This chapter covers mechanical parts and items that didn’t seem to fit into previous chapters. We’ve attempted to include most of the systems and aspects throughout the book, but some information might be too detailed or too trivial to include because of space constraints. Some information was simply left out because it is readily available on the Internet.
Because this book is meant to be a practical guide to restoring Camaros, we’ve included some very detailed information about correct factory-original restoration tips and finishes. We’ve also included information on non-original restorations for the enthusiasts looking to build a nice driver but don’t care about such things as correct date codes on water pumps and the correct finish on a hood hinge. Some enthusiasts are more interested in improving their cooling and fuel systems.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book “HOW TO RESTORE YOUR CAMARO 1967-1969“. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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In general, the Camaro’s cooling system was similar to most Chevrolet cooling systems in late 1960s passenger cars. When it comes to the details of different options and engine sizes, there are way too many differences to cover all three years, so we highlight some details regarding the cooling system. We also cover some basics and some information regarding some modifications you can make to improve upon the stock cooling system.
The fan shrouds for big-block and small-block engines were different and the same goes for engines with and without air conditioning. Find the right fan shroud for your car and install it. That seems really basic, and it is.
Without a fan shroud, you risk injury and perhaps your life because a loose piece of clothing can easily pull you into the fan. The shroud does more than protect your wellbeing; it also helps the fan pull air through the radiator. Without a shroud, the fan pulls air from all around it, but fails to pull air through the radiator. When driving down the road at more than 20 mph, air forces its way through the radiator, but when you’re sitting in traffic or at a stoplight there’s nothing to make sure air is pulled through the radiator if the shroud is missing.
For the best performance of the fan and shroud, the fan diameter should be no smaller than 11⁄2 inches smaller than the diameter of the shroud. If you’re going to install an aftermarket fan shroud, it should resemble the stock fan shroud. If a shroud doesn’t fit against the radiator, it won’t pull air through the core and you’re wasting your money.
How do you know if your water pump needs to be replaced? The front seal is the most common part to fail and when it does, coolant leaks out of the small hole in the front of the water pump below the shaft. This hole is referred to as a weep hole.
The shaft bearing can also wear out, and when it does, the front seal follows suit. If you’re going to restore your Camaro back to completely stock, you need to have an original water pump. Over the years, water pumps have become a throw-away part instead of rebuilding them due to the necessity of using a hydraulic press and shop tools to remove and re-install on the front hub in order to replace the shaft seal. Original castiron pumps with old worn-out bearings and worn-out seals were either tossed in a metal scrap pile, traded in as a core, or thrown out with the garbage. These old pumps can be rebuilt with the right parts and equipment. Rebuilding a non-original pump is going to cost you more shop time than it’s worth. You should simply buy another pump.
However, if yours is an original with the correct casting numbers and build date, you may want to save it and have it rebuilt. Brian takes his original water pumps down to his local NAPA auto parts store and has them rebuild the pump for him onsite. This is not a service available at all NAPA stores because they are franchised and each store is different. Check with your local NAPA, auto shops, or services available by shipping your pump.
If you’re modifying your engine to boost the performance, take into consideration that producing more power produces more heat, particularly for big-block engines. The only way to reduce heat is to get the hot water flowing out of the engine into the radiator, where the air cools it by dissipating heat before the cooled water completes the cycle and travels back into the engine to pick up more heat. If you’re more interested in performance rather than having the factory- correct water pump with the cast-in numbers, Milodon and Stewart offer a few high-volume pumps available in cast iron or aluminum that don’t look too custom and could be painted for a factory appearance. Some builders go as far as to get an aftermarket pump, grind off the company logos, re-finish the surface, and paint them to look factory.
With the exception of ZL1s, the original factory water pumps were painted after they were installed on the engine at the engine assembly plant. The pump was painted Chevrolet Orange with the rest of the engine. The ZL1 pumps were painted gloss black before the engine was assembled.
There are two versions of smallblock and big-block water pumps. In 1967 and 1968, the small-block and big-block used short water pumps and had the alternator hanging way out to the driver’s side over cylinder number-1. In 1969, Chevrolet switched to the long water pump and was able to move the alternator much closer to the centerline of the water pump on the passenger side in front of the cylinder head. This is a much better design because the shorter belt is much less likely to jump off the pulleys at higher RPM.
