By on February 16, 2011


Since I started the Down On The Street series for some other site back in ’07 (the very first car in the series was this ’84 Cadillac Cimarron d’Oro, of all things), I’ve photographed exactly three first-generation Camaros: this perfect ’67 RS convertible, this purple ’69… and today’s car, a Denver survivor that lives on the street and doesn’t fear a little snow.

The mercury in Denver now reads about 80 degrees higher than it did a week or two ago, and I can’t swear that this car was driving around when it was 15 below and snowing like crazy. Rear-wheel-drive, 350 power, and a 1960s heater/defroster technology require a bit more concentration from the driver than these newfangled modern machines, but our forefathers managed to drive cars like this in all weather conditions.

I’ve never owned a first-gen Camaro (though I have owned plenty of small-block-Chevy-powered machinery), but I’m old enough to have driven, ridden in, and worked on many, many examples of the breed; you’d never guess it today, but the first-gen Camaro was a common sight on the street as recently as the mid-1980s. I recall a friend of mine in 1983 agonizing between a fairly beat ’68 Camaro with a 327 and a semi-nice ’67 Mustang with a six-cylinder, both priced at 300 bucks (he bought the Mustang, which he promptly wrecked when its parking brake failed while parked on a steep hill). What a dilemma! They drive pretty much the same as their first cousin, the Nova, but most of them have been banished to the golden cage of the car-show/cruise-night milieu by now. I’m glad to see that the owner of this car still drives the thing; I’m bored to death by ’67-69 Camaros in car shows, but one on the street is very welcome sight. I’m going to go back and try to track down the owner, so I can get his or her story about the car.

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47 Comments on “Down On The Mile High Street: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro...”


  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    It’s nice to meet another person bored to death with 67-69 Camaros at car shows.  Ditto 63-67 Vettes and 65-68 Mustangs.  I have a higher tolerance for the Mopars, but even those are starting to wear a little thin.
    It looks like someone stripped the vinyl roof off of this one and left the stainless trim.  I never understood those vinyl roofs that did not go all the way to the edges.
    Also, it looks good in silver.  Silver cars were a relative rarity in the late 60s.  I recall this as a new GM color for 1969.  My grandma bought a new 69 Catalina in this color and it really stood out.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      That’s why I no longer attend custom car shows. I abhor “trailer queens”. Also, badly-reconditioned/restored cars, too. Cars were built to be driven, not displayed as model airplanes on a desk or shelf! If the car is in “better-than-new” condition, it belongs in a museum.

    • 0 avatar
      TheRedCar

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s like going to see a the same Oscar nominated movie once a week. At some point, there’s nothing new to notice.

      I’ve had the same 65 GTO for the last 18 years. Every once in a while I get asked if I’m going to the next GTO only show. I hate to sound like a pompous ass, but the last thing I want to do now is look at a field full of the same car that I already know every inch of.

    • 0 avatar

      You should see what happens when the Faster Farms Chickens ’66 Belvedere goes to car shows in Northern California. Numbers-matching Sub Lime Superbirds, factory drag race cars with 1964 air in the tires, and row upon row of Hemi ‘Cudas get totally ignored as the crowds flock to the interesting car. Car shows tend to be repetitive, so anything that disrupts the tedium is welcome. Now if they’d just start playing Motörhead over the PA, instead of the Beach Boys…

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      That’s one of the reasons I got my ’77 Chevelle. Sure it’s dorky looking, and mine is virtually un-restored but I can almost guarantee it’s the only one at a show and I will get asked about it. Mostly “Why?” or “What?” or “It’s not a Chevelle”. But I just roll out the answers or the books on it.
      I just like the fact I can drive it, not worry one bit about a scratch or ding on the faded 34 year old enamel paint and leave it sit in the lot, wherever and it’ll still be there when I get back.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    It’s nice to meet another person bored to death with 67-69 Camaros at car shows.  Ditto 63-67 Vettes and 65-68 Mustangs.

    +1 Even though my father owns an unrestored 1967 Mustang.  The cars you mentioned sometimes seem as if there are more of them now in existence than when production ceased. 

    • 0 avatar

      Not quite, but with Dyncorn and CARS now selling full repro body shells, you don’t even have to start with an original (well, if you’re willing to put up with an assembled vehicle tittle – otherwise buy an original cowl for the VIN).

