From Rags to Riches: East Bay Muscle Cars-Built Tenacity Camaro

Naming a car isn’t always a simple task, but for the East Bay Muscle Cars-built Tenacity Camaro, the name was a given. Only persistence could have taken this car from its unsteady start to the glimmering one-of-a-kind beast it is today. Namely, persistence by the car, persistence by the owner and a lot of persistence from East Bay Muscle Cars (EBMC) owner Steve Keefer and his crew.

Initially, we were teased with just one image of Tenacity. With a picture offering up more than 1,000 words these days, it wasn’t enough to satisfy our hunger. To give us the skinny on this phenomenal car, we tracked down the Camaro and got in contact with Keefer, who’s Brentwood, California shop is the mastermind behind this beautiful ride. Ladies and gents, this car is oozing with details you won’t want to miss.

Troubled Beginnings

Tenacity may have come from troubled beginnings but there is nothing "troubled" about this unique first-generation Camaro now. Images: Solomon Lee/ Exotic Air

As with most builds, Tenacity is aptly named for the struggles it endured early in its build. A shop prior to EBMC’s knowledge of the car had essentially slaughtered the ‘69 Camaro over the course of five years, twisting it into a mess of mismatched components, sloppy “fabrication” and major no-no’s in the industry without progressing very far.

But the mess didn’t stop there.

When East Bay had the car brought down to their shop on a trailer, the horrors continued.

What was supposed to be an all-aluminum 632ci big-block engine with electronic fuel injection matted to a 4L80E transmission revealed itself to be a plastic mock-up engine that had been wrapped in plastic and disguised to the point that even the fake exhaust ports had been taped to prevent debris from getting in. The transmission? Well, that was nothing more than a gutted metal case.

After paying thousands of dollars for a fake product, obviously anyone would be frustrated at that point. Luckily, the Brandt family persisted and with the help of East Bay’s expertise, Tenacity was born.

If there's any question on how far Tenacity has come, the proof is in the end result.

First Things First

With a car as unique as this one, planning is key. “I personally designed most of the car,” Keefer revealed. “The customer expressed his style choices in cars to me and it was European exotics. He did not want a car that looked like a ‘Hot Wheel’ but was tastefully done and looked more like a European influenced prototype car. Luckily, that’s my main style and we agreed on most everything throughout the build.” Keeping the European inspiration in mind, one of the first major decisions made was on the wheel and tire combination for the car.

Many car builds start with the frame choice but for Tenacity, the wheel and tire package was one of the first items decided on in the planning process.

A staggered set of 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels was chosen to give the car an aggressive 1-inch rake while still maintaining the specific wheel to fender gap. Fabrication of the body followed, producing rear wheel tubs with plenty of room for the planned P335 series rear tires, rocker panels that were dropped 3 inches and doors dropped 2 inches to give the car a lower profile, and tapered rear quarter panels with a 1 ¾-inch drop for a better transition into the extended rockers. Tenacity’s body itself was also dropped by 3 inches on the frame.

Moving further back on the car, East Bay Muscle Cars made a custom rear spoiler, which tapers to the rear and adds a sense of motion to the car. The rear bumper was built from scratch, Keefer told us, and heavily modified. The rear end of Tenacity in itself is a work of art with incorporated rear exhaust exits molded right into the body, custom fabricated fuel filler recessed into the tail panel, and heat extractors that hang down behind the rear wheels. Further body modifications went into giving Tenacity its distinct look.

The hood and cowl underwent extensive modifications to make the Camaro’s nose appear as long as possible with the cowl appearing more as an extension of the hood than a separate piece. The underlying front spoiler was fabricated to incorporate the air induction for the car while giving Tenacity a more modern revamp of the classic ’69 Camaro style. A-pillars were also modified with shaved drip rails and a flange put in place to give the car a complete and more factory appearance. The pillars themselves were even widened 5/8-inch to cover the factory whether strip channels.

“We rolled the car outside a few times to stand back and make sure everything looked ‘right’,” Keefer said of the extensive body work.

More than Just Looks

While body modifications go a long way as far as style and appearance go, you’ve got to have the right working components to give your ride the performance to back up its style. So EBMC fit Tenacity with the perfect platform and then some.

Aside from modifying the car’s Art Morrison Max-G full perimeter frame, East Bay fitted Tenacity with a proper suspension.