There are two different water pump shaft sizes. Standard-duty water pumps have 5/8-inch-diameter shafts; the heavy-duty pumps, usually reserved for Corvette engines, have 3/4-inch shafts. Some aftermarket heavy-duty pumps have 3/4-inch shafts, but the end of the shaft is reduced to 5/8 inches. Pay attention to the shaft size when ordering a pump because the hole in the center of the fan and pulley are hub-centric and need to match the size of the pump shaft. If you’re upgrading from a standard-duty pump to a heavy-duty pump with the larger shaft past the mounting flange, the shaft needs to be modified to fit in the fan.
The factory radiators were painted gloss black. Radiators are a “wearing” item, so after 40 years in service they’ve typically been replaced or rebuilt and repainted. After a repair, radiator shops usually repaint the radiators flat black, which explains why most original and replacement radiators are flat black.
Often, the radiator ID tag gets lost in the process of a shop repair. Factory radiators had an ID tag clipped to the tank solder joint. The tag has small part numbers, radiator configuration info (group of six letters and numbers), and the two large letters that designate the application. There are a couple of letters stamped in each factory tank that designate more information on the radiator and the vehicle application. The driver’sside tank has specifics about the construction of the radiator, and the passenger- side tank has letters that designate engine and transmission application. If you have a tag and/or the original radiator tanks, go to www.Camaros.org and compare your findings to the application data they’ve collected over the years.
As with any car, the Camaro was available with manual and automatic transmissions. Each of which required a differently configured radiator. Automatic transmissions operate off fluid that becomes extremely hot, so they need additional cooling. The solution was to have a transmission cooler integrated inside the passenger-side tank of the radiator. The manual-transmission-equipped cars didn’t have a fluid cooler.
The stock radiator is made of a copper core and brass cooling tanks. This old construction is effective, but not as efficient as the newer-designed aluminum radiators. If you’re considering the upgrade to aluminum, a couple of companies manufacture bolt-in replacement radiators. The only aluminum replacement radiator on the market that’s not made with boxy fabricated tanks is the Griffin radiator. Griffin’s tanks are stamped aluminum and, even though they don’t look just like the stock copper/ brass radiator, they do look the closest out of all the other aluminum radiators. There’s an old rumor about Griffin radiator cores being epoxied to the side tanks. This is not true. That incorrect information was probably started by some competing radiator company. Griffin’s cores are welded to the side tanks and then they add an epoxy over the weld to reduce problems associated with expansion and contraction of these welded joints.
A heater core is a small version of a radiator which has engine coolant running through it. In order to get heat into the passenger compartment, there must be a heater core located somewhere in the car where air runs across its external surface and the air is heated and is forced into the passenger compartment through vents located under and on top of the dash. In order to cycle water through the heater core, there is a pressure hose connected to the intake manifold where cycling coolant is trapped by the thermostat. The trapped water flow forces water through the heater core feed hose into the bottom connection of the heater core. The hose connected to the outlet (upper port) of the heater core is connected to the water fitting connected to the water pump, which helps pull water through the system.
The small-block V-8 (and L-6) non-A/C Camaros use the same heater core, which places the inlet and outlet hoses closer to the center of the firewall and to the right (if you’re standing in front of the car) of the blower motor duct on the firewall.
Because the big-block engine is wider than the small-block V-8 and L6 engines, it’s almost impossible to connect heater hoses to a smaller engine’s heater core. Note that it was mentioned as being almost impossible. If you have short, original valve covers it’s a pain, but they can be connected if you use molded heater hoses for late-model cars with 90- degree elbows on one end. Chevrolet designed a separate heater core for big-block Camaros. The heater core inlet and outlet are on the opposite side of the heater core, so that they protrude through the center of the blower motor duct, about 10 inches closer to the passenger-side front fender. This gives more than enough room for the big-block engine.
The heater core for an A/Cequipped Camaro is completely different than the ones for non-A/C cars and requires a lot more work due to the huge bulky A/C case that mounts to the firewall. The large A/C case requires removal of the fender in order to remove the exterior case. Therefore, in order to replace the heater core, you have to remove the case. That makes replacing the heater core on an A/C car a huge job.
Before installing a new heater core, make sure it holds 16 pounds of fluid pressure (the typical cooling system pressure). We’ve seen heater cores leak when you pull them right out of the box. If you don’t have a way to safely apply 16 pounds of pressure, at least blow into one tube and hold your hand over the other to create a little pressure and check for leaks. When installing the hoses after the heater box and blower motor duct is installed, make sure you don’t damage the heater core tubes and cause a leak.
