1967-'69 Chevrolet Camaro | Buyer's Guide

[Editor's Note: These Tech Tips first appeared in the May 2015 issue of Classic Motorpsorts.]

Chevy finally came up with their answer to Ford’s Mustang for 1967 model year, and an icon was born. For some tech tips on the car we turned to Jeff Walker, a longtime Camaro owner and restorer, as well as Mark Stielow, the man behind some amazing resto-mod builds.

Expert: Jeff Walker

Chubb Collector Car Insurance

Overall, first-generation Camaros were pretty good running cars. The engines that were offered– straight-sixes and big- and smallblock V8s–were all tried and true powerplants that had been used in Chevy’s lineup prior to the Camaro. The same was true for the transmissions, electronics and peripheral mechanicals.

RS models had vacuum-operated hidden headlight doors, which could be finicky to get working right, especially if frozen shut with snow and ice. But Chevy addressed that by 1969 with the three transparent slots in the headlight doors seen on that year’s RS: “If they don’t work, make em’ transparent!”

Assuming you’re going bargain hunting for a first-gen Camaro–not looking for a show car that’s had a full restoration–you’ll need to inspect critical areas for rust. These cars were constructed on a semi-unibody platform with a subframe up front that extended rearward and ended under the doors. The first place to check for rust and corrosion is where the subframe mounts to the rear unibody. From there, rocker panels, rear fenders and trunk pan–including rear shock tower mounting locations–are all susceptible to rust. It’s not uncommon to find that both rear quarters, floor pans and trunk sheet metal have all been replaced. If there is rust in any of these locations, know that it will need to be fixed before the car can be driven. Fortunately, all of the sheet metal parts are readily available due to the car’s popularity.

Assuming we’re not looking for a concours-winning, 100-percent original car, you will likely see all sorts of “go fast” modifications when shopping for a 1967-’69 Camaro. The cars were extremely good drag race cars due to their light weight and ample room for monster engines under the hood. That being said, be wary of cars that have had their firewalls modified to fit bigger powerplants. Cars with high-horsepower engines and no frame-stiffeners or connectors to prevent body twisting should be thoroughly inspected. This is a pretty common- sense point, but if you are looking for a race car, your threshold for prior owners’ modifications may vary.

If you are looking for a 100-percent original, concours-quality show car, there are many out there. Educate yourself on date codes, matching numbers and what’s right and what’s wrong. There are ways to tell if a car is a true RS, SS or RS/SS. Also keep in mind that there are tons of SS “clones” out there. If you’re not sure, contact a specialist. Jerry MacNeish is extremely well known in the community and will do a pre-purchase inspection for you. You can contact him through his website.

These cars weren’t the best handling machines from the factory, so you shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t drive as well as a modern rental Jeep. Camaros aren’t terrible through the turns, but without suspension modification, the car will roll through corners. Depending on the engine and available horsepower, the back end can get loose if the car is driven aggressively. This is to be expected of most any muscle car from that era.

Camaros have been popular candidates for resto-modding in recent history. People want to improve the driving experience and sometimes add modern engines with EFI, disc brakes, etc. If that’s what you’re looking for, those cars are out there.

Old Chevy powerplants are some of the most reliable and easy to work on in the world. Regular oil changes and annual tuneups will keep the engine happy. A good tune-up should consist of plugs, ignition wires, cap, rotor, points, condenser and fuel filter. Camaros have Zerk fittings up front, so it helps to stay on top of chassis lubing every year. Repacking wheel bearings, the occasional alignment, and fresh rubber when the tires are old or worn helps, too.

If you’re looking for a milder upgrade to a mostly OEM car, poly front end bushings, modern shocks, modern radials and HEI distributors can add to the drivability of the car without spoiling its period-correct look. If you have drums up front, adding periodcorrect disc brakes can be a big improvement.

Structural strength is most important, no matter how the car is modified. From there it depends on the buyer’s preference: Period-correct modified, resto-mod, 100-percent original, etc. All flavors of the same car can have their issues. What’s most important to remember is that an improperly modified car is something nobody wants. I’d personally stay away from cars that have a rats’ nest of wires under the dash, cars that have had their firewall cut, and cars that have excessive rust.

After a restoration, most of the common work has been outlined above. Just do regular tune-ups, use a Battery Tender in the winter, and do a good wash and wax when needed. These cars are great because they really don’t need too much maintenance.

Expert: Mark Stielow

General Motors

For me, the biggest problems with these cars are the sellers of reproduction parts. There are a few companies making better U.S. parts now, but there is still a lot of Chinese junk floating around. Most of these parts don’t fit and are of poor quality.

When I build my cars, I try to find a solid, rust-free complete car to start with and recycle as many stock parts as possible. When it comes to maintenance, spend the time and money to make the wiring good. The stock 40-year-old wiring can get flaky. There are a number of companies that make good U.S. replacement harnesses. These are a good investment to keep enjoying your car.

In my world the best upgrade to make your first-gen a better driver is an overdrive transmission. When you’re on the highway and have the ability to slip it into overdrive, the whole car calms down.

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