  • avatar
    Zackman

    To me, THIS IS WHAT A CAMARO SHOULD BE! I feel strongly enough to shout that out, too! Memo to Chevy: Since the art of building a pillarless hardtop has been lost along with the formula for Greek Fire, why not at least bring back the two-door sedan where the windows open? I had high hopes for the new Camaro, along with the Challenger being true hardtops, but – no. Why? What is so hard about having a back window rolling down? I know, I rant on and on about this, but it is solely for this reason that I will never purchase a retro vehicle unless it is done properly. or in convertible guise. End of rant. Goodness, I miss those cars! Who cares how they might have handled, they made you look good, and as “Fernando” once said: “It’s how you look”! Again, I apologize for my strong feelings on the H/T & roll-down window issue, but my passion for cars also relates to practicality, too. No matter how small the back seat area is (I’ve been in the rear seat of a Camaro several times, and for short trips, it was just fine), if the side window rolls down, it makes all the difference in the world and you feel much less confined. THE END. For now…

  • avatar

    Those things were as common as Corollas are now back then. Never was a fan so I didn’t cry when they mostly disappeared. Mopars were more to my liking. But, thanks for the look back, Murilee.

  • avatar
    rdodger

    The first car I ever owned was a 1969 Camaro SS 396 4 speed stick w/350 hp under the hood. I bought it in 1972 for $1800.  It was brown w/white vinyl bucket seats.  Of course in the day I had to put air shocks on it to raise the rear end up,, cause that’s what we did back then.  I put big tires on the back and smaller ones on the front.  I had the car for about a year and a half and the engine block cracked.  I ended up trading it in for a brand new 73 Camaro, but I’ll always remember that first one.  That may have been the best year for Camaros.

  • avatar

    this is one car GM came back with that they did right. as critical as I am about Lutz, he helped do the Camaro justice. now where’s my Riv guys? er, sorry Mary…folks?

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Buickman: I give kudos to you (earlier to Dr. Olds as well) for the on-going debate the other day. I felt it was very informative, and I can understand that emotion gets heated at times. That shows passion and I have a lot of respect for that! I look forward to more discussions between you two and others about the state of the business, past and present. That’s what makes TTAC the best auto site out there and why I’m proud to be a (very little) part of it.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Ed Dan- They are popular. There actually are complete new 1969 Camaro bodies available for sale in the aftermarket today. I doubt there are many of them being sold as they are very expensive, I am thinking  you can get a complete, finished car for $100 grand, or so. It does show how popular the ’69 style is.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Buickman- what would you think of a new Park Ave on Zeta architecture (G8/Camaro)?

      Zackman- How do you like the new Camaro convertible. No side pillars!
      I am shuddering as I remember the last Cutlass Supreme convertible! Talk about pillars!
      As much as I loved Olds, it was hard to be proud of that one.

  • avatar
    The Wedding DJ

    1969 = Best Camaro Ever.
    My dad bought new, in June 1969, what may be the Holy Grail of ’69 Camaros – a Z/28 Rally Sport.  Cost $3600 new, only options were AM radio and RS package.  Black w/white stripes, we called it The Skunk (what else?).  Problem was, he was supposed to have brought home a full-size wagon suitable for us four kids.  Mom wanted to kill him when she realized that this was to be the family car.  Our other vehicle was a pickup truck – again, not suitable for our brood (I was 7, two sisters 6 and 5, brother 2).
     
    We loved that car until we all had to go somewhere together, then it got old fast.  We made the best of it, and kept it until 1973, when Dad sold it for $1100 to a teenager down the street.  I heard he wrecked it not long afterward.  We got a white ’67 Dodge van like Murilee’s, then Dad left, leaving Mom stuck with 4 kids and that old van.  At least he paid his child support on time…
     
    I have only seen one other ’69 Z/28 RS in over 40 years, and it was green.  I doubt ours was 1 of 1, but it had to have been a pretty rare bird even when new.

    • 0 avatar
      obbop

      Like your comment.
      Offering appropriate emotional input where appropriate and want you to understand the following portion of my comment upon your comment is in semi-jest but appropriate considering the shared information:
      Your “tale” includes all needed to create a HIT country-western song.
      I’m thinking back to the college professor who proclaimed that all country-western music contained one or two or three of the following:
      Crying, dying or going somewhere.
      Again, enjoyed your posting!!!!!!!!!!!
       

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    The perfect car, light, quick and still pretty after 40+ years. Out of all the cars from that era the Camaro and the Mopar e-bodies still look fresh and timeless. Much more so than their modern counterparts.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    cool, now I understand where today’s Camaro design came from.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    You’re still missed at that other site, Murilëë – or what’s left of it.  The Gawker sites look like Marcia Brady made a blog as a school project and Jan hacked it.

    • 0 avatar

      Traffic at Jalopnik is higher than ever before.

