Chris Reynolds' 1969 Camaro SS/RS Convertible
(from Volume 21, Issue 256)

story by owner Dr. Chris Reynolds, Lt. Col. USAF (Ret.) • photos by Michael B. Kelly


My first car back in 1975 was a butternut yellow 1969 Camaro with a black vinyl top. It was my older brother’s car and when he took delivery of my father’s old ’72 Nova, the Camaro was given to me. Imagine being a 17 year old kid, with a ’69 Camaro given to you! This wasn’t a Z/28 or even an SS, it was straight-6 with a Powerglide, but I didn’t care - it was my Camaro! I had that car until 1977 when I moved to Florida from Wisconsin.

Flash forward 34 years to 2011, when I found an original Hugger Orange, Code 72, 1969 Camaro SS/RS convertible. After retiring from the United States Air Force in early 2014, I decided it was time to build my dream car - a fully customized resto-mod 1969 Camaro. One of my dear friends, Joe Dwyer, knew that I wanted to take the Camaro to the next level and he recommended someone who embodied the same morals and ethics that I did and walked with Christ, as I do.

Steve Hines from Shines Customs got the car in August of 2014 and did a total and complete transformation, while retaining the original GM Camaro body. We did a body off full rotisserie restoration that included shaving, tilting, and molding the rear spoiler to the deck lid and rear quarters. Because I did not want the typical resto mod Camaro, we went with the blacked out theme with aggressive wide rally stripes that run from the front spoiler to the bottom of the rear tail pan. Following the “unconventional theme”, we moved the factory RS backup lights inboard about 4-inches on each side to accommodate the slash oval exhaust tips. Steve’s metalwork on the tail pan allow the rear tips to tuck nicely into the recessed channels he built. We wanted to pay our due respect to the “old school” muscle car look and feel, so we retained the Hurst shifter and original GM trim tag with its signature 72 code Hugger Orange still stamped on the tag. You will find the old tag in its correct location on the smoothed firewall.

Because it was a convertible, it was not possible to do a full mini-tub, so we opted on modifying the rear wells to accommodate the wider rear tires. Steve’s design genius is apparent by looking at the attention to detail on the smallest items. All wires, air conditioning and cooling hoses are tastefully hidden inside the engine bay. Steve also custom designed and made the core support cover, extended inner wheel wells, underhood cover, and smooth firewall. Steve also relocated the battery to the trunk area, tastefully hidden behind the trunk well liner.

The color of the car is a Steve Hines custom mix Firestorm Orange pearl, with layers of clear coat. We powder coated all the remaining trim, door handles, mirrors, and molding satin black. The underside of the Firestorm is the body color, with all brake lines, neatly hidden along the power coated frame. We replaced the entire original suspension system with a Heidts Four-Link with adjustable links, full upper coil-over cross member, pan hard bar, and adjustable Heidts coil-over shocks in the rear, supporting the original Chevy 12 bolt 3:42 posi. Up front, we replaced the original sub-frame with the Heidts Pro-G Sub frame with 2-inch drop spindles supported by Heidts billet coil overs. We also replaced the original Saginaw steering box with a power rack and pinion steering system. Stopping ability is provided by Wilwood power brakes with 12-inch drilled rotors and 4 piston red calipers in all four corners. In front, she rides on 18x8-inch Billet Specialty G-Spec two-piece wheels spinning Nitto 245x40x18’s, and on the rear are 18x10-inch Billet Specialty G-Spec two-piece wheels spinning Nitto 275x40x18’s. Steering is provided by an Ididit custom tilt column. All suspension components, Heidts sub-frame, Heidts Four-Link and Hotchkis sub-frame connectors all powder coated courtesy of Perry at American Powder Coating in Tampa.

Powering the Firestorm is a 2013 Camaro SS LS3 Gen IV connected to its original Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission with less than 20,000 original miles on them. GM’s LS3 hot cam was installed courtesy of Andreh Alito from Insty Tune in Tampa. Adding to the beauty of the custom fly by wire LS3 is the Vintage Air Black Front Serpentine System. Breathing air into the Gen IV 376 small block is accomplished by Spectre Performance’s Muscle Car LS Dual Snorkel kit, with the filters protected by Steve Hines custom made shrouds. A custom PSI LSx wiring harness allows the engine to communicate with the computer, which was custom flashed by Jeremy at Fasterproms in Tampa. Bringing the LS3 to life is accomplished by the Ididit Touch And Go Start System mounted on the DSE dash. The Firestorm pumps out a tire burning 525 horsepower with 480 foot pounds of torque. The addition of the hot cam provides a nice, not too radical lope, through a 2.5-inch powder coated mandrel exhaust with an x-pipe, connected to dual Magniflows.

The fighter jet feel on the interior is enhanced by the Detroit Speed custom dash with custom Auto Meter Phantom II gauges. Cooling in the cockpit is accomplished by Vintage Air, with navigation, backup camera, and tunes courtesy of a Kenwood DNX571HD mounted in the custom built console. The interior is completely customized with chopped 2002 Camaro power seats, wrapped in high-quality black leather. The center console runs from the front to the rear, separating the rear seats for the same cockpit feel. Door panels and trunk accents were also custom built. The interior was designed and built by Dale VanCuren at Unlimited Designs in Dade City, Florida. The convertible top frame was removed, restored and powder coated, then wrapped in a new cloth convertible top with a glass rear window. Inside accent lighting is accomplished by hidden orange LED lighting. Outside lighting is provided by halogen halo headlights, hidden behind the Detroit Speed electric RS power headlight doors. The ’69 Camaro signature front driving lights were also upgraded to full LED amber/white lights which are great for daytime running. The taillights are the Digi-tails LEDs, which set deeply into the blacked out tail panel.

Many talented hands touched this build over the last year. I am the benefactor of the talent and professionalism of Steve Hines, Joe Dwyer, and Dale & David VanCuren. The real reward of the Firestorm Camaro are the friendships and gatherings of family that developed around the build. Isn’t that what cruising is all about…family and friends? CN