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A ‘69 Camaro Comes to Life

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While flipping through Muscle Cars magazine three years ago, Brian Dooley read that General Motors was planning to release_notes its fifth-generation 2010 Chevrolet Camaro in the spring of 2009. A lifelong Camaro aficionado, the general manager of Don’s Service Express in Terre Haute, Ind., was thrilled to see the return of his favorite car, which had been on production hiatus since 2002. The exciting news inspired Dooley to pursue a dream of his own: restoring one of the beloved vehicles. “My first car was a 1969 Camaro convertible,” he says. “I’ve always loved it, and I decided it was finally time to build one.”

Dooley spent two months searching for a ’69 Camaro online, eventually finding one for sale on eBay—but it wasn’t quite what he had wanted. He bought it anyway. “I was actually looking for a convertible and ended up with a coupe,” he says. “The convertibles were too expensive.”

After the car arrived in Indiana, though, Dooley was floored by its condition. “If I knew it was in that bad of shape, I would have bought a body shell,” he says. “The fenders were yellow, the doors were red, and there was some black primer on it. It had been raced, and a lot of things had been cut up on it to make it lighter.” Despite the Camaro’s dismal appearance, Dooley was determined to fulfill his dream. The restoration was on. Eighteen months and $65,000 later, the car finally came to life, and Dooley had the Camaro he’d always wanted.

HARD AT WORK

“The first thing we did was completely strip the car and media blast it,” Dooley says. When it came time to put new sheet metal on, he was again appalled at the situation he faced. “The worst part was when we saw how much sheet metal had to be replaced,” he says. “That was disheartening. Someone had just stuffed newspaper into the quarters and filled it with Bondo and covered it with paint.”

The extra sheet metal had quite an impact on Dooley’s budget. He had planned to spend between $30,000 and $40,000 on the restoration; with this unexpected expense, the bill quickly approached $60,000.

Despite the financial surprise, Dooley kept moving forward with the restoration, spending evenings and weekends on the car. He estimates that he spent about 1,700 hours on the project, and all those hours did take their toll at times. “You reach a stage where you burn out and you need a breather,” he says. But having a deadline for completing the car helped. “It’s easier not to quit that way.”

BELLS AND WHISTLES

Dooley added special features to the Camaro: bonspeed Laguna wheels, Kumho SPT tires, Wilwood 4 piston disc brakes, Air Ride Tech suspension, Dakota Digital instrumentation and Nu-Relics power windows. “I’ve restored cars in the past, and I decided this one was going to be my ‘top dog’,” he says of the bells and whistles. “I went all out.”

When it came time to paint the car, Dooley enlisted the help of Andy Camp and Sam Conwell of the nearby Andy’s Collision Repair. The color of the car—pearl blue and pearl white—was inspired by a picture of a Mustang that Dooley saw at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show a couple of years earlier. “We tried to find [a color] close to that,” he says. “I’ve always liked the blues, and blues with pearls in it really jump.”

SUCCESSFUL PROJECT

Finishing the Camaro was a rewarding moment for Dooley. “When I hit the key and fired it up, that was really satisfying,” he says. And though the vehicle is a show car—its honors include Best Street Machine, Best of Show and People’s Choice—he doesn’t hesitate to get some miles under her belt. “It’s not a show queen,” Dooley laughs. “I’m not afraid to take it on the road. Last summer, I put 2,000 miles on it.”

He considers the restoration a huge success, and despite the few speed bumps, he deems it a relatively smooth trip. “That doesn’t happen on too many projects,” he says. “Now, we just have to pay the credit card bill!"


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