Blower Motor Duct
If you are attempting to replace the heater core with the fender on the car, you have to remove the inner fenderwell first. The same goes for replacing the heater blower motor. In order to remove the smallblock heater core, you have to remove the blower motor ducting on the engine side of the firewall. The small-block heater core tubes are curved and nearly impossible to remove on their own. If you do accomplish this feat without removing the outer blower motor duct, there’s a big chance you had to tweak the brass tubing and possibly caused a leak, which would require doing the whole job again.
If you’re converting your smallblock or L6 duct to a big-block setup, you can purchase the correct heater core tube-seal retainer plate, screws, and gaskets and drill your own heater core holes to perform your own conversion or you can buy a whole new duct. Plus, you obviously need to purchase and install a bigblock heater core.
To swap the heater cores, there’s a different set of spring-steel clips that hold the heater core inside the heater box. The only place we could find that sells these special big-block heater clips is Heartbeat City. The small-block clips are just not big enough and are not shaped correctly to get the job done. You need to use one of the large seals included in your seal kit to fill the holes in the firewall where the small-block core tubes used to be. In order to seal the blower motor duct to the firewall, you need some 3M Strip Caulk to fill the gap between the two. Use Strip Caulk because it does not harden and crack, letting air and moisture into places you don’t want it. Using urethane makes an ugly mess and you’ll have trouble removing it if the heater core goes out again.
The factory finish on the duct is gloss black. It’s one of the very few items under the hood that actually came from the factory with gloss black paint.
Heater Blower Motor
Replacing the blower motor is no small feat if the car has the fender and fenderwell installed. The inner fenderwell has to be removed. Before replacing a suspected blown heater motor, check the fuse and then the wire connection. Use a multimeter to confirm 12 volts are getting to the motor. Original blower motors have the date stamped on them as well as Delco Products. Also stamped is Rochester NY USA or Dayton Ohio USA. Reproduction units don’t usually look exactly the same or have USA stampings, which isn’t a problem for most. The factory finish on the blower motor is semi-gloss black and the small mounting hardware is black oxide.
The cowl induction hood (RPO ZL2) was first released into production on 1969 Camaros. The cowl hood was called the “Super Scoop” in early 1969 Camaro advertising and installed on approximately 10,000 of the 243,085 Camaros built in 1969.
Most cars with a hood and cowl that meet a windshield with varying angles like the first-generation Camaro have a high-pressure area at the base of the windshield, which is why most cars from this period drew fresh air for the interior of the car from this area.
On a related note, that’s also why GM pulled external air from this area to feed the cowl induction hood. An electric-solenoid-operated door was installed on the back of the hood opening to keep the door closed except under power when the throttle was opened to almost fullthrottle. When the door opened, air was forced into the engine that was cooler than the stagnant hot air located under the hood and produced additional power.
Many people have installed these cowl hoods on 1967s and 1968s that were never equipped with the cowl hood, and on 1969s that did not originally have them. Unfortunately, these people don’t also install the door and don’t have the original air cleaner or correct underhood bracing to seal the air cleaner in order to fully utilize the pressurized air to boost performance. The problem with not having all the factory parts and baffles installed is that air entering through the grille passes through the engine compartment and goes out the back of the hood scoop where it goes directly into the fresh-air vents and into the passenger compartment. Not only does thismake the air in the car hot, it also allows any burning oil, gas fumes, or carbon dioxide that may be leaking from an exhaust pipe to get directly into the car, which is very unsafe to breathe.
So if you are driving a Camaro with an improperly installed cowl hood and you constantly get headaches or feel bad after a long drive, you may want to consider sealing off the air cleaner or not opening your fresh-air vents. Even leaving the vents closed, however, won’t completely keep the fumes out of the interior of the car because outside air easily makes its way through the heater system unless you’ve replaced all the 40-year-old seals.
The only way to get fresh air in your face on the 1967 was by opening the vent “wing window.” These little windows are a love/hate item—some love them and some hate them. Well, hate is a strong word; maybe dislike is better. The problem is they make it easier to break into the car, since the factory locks are not exactly foolproof, or some thieves simply break the little window to gain access to the car because it’s less conspicuous. Because the 1967 had the vent wing windows, it didn’t really need the vents in the face of the dash, so if you wanted outside air in your car it was either open one of the six moving windows or open the vents located in the kick panels. The 1967 did, however, have the dash vent balls and bezels in the face of the dash (same as the ones found on the face of the 1968 dash) on A/C-equipped (RPO C60) cars, and they were connected to the evaporator, not to the fresh-air vents as on the 1968s.