    • 0 avatar

      Murilee, you sure about that? I heard that traffic was way down.
      OTOH, their content has been very good since the redesign. I was talking to Ed yesterday and he agrees. It’s almost as though Ray and Spinelli know they have to come with good game to overcome the clunky design. Looks like they also freed up some budget for longer feature pieces from outside writers.
      Okay, so I’m verbose, but I really hate the notion that people have short attention spans and won’t read anything longer than 800-1,000 words.
      Now if I could only get Ray to plug CID.

  • avatar
    plee

    The 1969 model is so much better looking than the new Camaro.  I realize that style is always subjective but the new Camaro and Challenger are huge!!!!   My 07 Mustang GT looks like a compact car next to them.  At a local cruise night here in Tennessee a new Challenger was parked in a row of 04 – 06 GTOs and the contrast in size was almost hilarious,  that would apply to the Camaro also.

  • avatar

    Back in 1979, I owned a ’69 Camaro Convertible…bondo in the floorboards, and most everywhere else but it was only $200 and it WAS a ’69 Camaro Convertible. But I also owned a ’57 Chevy 2-door sedan and the day came when I had to choose, and the Camaro went. But it was fun while it lasted.
    I still enjoy car shows/cruises but I most appreciate old cars that are driven and enjoyed regularly. Thanks for posting this Murilee. Made my day.
     

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I share the sentiment about the sameness found in blocks of cars at shows but a late buddy of mine was a huge 69 Camaro fan-that one showed up at a car show and it did draw a crowd. Even me.
    http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/editorials/355-kelly-anderson-qchevy-boyqthe-69-camaro-never-had-a-bigger-fan.html

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    No doubt about it the 69 was the best looking camaro ever built, and the car’s popularity from the day the first one rolled off the line cannot be denied. It has always been the most coveted model, followed by the 67. I find it amazing that this car has been parked outside without being stolen. My brotherinlaw owns both a 67 RS and a 69 that started out as the base sport coupe, he turned it into an RS clone.
    Chevy would have done well to make a modern version of the 69 just like chrysler did with the challenger. The 70′s rally wheels on this one suck, it needs the period correct rallys.

  • avatar
    tiredoldmechanic

    Nice find. It’s good to see a plain jane Camaro that has not been turned into a “tribute” SS or Z-28. I had a roached ’69 for awhile and we did indeed drive them in winter. Even then though, everyone knew they were a handful in snow. One thing I am surprised about though, if this car is a daily driver in a cold climate where is the chunk of cardboard behind the grill?

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    If it has a properly functioning thermostat it doesn’t need cardboard behind the grill.

    • 0 avatar
      zeus01

      If it has a properly functioning thermostat it doesn’t need cardboard behind the grill.

      …Unless you live in say, Minnesota. Or anywhere north of the 49th parallel…

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Even in SoCal, with prolonged highway cruising at near freezing temperatures (it happens), my 65 Mustang couldn’t get the heater warm without some cardboard blocking the grill.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Zeus, here in Ohio it gets close to minus 20 sometimes, a few times it has been minus 25. Cars do not heat up any differently today than they did in 1969, the thermostat shuts off the water flow through the engine until the temp reaches the level that the thermostat is designed for, then it opens and allows the heated coolant to circulate. Trust me those old cars heated up just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      zeus01

      Zeus, here in Ohio it gets close to minus 20 sometimes, a few times it has been minus 25. Cars do not heat up any differently today than they did in 1969, the thermostat shuts off the water flow through the engine until the temp reaches the level that the thermostat is designed for, then it opens and allows the heated coolant to circulate. Trust me those old cars heated up just fine.

      Agreed. It’s a simple system. And for ambient temps down to say, -30C even a thermostat that’s designed for warmer climes will still keep your engine warm. But at -40 you need one that opens at a higher temp, and at temps much colder than this you’ll notice your temp guage only climbing half-way into normal range (if that) even with the winter-grade T-stat. This is where the piece of cardboard comes in.

      Fortunately temps in the -40 or lower range are not common even in Minnestota or most of Canada. Somewhere between three and ten such days per year would be typical.

    • 0 avatar

      Moparman, trust me, in 5 degree weather at highway speeds our Valiant with the 170 slant six could not generate heat – or at least not enough to keep you warm in the car. Sure, when you first started it up, the engine would heat but once the thermostat opened the heat exchange at those wind chill levels was so high that the coolant would lose temp real fast. We had to stop in the middle of PA once to scavenge come cardboard to block the radiator. On the way back to Detroit we pulled in behind a HoJos to sleep for the night (one of those times where you have to decide between gas to get home and a hotel room for the night), huddled together in the middle of the front seat, with a blanket over us and the heater blowing straight under the blanket and we still were chilly. Note: the car had a brand new exhaust system and we were outside in the wind so I wasn’t too concerned about CO poisoning.
      It used to be pretty common for truckers to have cardboard behind the grille in the winter.
       

