Building a Pro Touring ’69 Camaro with a 540 BBC!

Photo credit: V8 Speed & Resto Shop

Kevin Oeste and his outfit—V8 Speed & Resto Shop—took on quite a challenge when one of their customers brought in a recently-purchased ’69 Camaro. The car was pleasing to the eye; a slick silver paint job and a tidy red leather interior would keep fans drooling for hours.

However, its supposed Pro Touring setup wasn’t up to the task of handling the output of the 540 cubic inches resting quietly under the hood. The Shafiroff BBC was a gem of an engine, but to put its 700 horsepower and 680 lb-ft of torque effectively to the pavement, they’d have to improve upon the suspension, rear axle, brakes, wheels, and tires.

Like a bodybuilder who consistently skips leg day, the Camaro lacked the balance of a consummate athlete. Basically, the Camaro had been built to look pretty, sound intimidating, and hustle down the straighter stretches of blacktop.

So, Oeste brought in the big guns to give the Chevy the calf workout of a lifetime. His goals: installing a complete Detroit Speed QUADRALink rear suspension and front subframe, wheel tubs, a Currie Enterprises rear axle, Forgeline wheels, and Toyo Tires.

There sits 540ci of big block fury. Photo credit: V8 Speed & Resto Shop

Though Oeste was after performance, this Camaro couldn’t be a ragtag road racer with battle scars and bullet holes decorating its hide. Therefore, when the team performed plenty of metal fabrication with his build, they would need to “walk on eggshells” to keep her lookin’ purty. Before breaking out the torches, they wrapped and disassembled the car and covered it with a few 3M products for when the sparks started flying.

Keeping it shiny and scratch-free was a primary concern. Photo credit: V8 Speed & Resto Shop

Part of the traction problem was that, with the power available, the Camaro was severely under-tired; wearing 275-sections at the rear. To fit something larger within the standard body, they narrowed the frame rails, reinforced them, added inner wheel tubs, and patched the outer tubs. This, combined with the need to install the four-link brackets in the floor, required a retrimming of the rear upholstery to fit within the new confines. With that beautiful red leather going under the knife, you can bet the tension in the air was palpable. Thankfully, their upholsterer does some top-notch work.

Those inner wells are works of art. Photo credit: V8 Speed & Resto Shop

Since V8 Speed & Resto Shop takes on plenty of projects which aren’t completely finished, they frequently find themselves polishing rough edges, rounding cut corners, and salvaging shoddy craftsmanship from previous owners/builders. As Oeste mentions, “When you pick up cars midstream, you’ve always got unanticipated fixes.” So, when mounting the rear crossmember through the trunk floor—which showed signs of age and abuse—they scrapped it and fitted their own for a lot of glitz and a little added rigidity.

The center section is a Currie 9+ nodular iron unit, stuffed with a Detroit TruTrac limited slip differential and 3.70:1 gears, with 31 spline Currie axles. Photo credit: V8 Speed & Resto Shop

Underneath that trunk floor, they employed a Currie 9-inch rearend with 3.70 gears—onto which they welded brackets to mount the QUADRAlink. Working in conjunction with a six-speed T56 Magnum and 325-section rear tires, they found the traction and storming acceleration they were after. Some of the traction was aided by a good deal of camber in the rear to make the most of those massive contact patches, and they dialed in some added straight-line stability with plenty of caster.

With the narrowed frame rails, those 325-section monsters fit neatly in the factory wells. Photo credit: V8 Speed & Resto Shop

At the sharp end of the car, the Detroit Speed Hydroformed subframe and 275-section Toyos helped give their customer the steering response he sought. With massive Baer brakes at all four corners, and a street-friendly compound, he can stop quickly and repeatedly without any worries. If he takes it to the track, those brakes can accept a more aggressive pad for those purposes.

Photo credit: V8 Speed & Resto Shop

Getting the Most with Holley EFI

As mentioned earlier, the engine arrived at V8 Speed & Resto Shop with a few loose ends that needed tying up. With a big cam, a massive throttle body, and a bad tune, the engine suffered from poor low-end response and was constantly fouling plugs. So, they employed a Holley EFI system and a multi-port sequential setup to help.

Photo credit: V8 Speed Shop

The Holley system’s greatest appeal is its user-friendliness. As engine tuner Trevor Spence notes, “the Holley stuff can work as simply as you want, or as comprehensively as you want.” Additionally, the Holley setup appeals to many for its “ability to curtail self-tuning,” according to Spence. Building on the Holley’s effectiveness, the multi-port setup keeps the fuel from pooling, as was the case with the carbureted manifold previously used.

When they had the engine singing sweetly through the rev range, they netted 715 horsepower at 6,200 rpm. What’s better—they could now put it to the asphalt without most of it billowing off the rear tires in a frustrating grey cloud. Now, those massive 325-section tires could harness the Shafiroff’s full force in second, and the alignment gave the car the stability needed for long, picturesque pulls towards the horizon.

Photo credit: V8 Speed Shop

For more photos of the build thread, check out V8 Speed & Resto Shop’s link.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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