In 1968, Chevrolet discontinued the vent wing windows and added vents in the face of the dashboard as standard equipment (instead of only on A/C cars, as in 1967). This change was marketed as Astro Ventilation and continued with vents in the dash face but with a different dashboard in 1969. Outside air came through the face of the dash, the heater vents, and the kick panels—or by opening one of the four windows.
If you operated the heater in any 1967–1969 Camaro, the heated air blowing over the heater core (located in the heater box) was pushed out of the floor ducts on the top of the dash. It didn’t come out of the vents in the side kick panels or the two vents on the left and right side of the dash face. The outside air entered the vehicle through the openings in the top of the cowl area, which is open to ducts that run down into the kick panels. At the bottom of the side panels, there is also a duct system that forces air down through the rocker panels to dry them out if water collects in that area.
We’re only going to briefly touch on air conditioning because A/C is a very involved system of its own. There are two ways to get A/C in your Camaro. The factory system operates on R12, which is no longer in production, but you can still get your hands on it, or there are some R12 subsitutes that are supposed to work. There’s good support for you if you choose to go with aftermarket A/C. Since this book is more about restoration than modification, this section is brief, but we’re mentioning it because some enthusiasts prefer to install a system that has an additional 40 years of technology behind it and there’s still support for the chemicals that keep it going.
These systems are designed to use R12 refrigerant. The government passed legislation to keep the public from being able to purchase R12. The EPA banned production of R12 at the end of 1995. Apparently all the R12 that’s currently available is what was stockpiled or recycled from air-conditioning systems that had R12 left in them. If you check the Internet you’ll find places to purchase it for personal use. Note that the low supply and increasing demand has seriously driven up the price.
If your car was originally equipped with A/C but everything is missing, you’ll have a tough time rounding up all the necessary parts. They’re out there, because a lot of people have disassembled many air-conditioning systems and some Camaro owners have actually hung onto all the parts. There are new reproduction pieces to replace commonly broken or worn-out parts. OER has reproduced the evaporator case cover for the inside half of the unit for smallblock and big-block cars. These are the covers that are closest to the engine and commonly become cracked from removing engines or broken in order to install aftermarket parts.
There are a few companies offering aftermarket air-conditioning systems, but the only one of those companies we’ve worked with is probably the oldest in the hot-rod air-conditioning business, Vintage Air. This company offers complete kits to install A/C in a Camaro that didn’t have it, and it offers kits to completely convert a Camaro that was originally equipped with A/C to a brand-new, more-efficient system.
The experience we’ve had with a Vintage Air kit to add A/C to a firstgeneration was good. All the necessary parts were included. Overall, everything went in well. We had to slightly modify a couple of the hardlines with a handheld tubing bender to get the condenser to fit the way we wanted, but considering all the work and parts that went into installing the system, it wasn’t a hassle. If you want a truly custom and more hidden Vintage Air kit, give Detroit Speed (www. detroitspeed.com) a call and ask about what you need to install a Vintage Air Gen II Compac in first-generation Camaros. Detroit Speed also works closely with Vintage Air and makes some nice products that work together for an extremely clean install.
The first-generation Camaro came from the factory with either a Rochester carburetor for standard performance or a Holley carb if it was a high-performance-optioned car. CarTech has books on how to rebuild Rochester and Holley carburetors. If the thought of rebuilding a carburetor scares you, there are shops that specialize in rebuilding carburetors. Plenty of them rebuild very expensive and rare carbs for the pickiest restorers. Shops that come to mind are The Carburetor Shop (www.thecarbshop.com), Ace Fuel Systems (www.acefuelsystems.com), and Eric Jackson of Vintagemusclecarparts .com.
Fuel Line Sizes
If your Camaro was originally a 6-cylinder and you’re upgrading to a V-8, be sure to check the fuel line size. The L6 cars came with a 5/16-inch fuel line; the V-8 cars (small- and bigblocks) came with 3/8-inch fuel lines. Most enthusiasts rebuilding first-generation Camaros are installing a V-8 engine with more than 350 hp. When bumping up the horsepower, the engine needs more fuel. The small 5/16-inch fuel line is not large enough to adequately feed the engine, and you could seriously damage your engine if it starts starving for fuel and running lean while driving under moderate performance driving.
A 350-hp engine needs at least a 3/8-inch fuel line. Some models with 225-hp small-blocks and up to the 375-hp (and 425-hp Dana 427) bigblock- equipped Camaros had 3/8-inch fuel lines. It’s fine that the factory used 3/8-inch fuel lines on higher-powered engines, but fuel requirements often exceed this fuel line size.
