldwell notes: “As the [1960's] drew to a close, the action was intense.” What better way to prove the point than with this really intense 1969 SS?
As the muscle car market was intensifying, the Camaro had already emerged on top thanks to its size and racing potential. The flexibility and stability of its architecture was demonstrated by the number of power variations, both factory and aftermarket. It is an all-time Hall of Fame muscle car classic – great to use as a base by anyone serious about intense performance. The 1969 Camaro is widely considered the peak year of one of the top muscle cars ever. There's just something so “right” about choosing one for such a complete overhaul.
Camaros came with about 14 different engine options, offering from 140 hp to 430 hp, and with various performance packages. The Z/28 package was designed and offered to make your Camaro competitive in the SCCA Trans-Am Series. COPO Camaros (with 7-liter 427ci) were the product of a special ordering package that allegedly flew under the GM radar. The Yenko was a version tweaked beyond the rest. The SS package cars, like this one, stood for “Super Sport” and were more main-line, but still more powerful versions. There was also an SS/RS. Those were the days when you could get at least four different versions of way-too-much power!
But too much power is simply not enough for some people, and, thankfully, not enough for Tom Fisher. His Camaro SS has been deliberately and carefully turned in to a pro-street coupe (a Camaro SS RS PS?). To start, its measly 375hp 396 stock motor with four-barrel carburetor, already plenty of punch for most mortals, was replaced with a 489ci aluminum-head big block monster motor. That means its beefy performance is based on nearly a 25% increase in displacement alone. This beast sucks in more air than four or five mere pedestrian cars combined!
Incredibly, that still wasn't enough.
The motor uses Dart Pro-1 heads. They flow better because they are ported and polished, with better springs to handle the power.
The crankshaft is the Scat 4.25. In addition to advanced hardening and polishing, Scat's crankshafts have such features as aerodynamic counterweights and NACA-duct oil scoops. That's the kind of refinement some cars don't have anywhere, and this one has it even in the crankshaft.
Its pistons are SRP with a 10.2:1 compression ratio. This is perfect for maximum performance while still being streetable. It's amazing to hear that intense overwhelming rumble shut down so instantly due to the higher compression. You feel as if you've gone deaf with the snap of a finger.
It still has a 4-barrel carburetor, but this one is the Holley Pro Series with 1,000 cubic-feet-per-minute flow rate. That's like sucking air in with a commercial-quality kitchen hood!
More goodies in the belly of this monster include Scat I-beam connecting rods and a 560-lift Comp cam. There again, tweaked to compete, but dialed down just enough to warrant a license plate.
Tom used a Weiand G-Team competition aluminum intake and an MSD ignition system for reliability and maximum spark. A CSI electric water pump sends coolant through the 4-core radiator, with less of a draw on the engine power. It's a beautiful aluminum CNC-machined unit that's lightweight, too. It now has a Muncie M-21 (close-ratio) 4-speed transmission with Hurst shifter.
The prior clutch, even a nice heavy-duty one, just couldn't handle this kind of power. So Tom went to a custom Spec Clutch, a high-performance clutch able to handle 750 hp. It can be used for street or track. He also added chrome Unisteer power steering – a nice touch.
The car originally had a Flowmaster exhaust connected to jet-coated Super Comp Hooker headers, but he went to Magna-Flow because the Flowmaster just didn't “flow” with the rest of this particular build. The Magna-Flow's stainless steel carries on the look like NASA did the work under there, and the sound has a more masculine rumble, if you can call shaking your organs and making your toes tingle a mere “rumble.”
Its bulging hood – a 6” high-rise cowl induction – is another example of how this car intensifies all the best Camaro stuff. One of the hallmarks of early muscle car Camaros was their “super-scoop” hood, which forced air in to the motor compartment via the high pressure that builds up at the base of the windshield. This hood just barely covers its finely-detailed, all-business engine compartment, with just enough shine to show it's something special.
Like the super-scoop hood, the other end of the car carries another Camaro trade-mark: the lip spoiler on the trunk. It was an SS option, but with so much power up front, this spoiler seems to be merely hanging on for its life!
The stock SS already had power front disc brakes (four-wheel discs were available), with F70 x 14 tires on Rally wheels. This 1969 SS, if you couldn't already tell, boasts literally the most rubber anyone can put under a stock Camaro – the rear rims are 20” in diameter and 18” wide! While we were doing the shoot, one of the several very interested passers-by asked Tom, “Just how deep are those rear wheels?” Tom responded, “18.” The guy said, “No, I mean how deep are they?” Tom said, “18 inches!” Made by Bonspeed, they are massive, functional, and beautiful in the same way the car is, like a finely-crafted mallet. He wraps those in Mickey Thompson street/race radials.
Part of the aggressive look is not just those incredible wheels, but the stance. That's made possible by the narrowed 9" Ford posi-traction rear end, spinning a 3.90 gear set-up with ladder bars and coilovers. The front suspension, even with the less-amazing wheels, has also been rebuilt and set up with coilovers.
It's painted in two-stage black with white SS stripes. (Point of interest: one way you can tell an original paint job is that GM did not continue the stripes over the little narrow slit by the trunk.)
The battery and a fuel cell have been moved safely to the trunk.
Inside the cockpit, the interior is custom, with such nice touches as a leather-wrapped roll bar, tilt steering wheel column, and a custom console sporting a balanced set of Borg Warner gauges. When its engine is growling, you get the idea that anything inside there that wasn't industrial-quality and securely bolted down could not stand the violence of this car's full acceleration. It has nicely-stitched black upholstery and bucket sets, but without any frills, all looking surprisingly natural with the racing harness belts. Anything this menacing would look silly without racing belts.
Most of the modifications and preparations were done by Reed Patridge and Matt Rocksvold at SuperNatural Turbo, in Pelham, Alabama (www.turborepair.com).
Original Camaro SS's turned high 14s stock (and 0-60 at 6.8 seconds). Tuned ones, with headers and slicks, did it in 11.6 at 122 mph. We don't know yet what this one will do – the final screw was tightened just hours before our photoshoot – but just think what would happen if you more than doubled the horsepower and tire grip patch...
Thanks to a bevy of upgrades to an already-popular car for the 1969 model and a GM union strike which lengthened the production year to about 14 months, 243,000 Camaros were made and sold. But of those, only 36,000 were SS's and even fewer had the RS package. How many 1969 Camaro SS models were ever made with all of this, plus a full pro-street competition package and 18” wide wheels? This is it.
Talk about intense!