ON his third crack at Motorvation Grand Champ, Stuart Vernon finally came out on top in his stunning Pro Touring ‘69 Camaro. It picked up Top Interior and Top 10 in the Elite Tent, but it was in the driving events where the car shone, finishing runner up in the Go-Whoa and taking out the win in the slalom, not surprising considering the race-spec coil-over suspension and sticky Nitto semi-slick rubber. Check out the full feature from our October 2018 issue below:
Around 10 years ago, Stuart Vernon made the long trek from Perth, WA to the USA on the hunt for his dream car. Like many before him, that dream consisted of a ’57 Chev, but clearly something went wrong: “I went to the ’States to buy my dream car, a ’57 two-door, then came back with a ’69 Camaro. It was a supposedly a fully restored car, but it basically sat in my backyard while I renovated the house. Then the paint started peeling out of it and bog was lifting, and before I knew it, it needed rear quarters and door skins and became a full resto from that point. It went from being a car that I could freshen up and drive straight away to a five-year, full restoration. I ended up getting a ’57, it’s in my shed now.”
Stuart recently gave the car a makeover, replacing the Mercedes Iridium silver paint and race stickers with a high-class carbon metallic paintjob. Photos: Jordan Leist
With the car looking a bit worse for wear, Stuart decided to get the car blasted at Stripped Bare Diamond Blast: “That’s where I met Greg Hogan [we featured his ’69 Camaro in SM, Dec ’15] and Chris Spaulding and it turned into a mild 350 with an auto.” Obviously those plans changed considerably thanks to the influence of Chris, who is renowned on the west coast for turning out a bunch of killer Chevy pro tourers, usually big block-powered and riding on Detroit Speed suspension.
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The stance isn’t super low, but it’s spot-on for a regularly driven car. Coil-overs, a DSE front end and Chris Alston g-Link triangulated four-bar rear, plus big Baer brakes on all four corners, make sure the car goes around corners and stops on a dime
But before any of that fun stuff could happen, Stuart had to get the bodywork squared away and those very dodgy looking quarters replaced. “Travis Arnold put all the rear quarters on, the door skins, the panel in front of the windscreen. The floors were probably the only decent things on it, the bonnet and bootlid were fairly new,” says Stuart. Someone in the US had already had a go at repairing the quarters, but it wasn’t the greatest job: “They had cut just below the top of the quarter from the tail-lights to the door and then lapped another guard on top, pop-riveted it and smeared it with bog. There were holes everywhere from where they’d welded rods on to slide hammer the dents out.” Needless to say, the job’s been done properly this time with two new repro quarters going on, but it took 80 hours of work to get them to fit!
Read next: 1500hp Pro Touring Camaro in the build
The wheels are a carry-over from the original build but have been updated, with the centres painted body colour in a satin finish while the rims were finished in Marrakesh Brown from a BMW
With the mild 350 and auto idea well and truly out the window by now, Stuart turned to Scott’s Performance Engines to screw together a 468ci big-block based around a brand new Gen VI 454 four-bolt block. There’s a pair of Dart Pro1 alloy heads with 325cc intake runners with a matching Dart intake manifold. Initially there was an 850 Ultra HP Holley feeding the fuel, but Stuart recently upgraded that to a FiTech EFI system that supports up to 600hp and he couldn’t be happier – although after putting it on the dyno he was bit worried about whether that was enough.
Read next: Elite 1500hp twin-turbo 1969 Camaro
“It made 520 at the rears on the Monsta Torque dyno and when I rang FiTech, they said they underestimate the horsepower and it will safely handle 600hp, so it won’t be a problem,” Stuart says. “I’ve been around Wanneroo Raceway with it and it hasn’t missed a bit, no flat spots and beautiful acceleration.” The other benefit with the EFI over the carby is that it was always difficult to get to the carby due to the custom air intake which was beautifully crafted by Clint DiGiovanni at SRM.
