The FREE Complete Bay Area Auto Enthusiast Guide

By KENNETH HALL - Motoring Tampa Bay correspondent
Since it was first introduced in 1967, the sporty Chevrolet Camaro has earned its reputation as an American classic. The car was originally designed to compete with the Ford Mustang in the pony car market, but even in its first year, the Camaro Z-28 option, with its small block 302 cubic-inch V-8 engine and Muncie four-speed transmission, easily left most Mustangs in the dust.
Jim Stuart, of Tampa, was fortunate enough to own a 1969 Camaro when he was in high school and college. In late 2015, nostalgia for those times enticed him to purchase a 1969 Camaro as a Christmas present for himself.
“Whoever painted it did a really nice job, and that is what attracted me to the car when I first saw it,” Stuart says. “It has a really nice look with the chin spoiler and rear spoiler.”
The 68 Camaro is a considerably different beast than the one that rolled off the showroom floor almost 50 years ago. Although Stuart and his 13-year-old son, Carson, have been working on the car since he bought it, most of the significant alterations were made before he acquired the vehicle.
“As far as I can tell, the car originally left the factory with a six-cylinder engine and a three-speed transmission,” Stuart says. “Now, it is like a Frankencar. The engine is from a mid-80s Camaro or Corvette. The valve covers say Corvette, but the engine is probably from a mid-80s Camaro or some other Chevy model. It is a 5-liter, 305 cubic-inch V-8 with a Holley 650 carburetor. The stampings on it indicate that the block was built in 1985.”
Stuarts 68 Camaro is equipped with a Borg-Warner T-10 transmission, which he believes was originally in a mid-80s Chevy, while the positraction rear end with a 3.73 12-bolt differential is from a 1969 Nova or Chevelle.
Stuart says that most of the interior of his car is either original or has been refurbished to original specifications, including the carpeting and upholstery. He did install a modern stereo in the otherwise original dashboard and replaced all the incandescent bulbs in the dash with LEDs.
A previous owner had changed out the grille with one from a Camaro Rally Sport, but the person did not install any of the mechanics that would open and close the headlight covers. As a result, Stuart says that bumps in the road would cause the covers to swing open or closed, which was a major concern at night.
“It is actually fairly complicated how those headlight doors operate,” Stuart admits. “It took me about 18 hours to rebuild the headlight doors. I rebuilt all the bushings and installed a pair of actuators, then wired everything to the light switch.”
Stuart made a few other improvements on his classic Camaro such as installing a custom 2½-inch dual exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers and troubleshooting the suspension and transmission, as well as changing out all the hoses and belts. Although the car has power brakes and power steering, it does not have air conditioning, which is a concern for Stuart.
“I grew up in Miami and drove a 1969 Camaro convertible in high school and college,” Stuart recalls. “It had a 307 cubic-inch engine and a four-speed transmission, but no air conditioning. I did not think much about it when I was a teenager, but now it makes a difference. That is probably my next upgrade.”
For now, Stuart is enjoying cruising in his stylish classic, although he admits the car is no speed demon.
“As it is now, the car probably has a little more than 200 horsepower,” Stuart adds. “It is certainly not something you would want to go drag racing in, but it is fun to drive and I get a lot of compliments about it.”

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