Ken & Charlene Paparella's 1969 Camaro SS
(from Volume 16, Issue 181)

This story starts with Ken Paparella trying to buy his wife, Charlene, her favorite Camaro. They searched on eBay and all the other usual sources for something that was eye candy and had some “pop”, and after a long search they found a Daytona yellow 1969 Camaro SS 396 with black Z/28 stripes on eBay. Ken made the call to the owner, which was a dealer in Augusta, Georgia, and made the deal off eBay. The Paparellas had to wait about a week to get it, and Charlene was excited. It finally arrived and Ken met the hauler in a parking lot, but the car was a mess! Nothing like advertised, and it was misrepresented. Of course Ken was stuck with the car....and a disappointed wife. He could not sell it to anyone and feel good about it, so it was parked in the garage and never brought out until they decided what to do.

Getting advice from Ken’s friend, Mike Coletta, they decided the car at least had a good body, and was something that could be worked with. So Ken decided to do a partial restoration, with a paint job and some interior work. He took it to Tracy Costalo, better known as “Taz” Custom Painting, in July of 2007, and figured it would be on the road in about four months. Anybody that has done this knows that Ken was dreaming when thinking four months. The project started as a simple fame up paint job, but as Taz started taking the car apart, the demons hiding inside came out every time something was unbolted. Six months later they had the car in pieces.

The plan had changed, and the Camaro became a full “nut and bolt” rotisserie restoration, with about 85% of the car becoming new. The only thing that was used from the old Camaro was the body and the sub frame. Taz began working on replacing the floor pan, which led to the firewall being replaced because they wanted a smoother look. As they looked at the back wheel wells they saw a little rust, so they decided to call Detroit Speed & Engineering and mini-tub the car. Of course this meant a new Rock Vally stainless steel gas tank because it needed to be narrowed. They installed DSE sub frame connectors, and then decided to powder coat the entire frame gloss black since it was now one piece with the connectors welded into the floor. Next were slotted and drilled disc brakes from CPP at all four corners, and new Moser axles.

The body of the car was completely stripped to bare metal, and all the metal that needed it was replaced. It was then treated to epoxy primer, and a coat of white primer. The DuPont Hot Hues Lemon Ice paint was laid down while the car was on the rotisserie, and the underneath looks just as pretty as the top. Then the Chevy black went on, and the silver striping was laid down after that. Four coats of clear were applied, and the car just “popped”.

For the wiring it was taken to Mike Coletta to make the car come alive, with the heart and soul being a ZZ502 crate motor cooled by a polished Ron Davis Racing radiator and dual 13-inch Spal fans. Ken is a big block kind of guy, and wanted the Barry Grant Six Shooter carb setup. To him there is nothing better than a ZZ502 with three carbs percolating, sending sound out of the 3-inch exhaust with Flowmaster 44 mufflers, and an entire exhaust system ceramic coated by Kenny Lokey of Lokey’s Ceramic Coating. Other engine items include a Hyperdrive polished pulley system, and MSD equipment that was hidden to keep the engine compartment all motor. The 515 horsepower and 580 ft. lbs. of torque are put through a Muncie 4-speed manual transmission to a 3.55 rear end.

The car received all new chrome, and the original stainless was polished up by J&M Stainless Steel Repair out of Bunnell, Florida. The taillights and running lights are custom billet, and match the other touches of billet throughout the car. The interior features one-of-a-kind black and yellow Houndstooth cloth, which was custom made by Cars Inc. The custom Covan dash houses Autometer gauges, while all other interior components are completely new and stock. You’ll also find power door locks, windows, tilt steering, a leather wrapped stock ‘69 comfort grip steering wheel, and Vintage Air. Their objective was to combine the new of today with the nostalgia of yesterday.

The car rolls on Rushforth Pro Touring wheels, with 17x7-inch front rims wrapped in 225/45/17 Hankooks, and the 18x11-inch rears wrapped in 315/30/18 Hankooks. The suspension was all redone with BMR control arms, Eibach lowering springs all around, and Koni adjustable shocks.

While showing it, the car has been referred to as the Bumble Bee many times, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers car....which Ken doesn’t mind since he is a Pittsburgh native, and a big Steelers fan. Although, that was not the objective at the time the colors were picked.

It takes a lot of people to make cars like this happen, and many friends. Ken wanted to thank Taz for all of his hard work in making the car a reality, Mike Coletta for always being there for him, Markee McLin for his encouragement, Eddie and Tim at Murray’s Speed & Custom for always having what was needed, and Firewheel Classics out of Texas for supplying all the ‘69 Camaro parts.

About 2.5 years later the ‘69 Camaro SS that Ken’s wife wanted, which would have been traditional yellow with black Z/28 stripes, never happened. Somehow it transformed into this Hot Rod. Fortunately they have a restored 1968 Camaro RS, which is Rally Green with the traditional white Z/28 stripes, so Ken traded her. The Paparellas have always loved Muscle Cars, and have had many including a ‘69 Charger 440 RT, ‘69 Camaro RS, ‘69 Corvette, ‘69 Chevelle SS, and ‘70 Olds 442. They were all back in the day when Ken and Charlene were dating and just married, as careers and children took precedent and they sold all of those cars. They did manage to buy a new 1993 Camaro Z/28 along the way, which they still have in the garage with only 27K miles. When the kids were done with college in 2003 they bought the 1968 Camaro and jumped back into the hobby. Now they have the ‘69 Camaro you see pictured here, and a ‘67 Camaro convertible is on the horizon.

Ken told us that during the restoration he laughed, smiled, cried, yelled, screamed, used bad language, thew things, held his head in his hands and continually asked himself why he was doing this. But he would do it again! Ken was quick to point out that it is a great hobby, and you meet great people.....which is what they love most. Winding up with a cool Camaro to show for all your hard work isn’t bad either! CN