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Dr. olds, the company that makes the body shells is dynacorn. They also make 67 mustang and E bodyshells. They cost 15k for the camaro, dunno the price for the other cars.
    It would be easy to assemble your own car, to have 100k in one you would have to be a moron.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Moparman- $15K is just a bare body shell, no glass, interior chassis or drivetrain parts. I don’t remember where I read it, but I am sure someone was offering a complete new 1969 Camaro with all new parts at well over $100K.

    You might get by for less than $100K if you could find all used parts, but it would still cost you a hell of a lot of money!

    Like all projects, when you first conceptualize it, it does not seem that expensive. Believe the voice of experience. Whatever you think it will cost in time and money, just double it and add 10%.

    To build a complete car, you have to consider every fastener, wiring, and every single widget that goes into a vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      A brand new ’57 Chevy (well, brand new except for the cowl/VIN) from CARS is $180,000.
      http://www.1957chevybody.com/body_options.html
      FWIW, I have an old Lotus Elan (in pieces) and today you can pretty much put one together from scratch.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Hardly anyone starts with nothing and uses all brand new parts. Even if they did it wouldn’t be 100k if they did most of the work thermselves except for things like maybe paint.  Besides you could buy 2 or 3 nice originals for that price, only the really rare ones go for over 100k.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      The $100K example I mentioned is all new parts. Apples- oranges comparison.

      Still- $15K for bare body, $5K for good paint and you have $20K and still have to supply everything else, used or otherwise. Make a list of your estimate of all those things and I still bet you would be surprised at the total.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    If there is a 100k turn key new 69 camaro for sale, then the 100k price tag would not only be for parts. Most of that would be to cover the labor involved with the guys building it, and the overhead of the business. If the entire body is new and all you want is a paint job that looks like a factory 60′s camaro paint job, except maybe applied better than the factory did it then you won’t have 5k in it, because with an all new body there is no body work involved, save for filling in the few seams and some light sanding to prep the surface.
    And if they really are selling those then I guarantee you they won’t sell too many, because 69 camaros are far too plentiful that it would not be worthwhile to most folks to pay 100k for a knockoff when they would rather have the real thing.
    Just a few keystrokes on the computer and you can find many affordable small block powered models. Most people that are that much into 69 camaros that want to spend 100k would rather have something like one of the super rare big block models, like one of the 201 L89 equipped 396 models, or a pristine Z28 that has very rare options, or a super rare Dick Harrell, Baldwin Motion or Yenko model.
    It’s not like 69 camaros are so rare, as in the case of say a shelby cobra, that people will pay 100k or more for one of Shelby’s new copies. There are  a bazillion nice 350 powered sport coupe, SS and RS camaros out there, and if you look you can find plenty of nice ones in the 20′s-30′sK  range pretty easily. In other words they are a dime a dozen compared to most other cars from that era, just like the mustang. There are probably more 69 camaros and mustangs around than any other model from that year, due to the large production numbers, and the fact that the popularity when new led to more people hanging on to them and taking care of them, and the number of people that bought trashed ones and restored back in the 80′s and 90′s for that same reason.
    The people that buy the dynacorn bodies will mainly be people that already have a car that’s body shell is too far rusted or damaged to make it worthwile to repair, and if it happens to be a super rare car then the person will always use as many of the car’s original parts as possible.
    You’re not William442 are you? The guy that said he had been to drag strips that never existed.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    I am not william442.

    I’m not selling or arguing. Just telling what I read. You can add it up any way you want.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Ronnie, are you sure the thermostat was working properly in your valiant?  Coolant level filled? Heater core not partially plugged? Temperature door not partially stuck? Body seals maybe deteriorating allowing drafts? Even the smallest draft or two will make a car ice cold in temps that low.  And even a modern car can have heating issues if something is amiss in the heating/cooling system.
    I seriosuly doubt this camaro has problems heating up, because although the small block chevy has it’s faults one problem it never had was warming up.
    The cars 57 chevy is cool if you are into them, but I doubt they sell a whole lot of them. One could get an original highly optioned fuelie ragtop for that kind of dough. Or even a nomad and a couple of other less expensive shoeboxes.
    I never cared for the 57′s myself, I prefer the looks of the 55, I think it has a much cleaner look.  But I’m not into chevies, so it doesn’t really matter, lol.  :o)


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