Steve Gaylord's 1969 Camaro SS 396 (from Volume 13, Issue 139)

Jacksonville area resident Steve Gaylord learned to work on cars while growing up in South Carolina. When he was in 10th grade Steve had the opportunity to attend a Vo-Tech school for half of the school day, and since he already had the ability to work on cars mechanically he decided to take Auto Body at Tech and learn something new. Many years later these skills would be put to good use....but let's not get ahead of the story.

After graduating High School in 1985, Steve enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he learned to work with computers. He got married in 1987, had two kids, got out of the Navy in 1997 and entered the work force as a Computer Systems Engineer. The Gaylords moved to Florida in 2000, and in 2002 it was decided that it would be neat to get an old car and fix it up. The 1969 Camaro pictured here was purchased in November of 2002 from a friend who had owned the car since the early 80's, and had it disassembled in a warehouse since 1982. Everything supported that it was an original 396 big block car, and soon the then carcass and collection of parts had a new home. Steve wanted a car to fix up....and this one fit the bill nicely!

During the process of bringing the old Camaro back to life Steve put his old skills back to use, and in the process learned more every day. Over time the car took on the nickname of "Orange Blessing", which Steve felt was fitting for several reasons; They live in Florida, the car was (and is now) painted Hugger Orange (though now with a "ghost" style platinum gold pearl hockey stripe), and it has been a real blessing to the. During the restoration they were able to do most of the work themselves, learning several techniques in the process. Steve told us the biggest thing learned was patience, and that if you rush a portion of the project, the outcome will be that it indeed looks "rushed" once done. So many hours of deliberate labor have gone into making the end result come together nicely.

Several changes have been made to the car. Starting with the suspension, underneath you'll now find Detroit Speed tubular upper and lower control arms, Hotchkis 2-inch front lowering springs, a Hotchkis front sway bat, and 1-1/2 inch lowered rear leaf springs. A set of American Racing Hopster rims (17x7 inch front, 17x8 inch rear) wrapped in 225/45/17 Cooper Zeon 2XS tires combine to give the car sure footing and a more modern look.

The original engine in the car was indeed a 396ci V-8, putting out 325hp through a TH350 automatic. You'll still find a 396 resting under the hood, though it has been bored .040 over, fitted with a Holley fuel injection unit, and was documented to have put out 435hp on the dyno with 470 ft. lbs. of torque. Behind it is a Tremec TKO-600 5-speed manual transmission, making the car a blast to drive. Other items include a Be Cool radiator with Spal dual electric fans, a Front Runner serpentine belt system, HydroBoost hydraulic brake booster, and a custom fabricated stainless steel gas tank by Rick's Hot Rod Shop with a built in electric fuel pump.

Inside a set of 2001 Trans Am leather seats were treated to hounds tooth inserts, which blend nicely with the rest of the interior while at the same time giving it a more modern look. Other upgrades include a set of Autometer gauges, a Vintage Air unit, power windows and door locks, cruise control, and a modern sound system.

Since completion the car has won many top awards, but that is not the motivation behind the car. Steve told us that seeing the smiles on people's faces, the thumbs up he gets driving down the road, and talking to the many people that come up and ask how he did a certain task or to pay him a compliment are also blessing the car has brought to the family....and I'm sure this cool Camaro will continue to do so for many years to come. CN