The future of the Chevrolet Camaro is certain, at least for now, but it’s truly the car’s past that shaped it to be one of American’s most well known and popular muscle cars. Of course, we’re all familiar with the first-gen cars that everyone and their brother seem to have these days, but if you were to ask Mike Veis which Camaro generation was the best, he’d proudly tell you the second, beginning in 1970.
That’s because Veis likes the body style of the second-gen F-bodies best. They are after all, something a little bit different and not the norm even at car shows like the Super Chevy Show in Denver, Colorado where we found Veis’ 1970 flat black, split bumper Camaro standing proudly across the isle from a number of 60s models. She may not have been as shiny as the bright yellow, red and blue first-gen offerings that day, but the stealthy second-gen certainly caught our eye and we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out more about it.
Wait, That’s Not a Chevelle…
Veis, a commercial construction superintendent from Falcon, Colorado, wasn’t always looking for a Camaro to build. In fact, he started his journey looking for a 1970 Chevelle project car (which he also owns now), influenced by his older brothers who he told us “owned every year” of the famed muscle machine. But the tables turned when Veis heard of an estate sale nearby with a ‘70 Camaro for sale.
“Nineteen seventy is the year I was born,” Veis told us. “So that’s the car I wanted.”
The car, a base V6 from the factory, had been owned by the same woman since 1973 and when she passed, none of her children wanted it. Veis left work, taking his partners with him to check out the car and decided then and there it would be his. So, he left his friend at the property for collateral while he ran to the bank to get the money and drove the car home at the end of the day for just $1,100.
A Project from the Get-Go
Upon getting it home, Veis tore right into it. “ I didn’t even drive it one day,” Veis said. “I drove it home and tore it apart the next day.” The thinking was that he’d have the car at least semi built in time for the Super Chevy Show at Bandimere Speedway six months down the line.
That was eight years ago and the car is still a work in progress, but not for a lack of passion or effort. Veis has thousands of hours into the car and has been fabricating it to his specifications since day one. The inspiration- the Chip Foose episodes of Speed’s Over Haulin’ in which Foose built a couple early second-gen Camaros. A couple years into the build, Veis even got to meet Foose in person at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas and consult with him a bit about the car.
That’s why there are 20 x 8-inch and 20 x 9.5-inch Foose wheels wrapped in Nitto rubber tucked under the Camaro’s fenders.
Nothing But Custom
From the upholstery to the exterior body panels on Veis’ car, everything is custom. “The whole idea is to be different and not be like anyone else,” Veis told us. “That’s why I didn’t go back to stock.”
Even the front split bumper piece is unique, which Veis fabricated and built himself out of 36 different pieces of steel over a two month period. The original nose piece that was on the car had been damaged in a front end collision, tweaking it so it wasn’t straight. Of course, with the factory polyurethane nose, fixing it wasn’t really an option and Veis didn’t like the pricey aftermarket replacements, so he created his own with the encouragement of his friend VW builder Chris Goodwin. Grafted to that front nose piece is the front end of a ‘69 Camaro complete with fog lights and fabricated air filters that now fill the smaller headlight holes. Pretty good for someone who’d never welded before this project.
“I didn’t test anything, I just jumped in,” Veis told us.
Other things done to the Camaro include equipping it with an L88 Corvette hood with independent shaker setup and dropping in a 350ci. small-block engine underneath, stroked out to 391 cubic inches with an 11:1 compression ratio and equipped with Headman Headers that dump into 3-inch Cherry Bombs and exit under the front seat. The engine is matted to a 700R4 transmission and when asked about his automatic transmission choice, Veis told us, “I want to drive the car and enjoy it and not have to work. I want to drive it anywhere and anyway I want to.”
The Camaro is also equipped with a custom fabricated front subframe and Heidts four-link suspension system complete with Ridetech components and a Ford 9-inch Posi-Traction rearend with 4.11 gears. The later came as a learning experience after Veis initially fabricated his own suspension system with a K5 Blazer rearend for the car and found himself in a less than ideal situation with the suspension hanging by a thread a couple times and gears blown before putting in the Heidts system. The Camaro also has Wilwood disc brakes with 6-piston calipers in the front and 4-piston calipers in the rear.
As for the interior of the car, Veis also made major changes there too. The dash and center console are fully custom pieces that match the black and white seats. As you may notice, the rear seat sits up a bit higher than normal. With jokes about the Expedia gnome hitching a ride back there exchanged, Veis told us it’s because the K5 suspension used to sit up much higher in the undercarriage, causing the seat to be repositioned higher. The interior also includes Autometer gauges and suede interior panels that Veis sewed himself.
“If you need any shirts or anything mended, I can handle that,” Veis joked about his newly acquired sewing talent.
With the car still in progress, Veis has a few more things planned for this black beauty before she’s finished, like fabricating the hood hinges, finishing and perfecting the interior, including redoing the console and finishing the headliner, as well as potentially splitting the rear window like the 1963 split-window Corvette Sting Ray.
“I’ve always liked that look,” Veis told us of the iconic Corvette model. “And those Vettes have the split front and rear bumper.”
Along with the Vette inspired look, which can be spotted already on the car as we mentioned with the hood design, Veis plans to the mirrors on the car, only using back up cameras and monitors in the interior for a sleek look. There are also plans to tear the engine apart this winter for porting and polishing and maybe eventually equipping the car with a twin turbocharged setup matched to a 572ci engine or maybe something a little tamer like a 383ci stroker.
For Veis, it’s all about being different with his car, from the fabrication to the flat black paint. “I’ve been going to car shows looking for cars like mine and I haven’t found one,” Veis told us. But no matter how unique, the best thing Veis could think about his car was being able to drive it.
“I will not build anything I won’t drive,” he concluded.