Around the Shop - November 27th, 2022

Rare first-generation '67-'69 Camaros such as Z/28s and big-block cars are near or at the top of GM blue-chip collectibles

Camaro or Mustang. Mustang or Camaro. Whichever one is your preference is all well and good. For us, we don't have one. For the big-dog vintage cars, give us the choice of a '69 ZL-1 or a '69 Boss 429--we'll take both. For the late-model supercars, it's the same story. We wouldn't want to choose between a '22 ZL1 or a '22 GT500. We'd want both under just about any circumstance. For the vintage Trans-Am, small-block road-racers, we'd want both a '67, '68 or '69 Z/28 and a '69 or '70 Boss 302 in our garage. All of these vintage and late-model Camaros and Mustangs are both just too dang cool to pass on one over the other.

And while we work on more Mustangs than Camaros here at JBA Speed Shop, doesn't mean we like the Camaros any less. Both are pretty much the two most popular models on the vintage and late-model ponycar/musclecar/sporty coupe spectrum. And both make up a good portion of the cars we work on here.

A direct answer to the Mustang that had been on the market nearly 2 1/2 years prior, the Camaro was every measure of the Mustang--especially now with '65-'70 Mustangs and '67-'69 Camaros being almost equal in nearly all terms of desirability, collectability, performance measurements and aesthetic appeal. Some might give a slight nod to Mustangs due to their third-option fastback body-style in addition to coupes and convertibles, but in the end they are comparable to one another in numerous ways.

Given all that, the focus here in this week's "Around the Shop" item is the glorious '69 Camaro SS396 you're seeing here. We've looked at another first-gen Camaro two or so months ago, such as here:

So we figured it was time to take a look at another one. And being that it's one of the nicest cars we've had here this year, as well as it being an original big-block 350-hp SS396, we figured it's clearly worth a closer look.

Owned by Mark and Elaine Regan, the story goes that Mark was at just the right age when the first Camaro was introduced in the fall of 1966 as a '67 model. A pair of A-body Chevelles were part of his orbit for a time in the form of a '67 and a '70 SS396. The A-bodies were all well and good, but it was an F-body that was really the apple of Mark's eye for the better part of 50 years and in Chevy guise (recall that Pontiac Firebirds are the other F-body) that meant a Camaro.

Several decades later and a search of around five years, Mark and Elaine found this Rallye Green (less than five percent of '69s were this color) example, which is actually an RS/SS, which means both option packages are present. One of the main features of the RS option are the hideaway headlights, which to our minds is a very nice update to the standard exposed lights on non-RS '69s.

Beautifully restored, this car has the relatively rare mid-level (only 2,018 built of the 243,085 '69s produced) of the three 396s available for the year (four if you consider the L-89 aluminum-headed version of the L-78).

To review, the four official '69 Camaro big-block 396 options were the L-34 (325 hp), L-35 (350 hp, like this car), L-78 (375 hp, iron heads), and L-89 (375 hp with aluminum heads). The L-34 and L-35 had hydraulic cams, Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetors, and oval-port cast-iron heads. A pair of rare 427s were also offered only in 1969, including the L-72 and the ultra-rare ZL-1 all-aluminum (block and cylinder heads) 427 of which only 69 were built.

Available with either a TH400 automatic or a Muncie four-speed, the Regan's '69 is also equipped with the latter, in this case an M-21 close-ratio version--further upping the desirability factor to be sure. Behind the M-21 is  the car's original 12-bolt Posi-traction rear end with a 3.31 gear ratio. Other options include comfort-weave upholstery (rather than houndstooth), an AM radio, a three-spoke rosewood steering wheel and a tilt steering column. For a car that usually needs nothing, it was here for a few minor tweaks and a replacement of its alternator.

If you want to know more--nearly everything there is pertaining all first-gen '67-'69 Camaros, this examination pretty much covers it all:

For '69s specifically, this article is another excellent resource:

For more than 50 years, first-gen Camaro popularity has never really diminished. And in the 21st Century, it has consistently increased all around. Here's to another 50! --Miles Cook

'69 Camaro SS396