My story begins in the UK in April 1974 when my wife thought I should trade in my TR6 sports car for a family car as she was expecting our first child. I came home with a 1969 350 SS Convertible Camaro (it is a Z11 pace car model) and my wife was not impressed.
The car came with the Pace Car 300 hp 350 engine, with Camel heads, headers and a 750 Holley single pump carb. I put a Holley Performer High rise manifold on as well. Someone must have played with the rear end as the ratios were 2:56. Iit was really fast off the line but limited to around 80 MPH at top revs. I had it changed to a 4:56 for towing my boat.
The car travelled to South Africa in 1977 when our family emigrated here and needless to say I still own the car. When we first arrived, it was the only car we had so my wife used it as a daily shopper in JHB for about 4 years. Then it started giving overheating problems and was garaged for a while. While it was parked I decided to change the color to black with a gold side stripe – don’t ask me why.
In the 80’s I had to rebuild the engine (I believe the low ratio rear end tore the guts out of it over the years). While the engine and gearbox were out, I repainted the car back to its original colours and all the paint changes and rebuilds was done by myself. Only the upholstery was done professionaly. Due to my work, the car was not used much and it became a weekend and sunny day car.
In 1999 I went to work in Dubai and left the car with my son with strict instructions that if ‘you bend it you mend it’. After a few years he decided to move to the UK and before he left, he drove the car to my daughter in Cape Town for her to take care of.
On the drive he experienced problems with the fuel supply. It kept running dry and the final episode was when he got stuck in the middle of the Karoo desert where the car broke down. 5 hours later a tow truck arrived and they found the fuel tank was not breathing and it collapsed. They expanded it again and drilled a hole in the cap and off he went again.
For most of the 11 years that I was in Dubai, the car remained in the garage. In 2008 I decided to have a full restoration done. When it was stripped down we found the body was in very good condition. The only rust was in the lower rear fenders and lower doors.
The rear was repaired with new quarter panels and the doors were cleaned out and leaded. All the chrome work was replaced with new ones along with the front fenders and bonnet due to minor accidents over the years. The main one being when my wife kept wrapped the car around the gatepost when entering the driveway to our house. Now I remember why I painted the car Black.
For the restoration I first went to a company in Montague Gardens. They did the original stripping but went into liquidation and gave me back the shell of the car with all the parts in a bakkie and trailer. My son-in-law arranged for the collection on my behalf and found another company in the Strand to finish it. Unfortunately for me, they also went under before the car was completely finished. Between the two companies quite a lot of new parts went missing.
When I finally got the car back I found a lot of things wrong with it. Body panel bolts were loose or missing. The bonnet, fenders, door and windows did not aligned correctly and the doors would not open from the inside. Under the bonnet it was even worse. There were bolts missing and the ones that were installed, were loose. Even on the exhaust inlet manifold , all the bolts were loose and the rockers were rattling like a tin half full of nails.
The next thing was half of the electrics were not working. To my wife’s dismay I proceeded to strip the car down after paying a substantial amount to have it done by so-called professionals. The entire front of the car came off and the wiring stripped out, luckily I was on long leave and able to spend time working on the car. I first did the electrics and then started aligning the doors, working my way to the font.
With the new restoration, I wanted to try and keep the look of the car as near as possible to the original, as can be seen from the photos. Modifications were done to enhance the handling. The old front disc and rear drums were replaced with Baer 11” front and 13” rear disc sets. The suspension was modified and lowered by 2” with a Hotchkis TVS kit. I also had the chassis strengthened with a Hotchkis Chassis Max Convertible kit. All bushes were replaced with Del-A-Lam and offset A frame shafts.
The shocks were supposed to be Edelbrock, but 2 went missing, so the rears are unnamed at present. The gearbox is a 350 turbo which was serviced with a B&H stage 2 Shift improver kit driven by a B&H 2000 Holeshot Torque Converter.
For the rear end, I chose Strange engineering 3.73 ring and pinion mounted on their pro clutch positraction unit. The exhaust manifolds are Doug’s shorties finished of with Thrush Thunder 2.5 pipes. The interior has been done in leather to match the original deluxe hugger orange colouring and the roof is new. Some things I did indulge myself with are the wheels. They are Bondspeed Delta 17×8’s front and 17×10’s rear with Yokohama tires 245/40 and 255/ 40 respectively.
The original fan was replaced with a twin electric unit coupled to an aluminum radiator and I added a serpentine kit made by March. To make life easy, I installed electric windows and had the headlight covers changed from vacuum to electric.
As you know you never finish working on an old car. So maybe you will get an update in the future. Still looking at an overdrive kit for cruising or maybe a GMZZ383 425 hp crate engine you never get too old to drive.