Read next: Twin-turbo LSX-powered 1968 Camaro
A big-block Chev built by Scott’s Performance Engines has been punched out to 468 cubes and topped with a set of Dart Pro1 heads and intake. There’s a FiTech EFI system on top and all up there’s a more-than-ample 520hp at the treads
Helping make all that grunt are CP pistons, Scat crank and rods and a hefty hydraulic-roller cam. The full stainless exhaust comprises of two-inch primaries on the headers and a twin three-inch system handled by Dom at Prestige Exhausts. There’s a Magnum T56 six-speed backing it up and that goes back to a FAB9 nine-inch on a Chris Alston g-Link triangulated four-bar. Rounding out the pro touring package are KWC Forged wheels measuring up at 18x8.5 and 18.9.5 and wrapped in Nitto 245/40 and 275/40 rubber respectively. As you’d expect, there are massive brakes on all four corners from Baer, with 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers up front and 13-inch with four-piston calipers on the rear.
That one-off intake was fabricated by Clint DiGiovanni at SRM and is a signature piece of the car. The pipes go out through the inner fenders on each side to pick up clean cool air
With the mechanicals all sorted the car was finished off in a silver metallic, which, after it was all said and done, Stuart found a little bit boring. Heavily influenced by many trips to SEMA – both for inspiration and parts shopping – Stuart followed the trends of the time and added a hockey-stick stripe and a shopping list of go-fast stickers down the side of the car. That’s how the car stayed for several years until recently when a minor bingle instigated a fairly major update. “I reversed out the driveway and hit my wife’s Calais and damaged the rear quarter.” Oops.
Stuart had planned to repaint the car in the original Mercedes Iridium Silver, but after some dramas trying to match up the silver paint he decided to go right away from the previous look and had Meltham Motors repaint the car in Nissan Gun Metallic – a Skyline colour.
The interior features Auto Meter Carbon Fibre gauges, a Momo wheel and clever use of satin finishes on the dash and console for a tasteful look
For a bit of contrast, Z/28 stripes were ghosted on in a slightly lighter colour. “The whole car got stripped right back to the bare bones again and put on a rotisserie. Basically, it was another full resto again and I tidied up a few things that I wasn’t happy with, just little bits and pieces,” says Stuart.
The interior remained unchanged as with the Sparco Milano front seats and door trims finished in black leather and suede tied in nicely with the new exterior colour. A Momo wheel sits in front of a Detroit Speed instrument panel filled with Auto Meter Carbon Fibre gauges and the factory console houses the Mal Wood billet shifter and switches for the electric windows – you’ve got to have some creature comforts.
Stuart’s plan was always to create a multi-purpose vehicle, one that’s happy to be in the show or cruise scene, and he’s definitely achieved that. “The car has gone around Wanneroo in 1min 10sec and run a quarter-mile in 12.4@123mph on my street tyres with wheelspin in all gears. It’s more economical and easier to start when it’s cold, you can take off at the lights without having to feather the throttle; it’s much more driveable.”
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
While it may look like Stuart’s given his car a bit of a respray and tidy-up, a lot more effort went into it than that. The whole car was stripped back to its bare bones, put back on the rotisserie, cleaned up underneath and then reassembled with a lot more attention to detail. Although the major mechanical parts have all stayed the same, the car is completely unrecognisable from its previous guise – number plates excluded.
Stuart has kept the pro touring theme but classed it up a bit, getting rid of the go-fast stickers and bright silver paint for a more subdued gunmetal grey and ghosted factory stripes. With some paint detailing on the wheels to tie in with the body colour and extra detail in the engine bay, the car has come up a treat, and wowed the crowds at the WA Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular, taking home Top Street Machine Overal and a Meguiar's Superstars invitation.
1969 CHEVROLET CAMARO
Paint: Nissan Gun metallic
Type: 468ci Gen VI big-block Chev
Injection: FiTech EFI
Heads: Dart Pro1 325cc
Valves: 2.250in (in), 2.300in (ex)
Fuel pump: Aeromotive Stealth
Radiator: Race Radiators custom
Exhaust: Full stainless, 2in primaries, twin 3in exhaust
Ignition: MSD 6AL, Blaster coil, MSD distributor
’Box: Magnum T56 6-speed
Diff: Chris Alston FAB9, Moser centre and axles, Truetrac, 3.7:1 gears
Front end: Detroit Speed
Shocks: Chris Alston adjustable coil-overs (f), Varishock adjustable coil-overs (r)
Steering: Detroit Speed 12.5:1 ratio
Brakes: Baer six-piston on 14in rotors (f), Baer four-piston on 13in rotors (r)
Rims: Showwheels KWC Forged; 18x8.5 (f), 18x9.5 (r)
Rubber: Nitto 245/40R18 (f), 275/40R18 (r)