So what is this thing with me and white six-cylinder
Powerglide gen1 Camaros? The
last one inspired a ridiculous flight of fantasy
, so maybe this one is
baiting me, to trip me up and write something stupid again. Or is it their way
of extracting revenge for
my going way overboard with its 1970 successor?
No, I know what it is:
it’s the fact that I refuse to take shots of all the pristine, restored and
modded ’69 Camaros that come out of their hiding places on sunny summer
Sundays. Well, I’m not going to fall for that….crash!*&#!!
Back off, Great White Camaro Spirit; I actually did shoot
this on a sunny summer Sunday, after waiting two years to catch it out of its
garage. Seriously. Well, more like a carport; one without a roof, actually. But
I could never get decent shots of it, sandwiched between a couple other mundane
cars. How often we detoured down the alley, to see if its neighboring car might
Then one day early this summer, in one of our last seasonal
rains, I spotted it in traffic, heading to its lair. Aha! I zipped in behind
it, parked two cars over, and stood in the dumping rain for the driver to get
out. Now, for some reason, I always assumed it would be a guy, despite it
obviously being a six. No, it was a woman, fifty-ish, which made me feel like
even more of a stalker than I already did, trying to confront her in an
absolute gushing downpour. But in addition to wet, she was cool, and said she’d
leave it on the street on Sunday.
Unfortunately, that Sunday turned out to be blazingly sunny.
Where’s the ever-present marine layer, when you really need one? Most cars are
tough to shoot in the sun, much more so if they’re partly in the shade. And its
all that much more unpleasant with a white car; a study in contrasts. The Great
White Camaro Spirit was out for revenge.
The other unfortunate thing about this whole affair is that
I really wanted to know a bit about this Camaro and its owner. Was it her first
and only car? Hard to imagine; how many miles would it have by now? A hand-me
down from…an aunt? Mom? Dad?!? How many guys would have bought a six cylinder
Powerglide ’69 Camaro? This is the ultimate all-American hot-blooded pony car;
and I guess I’m going to have to use the word “icon”, even if I promised myself
Let’s let a few facts get in edgewise here: this really is a
six cylinder ’69 Camaro. I actually got down on the ground to look at the
engine’s undersides enough to absolutely confirm that. The lack of a 327 badge
on the front fender should have been enough, but you never know. And it really
does have a column-mounted shifter for the Powerglide. Uh oh; better run to
my second- favorite site
and do some quick fact checking………oops; the
Turbo-Hydramatic was also available, as well as the Powerglide, in 1969, even
on the sixes; which were either the standard 140 (gross) 230 incher, or the 155
hp 250Turbo-Thrift 250.
And there’s more: it could have the legendary Chevy
Torque-Drive, a Powerglide with a lobotomy, so dumb it doesn’t even know when
to make its one shift between Hi and 1st. Just leave it in Hi, and listen to
the six whine and wheeze. Car Counter: here’s what you’ve been looking for.
It cost some $100 less than the smart version; in 1969, some
Americans really were still watching their pennies. Quaint. So am I going to
have to hop on my bike and ride a dozen blocks to go check which one it
is? Here’s the deal: I’ll look at it next time I’m there, and if it is a
THM or T-D, I’ll do a follow-up. Good enough?
We do know it’s not the three-speed or four-speed manual.
Wow! Five different transmission available on a six cylinder Camaro. And not
one of them with an overdrive ratio. Yup, O/D was not available on the three
speed. Gas was getting cheaper (inflation adjusted) all through the sixties. So
what was the last year for overdrive? Now that would make a good subject for a
post: the death of overdrive, before it re-emerges in its new form.
And just how many of the ’69s were sold as sixes? My
trusty Encyclopedia says….exactly 25%. A bit more than I would have guessed.
And how many didn’t get their sixes ripped out in favor of a V8, big or small?
We all know the basic Camaro genesis story, so we’re not
going to repeat it here. But let’s just say that the ’67 and ’68 had a very
modest face; as in cheap, or hurried, or something that caused it to look like
it was a bit low in the IQ department.
The biggest change for the 1969 was a significantly more
dynamic front end. It looks so much more awake and on the ball than the dull
and sleepy ’68. Downright eager, even. Just don’t even mention the current
Camaro; thank you.
The odd thing about that is that the ’69 front end is almost
a dead ringer for the one on this 1964 XP-836 clay concept for the ’67 Camaro.
Was it four bucks too expensive, like the 1960 Corvair’s anti-sway bar? The
legendary GM bean counters hedging their bets, not yet aware that the pony wars
were going to go thermonuclear? GM hated playing follow-the-leader, and the
very safe 1967 Camaro shows that.
But by 1969, it was starting to feel just a bit more
self-confident. New lower-but-wider hips and squared-off wheel openings gave
the Camaro a more sculptured look along its sides, that really worked rather
And the previous rear end which also seems to have been
bean-countered into a generic facsimile of a rear end,
developed a bit more character for ’69. I dunno; looking at
these two, maybe I’m just blowing smoke out of my exhaust. Let’s just say that
the ’69′s new perkier face was the best thing it got that year of the various
That’s better, moving to the less shadowy curb side of the
Camaro. We haven’t talked about its wheels and tires: No Rally Wheels!!
From this vantage point, those tires seem to fill out their wheel houses
reasonably well, sitting on stock-looking steelies and certainly stock dog
Let’s take a look, just to appreciate a ’69 Camaro without
giant bulging tires stuffed in its fenders. 215 70R14. That’s a bit bigger than
stock, which would equate to a 195/75R14, on 5″ wide wheels. These are almost
certainly 6″ wide wheels. Well, so much for my headline.
So what exactly has made the ’69 Camaro so über-popular?
Memories of a distant youthful longing that was never fulfilled at the time? Or
re-living (in perfected form) that heap of a battered ’69 Camaro that finally
had to be shot dragged to the dump in 1977? But I suspect this owner doesn’t
fit into either of those categories quite so easily, which of course may explain
why she’s driving a grungy survivor six cylinder as her sole daily driver. Or
maybe she knows something we don’t know: that the value of her last
unmolested ’69 Camaro six now vastly exceeds that of every resto-modded
502-powered Z/28 clone. Doubly so if it has Torque -Drive.
by Paul Niedermeyer
YOU ARE NOT JUST BUYING PARTS – YOU ARE GETTING OUR CAMARO EXPERTISE
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