“Wow” was about the only word I could muster as I crouched under Grant Eveleigh’s 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, which was sitting high in the air on a hoist at Auckland’s Magnum Automotive. Positioned under the front bumper and looking towards the rear of the car, I gazed down its length — nearly five metres’ worth of automotive perfection. Billet aluminium could be seen everywhere, gorgeously fabricated headers crept around the sides of a huge 540ci motor and perfectly crafted sump, wrapping into an immaculate exhaust system running out to the rear of the car. Screw Stucco and plaster, this is the type of ceiling I want in my dream house.
“I’ve always liked the idea of building cars to this standard,” says owner Grant Eveleigh. “You know how these things go. Once you start you just don’t stop until things are perfect.”
The term perfect is almost an understatement, if that’s possible. Nearly every piece of equipment on this Camaro has either been reconditioned to as-new standard or, more likely, is 100 per cent brand new, right down to the badges, which are fresh off the billet mill.
When Grant bought the car three years ago it was in a fairly sorry state. It had been used by the previous owner as a daily driver and was suffering because of it.
Gravel roads were clearly not off limits, and although the car was resprayed in the States sometime before its arrival here in New Zealand in 1994, it was in desperate need of a few months spent in the body shop — four, to be exact. During that time it was discovered that the Camaro would require a full bare-metal restoration, so Bob and the team at Howick Panel and Paint got to work bringing all that original Detroit metal up to standard, thus starting the build on the monster it has become today. Now finished in the original Phantom Green Chevy paint and traditional ‘hockey stick’ graphic, the body is an example of perfect restoration, and when sitting low on a set of 17-inch American Racing Torque Thrust 11 rims, it looks super-tough to boot.
The low ride height and much-improved handling have been achieved with help from American suspension expert Hotchkis Sport Suspension. The company provided Grant’s Camaro with front coils, a multi-leaf rear end, bushes, sway bars, and tubular top and bottom A-arms. The car also benefits from Global West subframe connectors, Global West solid billet body mounts and Bilstein shocks all round.
All this high-end gear has improved the Camaro’s handling characteristics tenfold, making for a more modern and definitely more pleasant time behind the wheel. However, pleasant only goes so far. Sometimes you want something a little more from a big-dollar car like this, and thankfully for Grant, his ’69 is not short of that something.
Can't beat cubes
As an experienced man in the world of Yankee iron and substantial cubic inches, Grant knew exactly what he wanted sitting between the struts of his rolling work of art: big block Chev nirvana. This arrived direct from the States in the form of a fully hand-built 540ci crate motor. Built by Smeding Performance, the engine not only looks amazing sitting in its detailed bay, but also provides some serious go should Grant require it.
Inside you will find a forged micro-polished crankshaft pushing forged H-beam rods with ARP cap bolts to hold them together. Lightweight forged full-floating pistons are sealed with low-friction rings, and an aggressive custom ground hydraulic roller camshaft makes for an angry idle and a wall of peaky power.
Smeding has also supplied custom cylinder heads, which sit below an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap intake manifold and beefy Pro System Custom Dominator 1000cfm carburettor. The carb is fed air by a K&N 14-inch Extreme air filter, and fuel by a Holley electric fuel pump. The resulting mixture is set alight by an MSD 6365 Pro billet HEI distributor, ACCEL 8mm stainless leads and ACCEL U Groove performance plugs. Flow Master provided a three-inch exhaust system that collects waste gases from a beautiful set of ceramic-coated Hooker Competition headers and directs them out to the rear of the car, but not before passing a pair of Flow Master mufflers first.
“The car is not too bad to drive, although a bit of a handful once full power kicks in,” Grant tells us. “I imagine it would be a lot easier if the motor was backed up by an auto trans, but I like the manual.”
Only bikes have two pedals
So do we, especially when it’s an indestructible Tremec TKO 600 five-speed. These units are built to handle the grunt of big engines like Grant’s Chev, and this particular one is mated to an equally strong Centerforce 11-inch Dual Friction clutch.
This receives power from the motor through a Hays billet flywheel, and pushes it out to the rear wheels through a Nodular True Trac limited slip differential, housed in a Curry custom Camaro F Body nine-inch casing.
Like the rest of the car, the braking system in this Camaro has been seriously upgraded and brought up to modern standards using Wilwood Dynalite brakes, CNC hubs and even a Wilwood internal handbrake.
