One of the most popular platforms for custom hotrods is the 1969 Camaro. They are literally everywhere you look. In some parts of the country, you can walk into a hotrod show and the most popular car in the show is, you guessed it, the 1969 Camaro.
There is a reason for this, though. The 1969 Camaro works. It is a great platform from which to build a hot rod, or better yet a street rod. Large muscular, bulging fenders and a back seat, albeit a small one combined with wide wheels, a powerful engine and aggressive suspension are the main ingredients for a practical pro touring racer. There are enough of them around as well that they are affordable for most everyone.
There are people though who have been working with first-gen Camaros from the very beginning. Payton King is one such person. He got into 69 Camaros when they were just Camaros and nothing special. “My good friend Marks Henry really got me into the first-gens and I had helped him work on this 69 and 67 convertibles. But I really liked the one-off body style of the 69. When I was 19, I helped my younger brother Brennan, who had just turned 16, build a 69 Camaro for his first car”, says King.
Fast-forward a few years, and like the rest of us, Payton got a job, married and got a mortgage. However, the draw of the 69 Camaro never left. The itch to build and own one was still there. If anything, it was increasing as time marched forward.
Within a few months of moving to Alabama from Louisiana, he scratched that itch and brought home a 69 on a flat bed pick up. It didn’t run and all the parts were packed in the trunk and where the interior should have been. Needless to say, his wife Cheryl was not too happy about the eyesore that was going into her garage. Payton never told his wife that he could work on cars, much less restore them. A year and a half later, the Camaro was done.
Around this same time, putting larger engines into cars started happening on a really wide scale. Payton cam to the conclusion that he had done all he was able to do and proceeded to sell the car to his brother. Smartly, he retained “first rights” to buy it back if it ever went up for sale. Two years later, it did and it was back in his garage.
With the Camaro back in his possession, the first thing he did was an engine swap. “I had a big-block I was going to drop into the car with a six-speed and a ProCharger supercharger”, he says. However, he failed to take into account one very important thing. Did I say he was living in North Carolina at the time where it gets really hot and humid during the summer time. Anyways, Payton learned the hard way that his big block would not work with factory air conditioning.
To solve that problem, Payton traded the big-block for an LS1. Problem solved, so he thought. With the engine out, he proceeded to address the front suspension. As with most projects, his engine swap turned into a 6-year rebuild of the entire car.
Shortly thereafter, a friend of his gave him space in his shop to work in. Starting with the bodywork, he changed every panel of the Camaro except the roof and floors. In the process, the subframe was changed twice, the wheels four times, and the color of the car with every passing month. Eventually, Viper Yellow tickled his fancy and the constant repainting stopped.
With the body finally done, he could focus on the mechanicals. The LS1 he traded for the big block was rebuilt with Diamond forged pistons put in as well as TEA-ported heads. Topping the LS1 is a FAST 90mmm intake with a 90mm Nick Williams intake. A custom exhaust was hand-crafted by a close friend and the result is 425 horsepower and 386 pound-feet of torque touching the ground. Power is converted to forward motion through a TREMEC T-56. Power is shifted to the wheels through a 9-inch rearend with 4.11 gears.
Next up was the suspension. Payton replaced the factory subframe with a C5 Corvette-based clip. Coilovers and AFCO shocks were added to the mix along with a Detroit Speed 2-inch-drop. Leafs and Koni shocks top off the stance. For stopping power, the Camaro has six-piston Willwood calipers up front and four-piston binders in back clamping down to on 13-inch rotors. Wheels are from a C6 Vette and measure 18×8.5 up front and 19×10 in back and are wrapped in Goodyear 245/40/18 and 285/35/19 rubber.
With mechanical and body done, the final piece of the puzzle was the interior. Payton wanted to retain the stock look of the 69 Camaro. The seats and door panels were recovered and a custom center console was crafted. The interior was topped off with a customized DSE rollcage with Simpson 4-point harnesses keeping the driver and front passenger in their seats. The result is a vintage look prepared for the competition of today.
With the project done, Payton loves the end result. Apparently others do as well because the 69 Camaro is very well received by the judges in every show he enters.