Undoing and redoing the previous suspension chop-job, East Bay fitted the car with forged aluminum A-arms from a C6 Corvette and a 1 ¼-inch sway bar up front. The rear suspension consists of a 3-link assembly with TMI watts linkage working in harmony with a Winters Performance Products quick change Posi-traction rearend with 4.12:1 gears.

Thanks to EBMC, Tenacity has a suspension fit for a pro-touring king.

Tenacity also makes use of adjustable coil-over shocks from Strange Engineering on all four corners, lifters by an air management system from Exotic Air. Steering is taken care of with a quick ratio rack and pinion power setup, while stopping power is provided by Baer 14-inch cross drilled and slotted rotors, 6-piston calipers, a Wilwood pedal assembly with twin master cylinders, and EBMC’s custom Nickel-copper brake lines. The Camaro is also fitted with a Jamar push-button hydraulic parking brake.

Under the Hood

While the original plan for the car was to incorporate an all aluminum 632ci engine, plans changed when the build really took off at EBMC. In place of the plastic mock-up engine East Bay received the car with, Tenacity was fitted with a 416ci LS3 Mast Motorsports Black Label SS engine, including Mast 12-degree CNC ported LS3 heads, LS3 custom-grind hydraulic roller camshaft, pushrods and Nitride Beehive valve springs.

Other goodies in the engine include a Callies forged crank and H-beam rods, Mahle Motor Sports pistons with an 11.2:1 compression ratio, Clevite rod and crank bearings, LS3 hydraulic roller lifter, sequential fuel injection, Hogan’s aluminum sheet metal intake with custom air box from EBMC, GM LS7 shorty injectors and 90mm throttle body, including a Bosch MAP sensor.

Tenacity also has a remote Delphi coil pack ignition, Ron Davis cross flow custom aluminum radiator, custom EBMC fuel cell with in-tank Aeromotive A1000 EFI fuel pump, and a custom exhaust with custom ceramic coated headers, Magnaflow mufflers and brushed nickel tips.

 Tying Her Together

To get as much of the engine’s 630hp and 560 ft-lbs of torque to the pavement as possible, EBMC fitted Tenacity with a Tremec T-56 Magnum 6-speed transmission with Ram twin disc clutch and hydraulic throw out bearing. A QuickTime SFI scatter shield is also in place.

Of course, you’ve also got to have a good wheel and tire package to get the most out of your car.

That’s why Tenacity sports Forgeline’s three-piece GA3 wheels with Titanium centers and nickel outers in the 19×10-inch variety in the front and 20×12-inch variety in the rear. For the front rubber, East Bay opted for Michelin P285/35/ZR19s while the rear got P335/30/ZR20s.

Inside Out

Tenacity’s interior is just as custom as the rest of the car, with a custom extended ’67 Camaro dash, removable transmission tunnel, modified Cadillac CTS-V center console, modified Recaro seats and a Mono GTR steering wheel.

Giving the interior more of a European feel are molded fiberglass door panels, headliner and dash pad, as well as custom fiberglass trunk panels wrapped in micro suede and leather.

The creature comforts are rounded out with power windows, Vintage Air heating and A/C, a push button start and Pioneer/Memphis sound system with CD/DVD/Receiver with an LCD screen.

The entire car is then topped with PPG Audi Lava Gray paint complimented with Matte Titanium paint on the hood for an elongated look.

Standing Proud

Tenacity is a phenomenal car and the public just recently got to see it in person for the first time during the car’s 15th Goodguys PPG Nationals debut in Columbus, Ohio last month. After about 18 months start to finish, the reaction to Tenacity was picture-perfect.

“The reaction at Columbus was very positive and the ‘true’ car people I observed were walking around the car looking at it from different angles trying to pick up on all of the mods that were done and seemed to really appreciated the subtle body mods and the whole concept of what we were trying to achieve,” Keefer told us.

“There were a lot of people though that knew it looked different but didn’t know why, which is the best compliment myself, as a builder can get. I almost always try to draw attention away from the mods that were done instead of to them. That way the whole package has a much stronger affect.”

Well, we think it’s safe to say that East Bay Muscle Cars succeeded in that and we can’t wait to hear about all the awards Tenacity is sure to win in the future.

About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
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