1969 Pro Touring Camaro – Something Better

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1969 Pro Touring Camaro – Something Better

Owned by: Tom Panaseny, Tampa, FL

Tom Panaseny grew up on Long Island, NY helping his Dad work on the family cars. In 1969, his neighbor drove home in a new 1969 Camaro Indy Pace Car – white with orange stripes and orange interior. Tom thought it was the coolest car he’d ever seen. It made a lasting impression, and started his love of Camaros.

69-Camaro-1Money was tight in the early ’70s, so Tom’s first cruiser ended up being a tired old ’64 Mustang, beat up from many years enduring NY winters. It did not take long though, before Tom joined his Chevelle and ’Cuda driving friends and built a total performance 1923 T-bucket with blown 350, and “all of the good stuff.” Talk about one extreme to another!

His first Camaro – a new 1989 IROC-Z – turned into an obsession. Once the loan was paid off, Tom made the car his. He replaced the stock 350 Tuned Port engine with a Lingenfelter-built 420 cube small block (with Vortech supercharger running 7 lbs. of boost), completely made over the drivetrain, and added custom red paint and a tweed interior. Quarter miles of 10.8 seconds at the drag strip were not too shabby either! Features in various magazines including Camaro Performers, Super Chevy and Chevy High Performance immortalized the car, so Tom decided to sell it.

Next up, Tom turned his attention to the often overlooked second generation Camaro. His new obsession was a 1970 Z/28. He did a frame off restoration, gave the stock, numbers matching 350 a rest and dropped in a ZZ430 GM crate engine. That car was sold in 2003.

69-Camaro-2Tom wanted to do “something different” for his ultimate love: the ’69 Camaro. In 2006, he started searching for ’69 Camaros and finally found this car in the Classic Auto Trader in Orlando, FL. It had recently been relocated from South Carolina. As best as Tom could determine, the car started life as an original SS 350 Camaro. It was now a 396 4-speed car with really nice “DuPont red” base coat/clear coat, deluxe interior and factory 12-bolt.

69-Camaro-3 “Something different” turned into “something better.” The car came apart on a 4-post lift in Tom’s garage and everything was detailed, restored or modified to provide better overall performance. “There are more than a few big block ’69 Camaros running around today, I wanted mine to stand out – reflecting a painstaking attention to detail, all the while maintaining that classic muscle car look,” Tom said.

When he got tired of the stock 325 horsepower 396 (simply not enough grunt for his taste), Tom turned to local engine builder, Gil Alfaro in Riverview, FL for help building a new 496. The goal was 600 hp and 600 lbs-ft in a streetable big block.

They started with a new World Products Merlin III block, and after much collaboration decided on Brodix 115cc Race Rite Oval Aluminum heads with 2.25 intake and 1.88 exhaust valves. The PAC nitrided Beehive springs (rated at 180 lbs on the seat and 475 lbs open), keep the custom Comp Cams Hydraulic roller cam in check. Cam specs are a streetable 242/248 duration with .631/.626″ lift. Comp Cams Ultra Pro Roller Rockers and Morel Sportsman Hydraulic roller lifters round out the valve train. The intake is an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap underneath a custom-built Pro-Systems 986 cfm carb. The exhaust is spit out through 2″ Hooker Competition headers into a dual Magnaflow exhaust. A Pertronix III distributor feeds the Taylor 8.2 mm ignition wires. The Melling HV Oil pump is always pumping Brad Penn Performance Oil.

69-Camaro-4The stock Muncie was replaced with a Keisler Tremec TKO-600 kit. The rear gears are 3.73 with new Moser Axles spinning the American Racing 17″ wheels and BFG radial T/A tires. Cal Trac traction bars and Hotchkis weld-in subframe connectors help keep the torque on the ground. The suspension is Hotchkis front and rear springs, lowering the ride height 1.5 inches with Edelbrock shocks and a fast ratio AGR power steering box.

A 3″ thick Griffin Aluminum radiator with March Serpentine system using the stock clutch fan keeps the 600 hp big block cool in the Florida heat. The pulleys, frame stands, valve covers, air cleaner, intake and other parts were all powder coated by Alan at ProCoat Performance Coatings in Tampa.

69-Camaro-5The addition of Auto Meter “bowtie” gauges in the factory console which monitor fuel, voltage, temperature and oil pressure are the only changes to the factory deluxe interior.

Tom remarks, “It’s taken 6 years of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point.”  He still plans to upgrade, including new Wilwood 4 wheel discs brakes. He drives the Camaro to local cruise-ins, shows and just for fun. And, has always taken home some type of trophy at all the events he has attended.

For the past 16 years, Tom has been a member and club VP of the Sunshine State Camaro Club. This association has led to his next project; a one-owner 1967 Camaro. The owner’s widow reached out to the club looking for a buyer who would treat the car as her husband had. “Roy’s car” will undergo a frame-off re-build with a pro-touring theme.



  1. Steve Edgar says:

    Beautiful 69 I have somewhat of an obsession for the Camaros myself I have 2 a 68 and a 71 I restored myself and the crazy thing is they are painted the same color and to be honest red is not my favorite but red it is and I cherish my red Camaros

  2. I love the 1st Gen Camaros and have owned four of them. Three being convertibles. I currently own a 1967 Bolaro Red RS convertible that I am in the middle of a frame off restoration. Still have the original “327” small block that I have rebuilt. I’m 67 years old and still gets my heart pounding when I have the top down on a nice summer day and go through the gears (4-speed) I had a numbers matching 1969 RS convertible, with all documentation. (396 Big Block) Datonna yellow. One I wished I had kept.

  3. Jim O'Hare says:

    I just purchased BACK a 1969 Camaro with the Z 28 option( 5Z28BA) that I purchased new . The camaro was ordered in September of 1968 from Pape Chevy Bronx N.Y. (early production 69) Delivered in October / 1968. We sold it around 1973 and moved to Florida with our young family. Here some 47 years later, I located the car,it never left N.Y. It was in a garage on Long Island, It had a true frame off restore front and rear suspension in 1980/81 (photos of the car restoration came with the purchase) I have the original Bill Of Sale and the Original window sticker and photos of it from 1969. I have spoken to every one or a family member who owned the car from 1976 till I got it last year 2015. I spoke to the company that rebuilt the 302 DZ (MPE in NY).The company that re-painted it in 1998( Joe Kessel auto in NY) I am missing the owner from 1973 to 1976, We believe it was someone by the name of Young in Southold N.Y. I hope that someone will read this and remember the car, At that time it was yellow with black stripes. Now back to the original Fatom Green /white stripes. So cool to have your first new car back after 47 years, and a 69 Z-28 to boot! If anyone knows anything more about the car history tru the years,please email me at my aol account

  4. William Jerry Smith says:

    This is so much the same car I rebuilt in 2 years finishing May 2015, I’ve owned my 69 RS 396 for 25 years and restored it for a second time starting 2013. I replaced my engine with a 489 stroked built by prestige in Concord, NC, they did a great job. I have a 5 speed tremac and 411 gears, replaced interior with upgraded (extra padded) seats dyna matted the floors, and finished with a nice blue metallic I kept my factory fan and radiator which keeps the engine cool, QA1 coilers , tubular control arms, and 2 inch lowered rear springs gives it a nice feel although the ride is harder I believe due to the frame connectors. My only complaint is the transmission sings when crusing in 5th gear and I seem to notice it more in all gears now. any idea or have you heard of this problem with 5 speed tremac trans

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