Engines with more than 400 hp in racing environments could require more fuel than a 3/8-inch line could effectively deliver, especially if you’re using a traditional camshaft-operated fuel pump. These camshaft-operated fuel pumps suck fuel from the tank and push it to the engine. When the engine power level exceeds 400 hp, you should upgrade to a 1/2-inch front-to-rear fuel line; with more than 600 hp, you should use a 5/8- inch fuel line. These sizes change depending on the type and model of fuel pump. For more performance info, check some of the fuel system books on the market or consult the information that accompanies your performance fuel pump.
The factory offered mechanical block-mounted cam-operated fuel pumps for all applications. The original pumps were different for almost every application. Not only were they different in line size and fittings, they had different pressures and volumes too, depending on the application. Many replacement pumps are generic in their applications and configurations, which is okay for most enthusiasts. If you’re installing a performance aftermarket pump, make sure you consider that a standard aftermarket street carburetor doesn’t typically like more than 8-1/2 psi and stock carbs typically operate around 6 psi. Any more than what your carb is designed for and fuel starts pushing past the needle and seating in the carburetor, and the engine automatically floods.
You can purchase mechanical, racing fuel pumps with more than 14 psi, which require an external pressure regulator. For the factory-correct looking and fitting fuel pump for your application, you can purchase reproduction pumps from many restoration sources. If you’re interested in aftermarket pumps that closely resemble an original, but aren’t exactly correct, you can find a good one by Carter.
Installing a fuel pump on a small- or big-block Chevy engine can be a pain in the rear because the fuel pump pushrod always has a little bit of pressure on the lever arm on the fuel pump. It doesn’t help that the rod wants to fall once you push it up into the block because of gravity working against you.
If you’re installing a mechanical fuel pump on a small-block, there’s an additional plate to install between the pump and the engine block. The big-block does not have this intermediate plate, except a handful of first-generation bigblocks produced in 1963 that are extremely rare. If you have one of these big-blocks, you’ve found yourself a goldmine.
Fuel Pump Installation
To install the fuel pump, follow these procedures:
Remove the threaded plug under the fuel-pump mounting pad from the block because you need to install the fuel-pump pushrod through that hole.
Put JGD assembly grease or moly lube on the tips and shaft of the pushrod to fully lubricate it. The extra viscosity of the JGD assembly grease is thick enough to help keep the rod elevated in the pushrod bore of the block.
Slide the pushrod up into the block through the hole under the pump mounting boss and install the threaded plug. If you’re working on a small-block and the rod won’t install in the hole, check to see if you’ve installed a bolt that’s too long, in the boss in the front of the block. The bolt bosses on the front of the bigblock are blind and do not affect the fuel-pump pushrod.
Some engine builders tell you to install a bolt in the front hole to hold the fuel-pump pushrod up while you install the fuel pump, but if you accidentally put a nick in the pushrod or forget to replace the bolt with a shorter one, you’ll damage the engine, so we prefer to use the following method:
With a 6-inch piece of coat hanger or stong bailing wire, hold the fuel-pump pushrod in its bore in order to get the fuel-pump lever arm under it so you can install the pump.
Before proceeding, spray the fuel pump gasket with a little Permatex High-Tack Spray-A-Gasket, or thin coat of Permatex Ultra Black, on both sides.
Stick two bolts in the holes of the flange on the pump, and then stick the gasket to the fuel pump flange. The gasket helps keep the bolts in place while installing the pump, but it won’t do the whole job. You have to hold the fuel pump so that your thumb and forefinger hold the bolts in the flange.
Put a dab of JGD grease on the pump’s lever arm.
Use the coat hanger to elevate the pushrod in the hole and slide the fuel-pump arm under the pushrod, and remove the coat hanger.
The fuel pump still does not easily fit against the block. You need to force the fuel pump upward a little to compress the arm of the fuel pump, so that you can install the fuel pump mounting bolts in the block. If the pump seems cocked to the front or rear, the pushrod will slip off the top of the lever arm. If this happens, use the hanger to get it back in the proper position.
Once you get the fuel-pump bolts started, there will still be pressure from the lever arm, making it tough to install. If the pump binds and it’s not installed against the block, the pushrod has typically fallen off the top of the lever. (Or there’s some other issue, such as a defective fuel-pump arm, the wrong fuel pump, or a fuel-pump rod that’s wrong for the application.)
