If you’re a Chevy High reader and you can honestly say that you’ve never had eyes for a ’69 Camaro, we can’t be friends. Also, you’re lying. The ’69 is an icon, with style decades ahead of its time, an amazing assortment of factory-offered performance options, and a face every generation of Chevy gearhead from grandad to grandson salivates over.
Most of us want one; few of us will ever have the chance. If you had asked Kent Kennedy if an original ’69 Camaro Z/28—hidden away on the other side of town, no less—was in his future, he probably would have laughed. But when a customer informed him of a little-known specimen tucked away in a warehouse he jumped at the opportunity. This scenario proves two things: barn finds of all makes and models still dot this planet and if you have a chance at a ’69 Camaro … you take it.
“A friend of mine told me about the car,” said Kennedy. “It was truly a barn find, tucked in the back of a building.” The car had been sitting for several decades, collecting dust and acting as an involuntary rodent hotel. “It hadn’t been licensed since 1981,” he said. “I still have that little piece of paper: a safety inspection sheet from the state of Missouri.”
It took over a year to finalize the purchase of the car from the owner, but he persevered. When the haggling was done and Kennedy wheeled his trophy home it became clear it wasn’t the dust-off-able time capsule he initially thought it was. “It looked like a pretty solid car but when we got it home we realized it was a mouse nest,” he said. “I mediablasted it … it got a lot worse.”
Kennedy enlisted the help of The Restomod Store on the build and they replaced every bit of sheetmetal except the quarters, cowl, and roof. In the process they also mini-tubbed the rear.
What do you do with a genuine Z/28? It’s quite the fork in the road. Ultimately, Kennedy came to two conclusions: he wanted to make it what he likes and he wanted it to look like a muscle car. Oh, and he didn’t want an LS engine.
“When we found [the car], the 302 was missing,” said Kennedy. “The Muncie transmission was still attached to the crossmember, and the tachometer was missing, too. Somebody knew what they wanted to take.”
To fill the DZ302-shaped void, a 400ci small-block engine was sourced from a ’69 Chevelle. It’s a stock-style rebuild with iron heads, roller rockers, and 10:1 compression. Kennedy’s carburetor of choice was a 750-cfm Holley double-pumper. Billet Specialties valve covers add some flare to the “orange” small-block and a PerTronix distributor with Accel wires handles the ignition duties. Up front, a March pulley system takes care of the various utilities.
Behind the engine is the original Muncie M21 transmission and a stock-style flywheel with a Centerforce clutch and—of course—a Hurst shifter. A stock driveshaft funnels power to the original 12-bolt differential, which is packed with 3.73 gears and Moser axles. Kennedy says it gets a little buzzy on the freeway with those gears and no overdrive, but that doesn’t stop him from driving the car.
There was so much that Kennedy loved about the car, but the original suspension didn’t make the cut. “I left the original crossmember after cleaning up the welds, but everything else is modern.”
Tubular Detroit Speed upper and lower control arms replaced the factory stampings, and big, four-piston Wilwood brakes adorn each corner. The factory coils, shocks, and leaf springs are gone, and in their place live QA1 coilovers. Out back resides a TCI torque arm suspension that gives the car far better handling dynamics than ’60s’ engineers could have imagined. The rolling stock consists of Boze wheels wearing Nitto Invo tires, 18s front and 19s rear to give the car an aggressive rake.
Inside, Kennedy wanted to retain as much of the ’69 Camaro vibe as possible. “I tried to stay as close to original as I could, other than converting it to black,” he said. “It was just too much blue.” The only exceptions are a complement of AutoMeter Cobalt gauges and a set of Kenwood speakers—vitals and tunes.
Overall, the project took three years to complete. On its first outing, to the World of Wheels show, the Camaro placed Second in its class. “It wasn’t even finished yet,” laughed Kennedy. “We just wheeled it in there and won.” Since then, the car has been to several other events, and Kennedy keeps racking up the miles. “It’s a real Z/28, but I just drive it and enjoy it.” CHP
Owner: Kent Kennedy, Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Vehicle: 1969 Camaro Z/28