First-gen Camaro a popular performer

by Larry D'Argis . Oct 12 2018
Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressBlair Scott with his 1969 Camaro

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Blair Scott with his 1969 Camaro

Check out any car show throughout Canada and the United States and you’re sure to find a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro on display.

The first-generation Camaro, introduced in 1967 as a competitor to the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda, has long been a collectable model, and the 1969 model ranks as a favourite.

For many, it is also a great platform to take to the next level. It has a look all its own, with sculptured side panels and a lowered stance. With all the suspension and powertrain options, both factory and aftermarket, a first-generation Camaro offers a blank canvas, just waiting to become a track racer, drag car, resto-mod or street machine.

Blair Scott of Winnipeg comes by his love of cars honestly. His parents, Brian and Sheron, owned many muscle and collector cars, and Blair grew up around them. Brian was also the official race starter at Keystone/Bison Dragways and later at the track in Gimli after Bison closed in 1976.

“Dad was a huge influence on me and at eight years old, I went to the track with him and he always had these special little jobs for me to do,” Blair says. “One race car I always remember was Len Penner’s Blue Lightning 1968 Camaro, so I was on the hunt for a blue Camaro.”

While many cars came and went over the years, Blair finally found a blue 1969 Camaro for sale in Vancouver in 2016. Blue with white racing stripes, front and rear spoilers, the car was a dormant project which had a lot of work and dollars put into it. Although it was a running, driving car, it still needed some assembly and interior work. And after trailering it home from B.C., Blair spent the next several months getting the car back in order. One issue was the hood didn’t have the right opening or fit right, so Blair had Dean Markusa at Ground Up Restorations fit and paint a new hood.

Riding on an SRG-Force chassis front subframe, the Camaro comes powered with a 496-cubic-inch big block Chevrolet V-8 engine. Equipped with forged connecting rods, Dart II aluminum cylinder heads and performance camshaft, it’s topped off with a 10-71 Supercharger from the Blower Shop. Fuel delivery comes from a 16-injector Haltech engine management system with ECU electronic-tuning system and a high-volume fuel pump and 20-gallon fuel cell. Backed by a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission with twin-disc clutch, power is ample.

Exhaust duties are handled by a set of Hedman headers leading to a custom 3.5-inch stainless-steel exhaust system. The cooling system utilizes a four-core aluminum radiator with Hi-Flow electric water pump and dual electric fans.

“After getting the car on the road, it was evident the chassis wasn’t able to handle the horsepower of the engine,” Scott says.

A trip to see Mike Rodrigues at Sandale Automotive resulted in a mini-tub to allow for an increase in rear tire width. The mini-tub also allows the retention of the full rear seat. Other chassis upgrades include front and rear sway bars, TCI subframe connectors, four-link coil-over Ride Tech adjustable suspension and Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes. Coupled with the Moser 12-bolt, 4.10:1 geared posi-traction rear axle and 325 X 50 series 15-inch Mickey Thompson drag radials on Weld Pro five-star aluminum wheels, the Camaro now definitely gets traction.

The interior features Dakota Digital gauges, an Autometer GM COPO tachometer with shift light, tilt wheel, power windows, power steering, a wooden sport steering wheel, dual side-view mirrors and Vintage Air air conditioning. Comfortable, quick and streetable, the Camaro totally fills the bill as a top-tier street machine.

Dialing it in was a job for Sheldon Root at Motion Performance. With a conservative tune for pump gasoline, the Camaro put out 818 horsepower to the rear wheels on Motion’s chassis dyno. Easily equal or better than anything currently available in a factory street car, the Camaro is a testament to what you can achieve in building a street-driven vehicle and not a race car.

Blair and his brother Craig have stuck with the family tradition and run a Pro ET dragster at Gimli Dragway. Sponsored by Vickar Ford and Adventure Power Products, the dragster runs the quarter mile in 8.39 seconds at 161 m.p.h.

The dragster may bring in the trophies, but the reaction Blair gets when he wheels up to the local drive-in for a burger and fries with a blown big-block Camaro is priceless.