According to Grant, the motor isn’t creating quite enough vacuum for the brakes at present, but apparently that should soon be rectified and the stoppers will be ready to haul up the big machine on a dime.
Perks of the job
Last on the to do list was an important item: fixing the Camaro’s aging interior. But before that could happen, Grant had a little business to attend to — sound, heat, and vibration proofing. As the man behind Dynamat here in New Zealand, Grant was most definitely in a good position to give his Chevy the best proofing available, first with Dynamat’s Extreme series lining covering all interior surfaces, then complemented by its foam-based Dynaliner liner. This makes for an incredibly quiet, cool, and vibration-free car. “I know I sound like I’m trying to sell it, but this stuff truly does transform a car. It’s essentially taking a 40-year-old car and making it as nice to travel in as a modern vehicle,” Grant says.
While the Dynamat was being laid, Grant got to work on the rest of the interior. Instead of going the crazy modified route, things were kept simple. First the original seats, a custom roof lining and other interior pieces received a fresh leather re-trim. Then James from Sound Q in Auckland rolled around to install very cool custom Auto Sound speakers and a radio replacement — with iPod input. The original Hurst shifter and classic rosewood steering wheel have remained in place, however.
When piecing the car together, Grant decided to inject a bit of class to a few areas by adding a bunch of billet accessories, such as billet boot and bonnet hinges, light surrounds, badges, and a bunch of other parts. Keep looking, you will continue to find them.
Now the car is finally complete after three long years, Grant is at last able to enjoy his creation. Considering how perfect it is, is he scared to drive it? Not at all. “This is no show car. Yes, it’s in pretty good nick, but there is nothing worse than having a car with so much time and money invested in it that you have to wrap it in cotton wool every night. This car will be street driven on a regular basis. I built it to do nothing more than enjoy it. It’s that simple.”
Photos: Dan Wakelin
1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS
- Engine: Smeding Performance US 540ci (8849cc) big block Chev, forged micro-polished crankshaft, forged H-beam rods, ARP cap bolts, lightweight forged full-floating pistons, low-friction rings, custom-ground hydraulic roller camshaft, roller rocker arms, Smeding custom cylinder heads, Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap, Pro System Custom Dominator 1000cfm, K&N 14-inch Extreme air filter, Holley electric fuel pump, Aeromotive platinum series regulator, MSD 6365 Pro billet HEI distributor, ACCEL 8mm stainless leads, ACCEL U Groove performance plugs, Hooker Competition headers, Flow Master three-inch exhaust system, Delta mufflers, billet vacuum can, billet bonnet hinges, billet guard supports, Billet Specialities Tru Trac Serpentine system
- Driveline: Tremec TKO 600 five-speed with Camaro Hurst shift adapter, Centerforce 11-inch dual friction clutch, Hays billet flywheel, Curry custom Camaro F Body nine-inch housing diff, 31-spline axles, Nodular True Trac LSD
- Suspension: Hotchkis Sports front coils, Hotchkis multi-leaf rear, Bilstein shocks, Hotchkis bushes, Hotchkis sway bars, Hotchkis tubular top and bottom A-arms, Global West rear sub-frame connectors, Global west solid billet body mounts
- Brakes: Wilwood four-pot DynaLite 328mm discs, Wilwood four-pot forged front callipers, Wilwood CNC machined billet hubs, Wilwood pads, Wilwood internal handbrake
- Wheels/tyres: 17x8-inch and 17x9.5-inch American Racing Torque Thrust 11 wheels, Kumho 235/60R17 front tyres, Kumho 275/60R17 rear tyres
- Exterior: Original Phantom Green paint, off-white hockey stick, billet rear tail lights, billet marker lamps, billet front indicator lamps, billet badges
- Interior: Factory re-upholstered seats, custom roof lining, Ididot steering conversion, factory rosewood SS steering wheel, Hurst factory shifter, full Dynamat Xtreme on all metal panels, Dynamat Dynaliner on all other panels, Custom Auto Sound factory replacement twin-shaft radio with iPod input, Custom Auto Sound factory replacement DVC speakers
- Performance: 640hp, 620lb/ft
This article was originally published in a previous issue of NZV8. Pick up a copy of the edition here: