SEMA 2023: J.R. Villareal’s Show-Stopping 1969 Camaro “Illicit”

A true SEMA-level build takes a huge financial and emotional investment to complete. J.R. Villareal went all-in with his 1969 Camaro known as “Illicit”. This first-generation F-body looks subtle and graceful, but it’s built to run like the wind and make plenty of horsepower.

J.R. knew he wanted to build a Camaro when he started his project journey. The love for Camaros came from his mother, who owned a second-generation Camaro at one point in her life. This particular car was in San Diego and looked good, but there still some rust to be found around the car. Even with the rust issues, it was a solid building block for J.R.’s project.

Illicit was taken to Jesus Lopez, owner of Lopez Performance to begin its transformation from a rusty ride, to a show stopper. A Speedtech Performance ExtReme Track Time frame system was added to the Camaro. This gave it an upgraded front subframe, torque arm rear suspension, upgraded control arms, and coilover shocks. A set of Baer Pro+ 6S six-piston calibers and 14” rotors were bolted up to the Camaro to improve its braking.

The exterior of Illicit got a full makeover and has been augmented with plenty of carbon fiber. SpeedKore provided the carbon fiber hood. The carbon fiber front spoiler, splitter, rear diffuser, and rockers came from Brothers Composites. EVOT Industries machined the billet grille that features carbon fiber inlays. The finishing touch is the custom Solar Bronze color the Camaro wears thanks to Lopez Performance.

Illicit is easy to look at, but don’t let the Camaro’s friendly appearance fool you, it has plenty of punch under the hood. A Dart-based LSX motor can be found between the fenders and it’s wearing a 2.9-liter Whipple supercharger. The fuel system uses a plethora of parts from Aeromotive to keep the engine fed. A set of stainless steel headers from Doug’s Headers send the exhaust through a custom 3” exhaust system and JBA mufflers.

A TREMEC T-56 transmission from Bowler Performance Transmission transfers the power through an Aeromotive ProMod carbon fiber driveshaft. A set of Brixton Forged V14 Carbon Series wheels keep Illicit rolling down the street on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

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Inside Illicit, J.R. rides in style thanks the interior from Gabe’s Custom Interiors. The Truffle Brown Impact leather and Lamborghini Black Hydes leather complement each other perfectly. A custom dashboard, console, door panels, and steering wheel are also wrapped in leather before being added to the Camaro. J.R. keeps tabs on Illicit’s engine thanks to a gauge set by Classic Instruments. All of the Camaro’s occupants are kept comfortable on long cruises thanks to the Restomod Air HVAC system, and they can listen to some great tunes thanks to the sound system from Art of Sound.

The 1969 Camaro is an iconic muscle car that’s been built in every way that you can think of, but Illicit is a fresh take on how the car can look. J.R. Villareal’s vision was perfectly executed by Lopez Performance. It’s always great to see a car like this that twists a traditional build into a new zone.

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Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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