If you install the pump and pushrod, but the pump won’t pump fuel, it’s possible the pump actuator lobe on the cam is flat. The fix for this is to replace the cam or install an electric fuel pump. Small- and bigblock fuel pumps may look similar because the gasket-sealing surface is the same shape and the fuel-pump arm looks similar, but the arms are not the same and the fuel pumps are not interchangeable.
In 1967–1969, small- and bigblock engines were equipped with a solid-steel fuel-pump pushrod. The pushrod is operated by the rotating off-center round lobe near the front of the camshaft. The rod actuates the arm on the fuel pump, and in turn pumps fuel from the tank into the carburetor. The solid pushrod is a heavy reciprocating mass that can cause fuel-pump cavitation when the camshaft turns at high RPM because the mass of the rod can’t rebound from the spring tension on the fuel-pump arm. ARP and other manufacturers make a lightweight aluminum-bodied fuel-pump pushrod with hardened caps on the ends. The lower weight reduces fuel-pump cavitation because the spring operating the pump arm has less weight to control.
The friction produced by the pushrod (stock or lightened aftermarket) being actuated by the cam and operating the fuel pump robs a bit of horsepower. This is why racers wanting an additional edge on the competition switch to electric fuel pumps. Less friction always means more power.
Hood Latches and Hinges
The hood hinges, latch assembly mounted in front of the radiator, and latch plate on the hood were all phosphate plated from the factory and were the same shade of gray. Even though it’s really hard to tell on some of the most pristine original examples we’ve seen, we’ve always been told that the hinge parts were phosphate plated before they were assembled with the rivets. This would mean that the rivets aren’t phosphate plated, which means if you are looking for the factory appearance you can remove the plating from the rivets—with a lot of tedious work.
If you want to do phosphate plating at home, consider that the modern phosphate color may be way off the factory color. Check around on the Internet to find a home kit that people have had success with to get factory-looking results or find a company that performs the plating process and gets the correct finish and color for Camaros.
The factory finishes on the hood latch pin is black oxide and the spring is gloss black.
The Endura front bumper (RPO VE3) was only offered on the 1969 and was painted to match the body color. It’s a urethane-molded front bumper that closely fits the contour of the recess in the front fender extensions and lower valance. Its edges and peak are much more pronounced than the rounded chrome front bumper.
To install one on a car that didn’t come with one from the factory, you only need to purchase the four correct Endura brackets and correct hardware in addition to the bumper. Don’t forget to add flex-agent to the paint before matching it to your body color.
Buyers didn’t have much of color option when it came to the vinyl top on the 1967 and 1968 Camaro. Chevrolet offered either black or white. The factory changed the vinyl-top color availability for 1969. First it changed the white to Parchment and then added blue, brown, and green.
I could write whole chapters on the convertible tops and features that separate them from the coupes, but we’re limited on space so I’ll just scratch the surface on chassis and driveability.
Because ragtops don’t have the structural support of the roof panel, first-generation convertible floorpans have additional bracing under the car to reduce chassis flex. For ease of servicing the driveshaft, there’s a removable brace that greatly increases the rigidity of the frame and is bolted between the convertible bracing. I’ve seen quite a few convertibles missing this important brace. There are additional braces in the trunk and on the floorpan under the front of the rear seats. The rocker panels were also thicker-gauge sheetmetal compared to the coupe rockers. For some reason some coupes have been found with thicker convertible rockers. It’s assumed that this anomaly is a case of running out of coupe rockers on the assembly line and simply installing parts they had on hand.
With the lack of the roof structure, first-generation Camaro convertibles were never strongperforming cars, especially around corners. One could argue that the 1967 and 1969 were both Indianapolis Pace Cars and that the convertibles were available with big-block power. Our position is that if Chevrolet thought the convertible could really perform well on a road course or drive well around more than a couple of banked turns around Indy, it would have offered a Z28 convertible, which it didn’t. The stock convertible is just too flimsy for more than spirited street driving.
To strengthen the convertible chassis, you need to install a thicker convertible brace and bolt-in subframe connectors from Hotchkis. These items don’t require floorpan modification. If you’re more worried about having a strong convertible chassis that feels as rigid as, or stronger than, a stock coupe, you can upgrade and weld in a set of Detroit Speed subframe connectors. The strength of Detroit Speed connectors comes from cutting the floorpan and welding the connectors into it as an integral frame structure, connecting the front subframe to the rear leaf spring torque boxes. Beware that some less invasive and cheaper weldin subframe connectors hang down a few inches, reducing ground clearance and blocking future removal of the rear leaf springs.
