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January 29, 2013

History of the #69 Camaro

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I purchased this car from Bob Woods outside of Reno Nevada in 1996. Bob had run the car frequently in the Nevada Open Road Races, including The Silver State and the Pony Express. When I purchased the car it had a 383 Chevy small block, TH350 transmission, and open rear end. Bob was pushing the car to speeds of around 160mph.

camaro_1995_1

The car was an all original sheet metal Camaro SS with center console. He had reupholstered the car in leather and in spite of its high top end, was very comfortable and driveable. I tracked it a few times “as is”, and then the metamorphosis began.

The first things I did was to take the car to Campbell Auto Restoration & High Performance and had them put on Baer brakes front and rear, install a BW T56 transmission, and a Mark Williams 12 bolt rear end with posi-traction. These performance mods proved out with significant performance improvements on road courses. They also helped with a respectable finish in my first Nevada Open Road Race, The 1999 Pony Express, where my co-driver, Tony Huntimer and I piloted the car to a solid 10th place finish in our first such run at the 130mph average speed target . Tony is the author of many books on performing pro-touring constructions, restorations, and performance modifications. He also provides the website, Racehome.com.

In 2000 we went back to compete on the Nevada highways, this time in the Pony Express 2, which runs in the counter direction to the Pony Express. During the year I changed the motor to a small block 396 custom built from a Donovan aluminum block. The car dyno’d at 500 rear wheel horsepower with 500 lb/ft of torque. I also had a full “NASCAR type” roll cage installed that met the 200mph+ specs required by the Open Road Race sanctioning bodies. We fared much better in the 2000 competition, winning the 140 mph average speed target class (out of 14 competitors) with an actual average speed of 139.985mph. In a test run the Friday before competition, we were radar’d at 162mph. That’s hoofing it, particularly with strong cross and head winds!

#69 Camaro

After conquering the open roads, my interests reverted back to the road courses. At a track event in 2005 I made an unfortunate mistake of missing my turn-in point entering turn 14 at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA, and eventually hit the tire barrier at the entrance to pit lane at a very high rate of speed. I was ok, however the car was badly damaged.

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Three buddies, two of whom were experienced dirt trackers, banged and hacked on the car all night and had me back on track the very next day turning lap times within one second of the prior day’s best times! Significant thanks go to “Mark and Marko”, Mark DeShetler and Mark Zanella for their persistence, encouragement and hard work. The car wasn’t as beautiful as before, but she still performed well. You might have seen some of the in-car video on Youtube.

Nothing like an accident to provide fodder for rationalizing a major rebuild! And with that, I was off to reconstruct my beautiful classic car into nothing short of a road race monster. After chassis straightening, I replaced the original left and right fenders and doors, the nose, and the hood with fiberglass pieces. I installed a Global West Cat 5 front suspension system, Lateral Dynamics 4 bar with watts link, Strange rear end and axles (requiring mini-tub of the rear), Tex Racing T101A “clutchless up-shifting” 4 speed transmission (same as used in Sprint Cup), Willwood 6 pot Superlight front and 4 pot rear brake calipers, AGR power steering pump, Tilton brake bias, Accusump, McCleod clutch, etc. I shod the Kinesis wheels in 275/315 rubber front/rear and have been having fun on the track ever since.

Subsequent mods have included Halon system, Lexan front window, Kirkey seat with full halo braced to the roll cage, upgraded gages, right side C5R net, F.A.S.T. cool box, radio system, Traqmate and video systems.

Whereas I have been busy competing in NASA’s Camaro-Mustang Challenge 2 in my Life’s Good Racing!TM 1995 Camaro these last four years, I have periodically taken the 1969 Camaro to the track for fun. I have decided recently to begin in earnest to take some time to develop the chassis for competition which means it will be at the track more frequently than before. I recently had the motor freshened up by Rob Cancilla, and the car is ready to rock. Rob corrected the displacement volume as being 387 cu in, not the 396 it had been previously represented.

Where will I run it? My objective is to fully shake the car out during open track days, HPDE and Time Trials. Eventually, I hope to compete in one of the many NASA classes in which the car would qualify, such as Performance Touring, Time Trials, and Super Unlimited. I’ve also received invites from some of the less exacting vintage clubs. Regardless, I am looking forward to see how far we can take this car!

Karl Chicca Pleasanton, CA

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