Steve Lenning just so happened to be in right place at the right time when it came to acquiring this '69 Camaro. A buddy of his was bailing out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Steve's hometown, for greener pastures in the Golden State of California. But before he could skate on out, he needed to lose some excess baggage-part of the excess was this '69 Camaro. At first Steve really didn't need or want another project. He already had a fully restored '69 SS 396 Chevelle that he was quite happy with. Well, push came to shove and the owner made Steve a deal he just couldn't refuse.
"The car was a plain-Jane 350, so I really had little interest in putting a ton of effort into restoring it," Steve recalls. "My Chevelle rarely gets driven, so I figured I'd just drop in a stock LS1 and make it a nice driver. Then I remembered following a few magazine project cars like Big Red, The Mule, Twister, Aluminator, and cars like that and thought it would be cool to build this Camaro to perform like a sports car."
After doing a little research, Steve came across a couple of websites that favor the Pro Touring-style cars: Lateral-g.net and Pro-touring.com. "Once I stumbled onto those websites, my original build plans for the Camaro went straight to hell," Steve uttered. "Seeing all the latest and greatest aftermarket products quickly got me to change my plans. Needless to say, it also demolished my original build budget. My two sons were also instrumental in finding ways for me to spend more money than I had intended. They kept telling me what parts would look cool on the car. They were right."
The build took 18 months to complete, but it was actually a great way for Steve and his boys to bond. His 18-year old son, Taylor, helped with fabrication and final assembly and did all the welding. Michael, his 25-five-year-old, handled the stripping, sanding, and final assembly as well. Steve's brother-in-law, Brian, is co-owner of Nick's Body Shop in Truman, Minnesota, so he and his brother, Brad, contributed final bodywork and paint to the project.
Even though he didn't have a rendering of the car to refer to, Steve knew his idea of "boring gray with black stripes," as his body guys referred to, "would look perfect. My body guys kept hounding me to paint the car yellow or red-anything but gray. But after the car was finished, they admitted that they loved the way it came out."
Big power had to be on tap, as Steve knew the car would see quite a bit of track time, so an LS7 took the place of the pedestrian 350. With mostly off-the-shelf GM internals, Steve hopped up the mill with a COMP cam spec'd out at 0.615/0.648 lift with 220/244 degrees of duration on a 110-degree lobe separation angle. He also incorporated COMP Cams high lift springs and titanium retainers. A DSE/Rock Valley stainless fuel tank and Wilbro GSS340 pump keep the stock LS7 intake supplied with the essential amount of fuel. Steve could have gone the way of exotic internals, but he prefers his components simple and effective.
ATS stainless steel 17/8-inch headers relinquish spent greenhouse through a set of 3-inch Magnaflow tubing and X-pipe, then suppress through a pair of Magnaflow mufflers. An ATS oil pan fed by a CV Products 747 remote oil filter provide the GM oil pump with plenty of crude. Another example of sticking with what works.
In keeping with the simple and effective theme, the engine was embellished with Katech aluminum valve covers, ATS Sidewinder accessory drive and Katech coil relocating kit. Steve also treated the engine bay to a nice garnish of billet goodies that incorporates a set of Ringbrothers hood hinges and Twist Machine fender support bars. A Woolf Aircraft 4-inch aluminum tube employed with a K&N element provides vast amounts of filtered atmosphere.
Originally, an automatic transmission was part of the plan, but that got squashed along with the rest of the pablum-oriented components. Steve armed the Camaro with a T56 six-speed packed with Viper internals that send torque to a narrowed 12-bolt rearend loaded with 4:11 cogs, and a True-Track connected to 31-spline Moser axles.
With handling being a major part of the equation, there was no compromise in the suspension area. A Detroit Speed (DSE) Speed Kit 3 with ATS spindles up front offer a 3-inch drop in ride height, and Koni adjustable coilovers provide Steve with a quick adaption to most any driving situation. Out back, DSE once again gets the call with their Quadralink suspension; it's a refined recipe that accepts the cornering abuse Steve cooks up on a given weekend. Baer Extreme-Plus 6S binders squeeze 14-inch rotors on all four corners while Michelin Pilot Sport rubber provides the necessary adhesion when the Camaro says so.
In this world, wider is better, so Steve employed 18x12 Fikse Profil 5s rollers to accommodate 335/30/18 rear tires. With the '69 laying down a freakishly large contact patch, DSE mini-tubs were installed to expand the real estate between the rear quarters-a necessity of you want to run with today's big dogs. Up front, 18x10 Fikse's host the 245/35/18 rubber, while a DSE 600 steering box calls the quick directional shots.
The captain's quarters were designed to provide Steve and his copilots comfort and functionality. Marquez Design door panels and OEM-style black loop carpet contribute to the modern Pro Touring vibe that pleasantly collide with the classic Camaro style. Auto Meter Ultralite gauges populate the DSE dash, while a MOMO Race steering wheel and DSE rollcage are subtle reminders that this car means business.
The aforementioned Nick's Body Shop laid down the custom Sikkens gray exterior blend, and Marquez Design taillights, side markers, and indicator lights keep in tune with the Anvil Auto carbon-fiber front spoiler.
Even though Steve didn't start out with the g-Machine motif in mind for this '69, he's thankful for the influence his two boys instilled in the ride-especially after hanging the car out at the 2009 Motorstate Challenge on Gingerman Raceway's 1.8-mile road course. "Driving on that road course, was the most fun I've ever had driving this car, or any car for that matter," Steve says.
We know, Steve ... we know. We couldn't help but notice that grin on your face all weekend.