The convertible bracing throughout the car wasn’t enough to make the car feel stable during normal driving. In an effort to reduce the shimmy and shake of the Camaro after removing the roof, GM engineers came up with cylinders filled with weights atop springs in viscous fluid. The aptly named “cocktail shakers” reduced the torsional twist of the chassis when driving over uneven roads. They weigh approximately 25 pounds each—with one at each corner of the car, that’s an additional 100 pounds.
In the past, Camaro owners removed them to save weight. If your convertible is missing its cocktail shakers, find some used ones and restore the exterior finish because as of this writing nobody seems to be reproducing them. Dealers selling used Camaro parts, such as Steve’s Camaros and GM Sports Salvage, are the best sources for original used items like these.
The 1967 and 1968 Z28s were the only models with wheels larger than 14 inches; they had 15×6-inch wheels. In 1969 Chevrolet went all out and upgraded the Z28s with 15×7-inch wheels. The most distinguishable factory Camaro wheel is the Rally wheel. In the late 1980s it became extremely popular to put Rally wheels on Camaros, and it became common for Camaro owners who didn’t want the popular Cragar S/S five-spoke or “slotted mags” on their rides to install larger 15×8 Rally wheels from Corvettes in the rear and narrower 14- or 15-inch Rally wheels up front. A few companies offer custom- built Rally wheels if you’re looking to install wider tires and keep the car looking somewhat factory.
The only other factory wheels offered on first-generation Camaros were the 1969 five-spoke stampedsteel SS wheel and generic stampedsteel wheels with many different styles of hub caps and trim rings, which are rarely seen these days. Most people have since removed them to upgrade to aftermarket wheels, or they flew off while driving.
We assume most owners want to install aftermarket wheels on their first-generation Camaro. The following short list contains sources for wheels that have a vintage feel—the design looks like a wheel that may have been available in the late 1960s or the design was available in 1967 through 1969. There weren’t many aluminum wheels available back then, so we included a few extras for fun. Because this isn’t a pro-touring book we left out billet wheels as well as more current designs not reminiscent of the 1960s feel.
However, I have included wheels that are available in 15-inch diameter all the way up to 18-inch diameters because some owners will make modifications and upgrades for looks or performance. Keep in mind that a heavier wheel takes more horsepower to get up to speed than a lighter one. It also takes more braking power to slow a heavier wheel. Installing a heavy steel wheel will basically rob more performance off the line than a lighter aluminum wheel. Installing a heavy wheel also can overpower stock brakes, especially drum brakes. We never suggest installing extremely heavy wheels on manual drum brakes, or even power drum brakes for that matter.
Remember, the larger the diameter of the wheel, the heavier the wheel is going to be. Depending on construction and size, cast-aluminum wheels can be as heavy as, or heavier than, a stock steel wheel. Some of the wheels mentioned below have a cast center welded to an outer steel rim, which greatly increases the weight of the wheel. Check the weight of your wheels before making a purchase. If your car has extra horsepower and upgraded disc brakes, heavier and larger-diameter wheels are not as much of a concern for affecting performance.
Larger-diameter tires have the same effect as a heavy wheel, but 17- or 18-inch-diameter wheels usually wear lower-profile tires, which reduces the weight of the tire. Overall, the weight of a steel-belted radial is heavier than the original factory nylon-corded tires.
American Racing wheels offers a few vintage-looking designs that include the Torque Thrust line of wheels (Original A Spoke, D, and II), the 200S, and T70R.
American Racing offers a range of wheel sizes for each wheel design, but most are available from 15×5 to 15×8.5 inches (TTIIs and 200Ss up to 15×12 inches) as well as 16- and 17- inch-diameter wheels in popular widths.
Minilite was popular with the vintage Trans-Am racing back in the late 1960s and is still around today with Mag-style wheel sizes up to 15×10 inches and Sport wheels available in sizes up to 15×8 inches for Camaros.
Vintage Wheel Works has a version of the old Minilite (named V48) available in 16×8-inch and 17×7- inch to 17×11-inch.
VWW also has classic-designed 5-spoke wheels (V40 and V45) in popular widths in 15-, 16-, and 17- inch diameters.
E-T Wheels (aka Team III Wheels) has a version of the Minilite as well. It’s named LT-III and comes in many popular widths in 15- and 17-inch diameters. Along with other cool nostalgic wheels, E-T Wheels offers a nice 5-spoke wheel in many widths in 15-, 16-, 17-, and 18-inch diameters.
Another mainstay on the market is Cragar, with the introduction of the famous Cragar S/S Super Sport 5-spoke wheel that was first introduced in 1964 and is still being produced. Multiple variants of the S/S Super Sport are available in chrome, aluminum, and painted aluminum and many widths of wheels ranging from 15- to 18-inch diameters which fit first-generation Camaros. In 2009, Cragar released a whole new set of one-piece aluminum wheels resembling its black G/T wheels and other classics from the 1960s.
If you’re buying wheels and tires that are larger in diameter or wider than stock and you’re not going to have a shop test fit them, save yourself some grief by reading the following information ahead of time. You need to know about backspacing and have a good idea of what the physical limitations are.
Backspacing is extremely important to wheel fitment. It’s the measurement from the rear lip of the wheel to the wheel’s flat mounting surface on its back side. If you have a wheel from a late-model car it will have too much backspacing and will hit the suspension or inner body panels. If the wheel has too little backspacing, it will stick out too far and the tire will stick out of the fender edges and cause severe rubbing problems—at the very least, the outer fender lip will cut up the sidewall of the tire. If you are installing a stock wheel, you shouldn’t have any interference problems.
Keep in mind that stock wheels from a car like a Corvette do not fit on your Camaro the same way. Every car has its own backspacing, even though the stock wheels appear to look the same doesn’t mean they are the same.
The second important factor in purchasing wheels is the physical constraints of the usable area in the wheelwell. The most obvious limitation is the distance between the inner wheelwell panel and the outer lip on the fender. You can increase this usable space in the rear wheelwell by “rolling” the fender lip on the quarter panels. There are a couple of steel panels spot welded together that make the lip, so bending the lip upward and out of the way is not easy. That takes some time with a larger hammer whacking on the inside edge to curve the lip up and out of the way so the tire clears it.
Slow and steady gets the job done without damaging the outside of the quarter panel or the wheelopening arch. Don’t cut the lip off! If you do, you’ll be cutting off the area of the lip that’s welded together, weakening the panel and making wheelwell lip that much harder to roll upward. The new cut edge becomes like a razor to cut your tire if it ever comes into contact with it.
The front-fender lip is a whole different problem, because if you need to roll the lip in order to gain a little more clearance, you have to heavily trim the inner fenderwell panel where it bolts to the wheelopening lip.
Keep in mind that the 1967 and 1968 cars have smaller wheelwells front and rear to run wider wheels than a 1969, which has approximately one additional inch of space in each wheelwell. The extra space on the 1969s helped racers fit wider tires and gave them a little bit more traction than in previous years. This was the biggest help in Trans-Am racing, where the rules stipulated that the fender opening could not appear altered for additional tire clearance. Some have speculated that Chevrolet made this change on the 1969 specifically to be more competitive in Trans-Am racing.
The other space constraint on all first-generation Camaros involves the front suspension. At minimum, too much backspacing causes interference with the steering arm and outer tie rod—and that’s only the static attempt to mount the wheel. Then you have the space constraint of the necessity of steering the wheel from lock-to-lock, where a tire and/or wheel with too much backspacing contacts the sway bar and frame. A wheel with too little backspacing comes into contact with the fender and fenderwell.
Ride height is another limiting factor in wheel-and-tire fitment. If you’re stuck in the 1970s or 1980s and still have air shocks installed, ride height may not be an issue and you can probably fit 15×10-inch Centerline Auto Drag wheels and some N50-15 Pro-Trac tires. If you’re interested in reducing the nosebleed stinkbug stance to a more ground-hugging ride height, be a little more conscious about your tireand- wheel fitment. A lower car brings the body down around the tires where fender and tire contact starts to be an issue.
Not all tires are created equal and you have to take that into consideration when pushing the envelope for wider tires in the fenderwells. Even though the numerical tire sizes are the same for two different brands of tires, it does not mean they have the same physical dimensions. Some tires have a larger sidewall bulge or a wider tread contact patch than others, and either creates fitment issues.
The last factor is how square the car is. This means that factory tolerances of the rear axle being centered between the two quarter panels can be as much as 3/8 inch off center. Basically the rear axle may mount as much as 3/8 inch toward the right or the left quarter panel. This causes interference between the tire and the fender lip on one side and not the other when fitting larger tires in the rear. If there is more than 3/8-inch variance between the left and right rear tires, you’ve got more problems than a factory variance. This difference can be caused by any of several things: tired or bent leaf springs; rotten leaf-spring bushings; a broken leaf spring perch or alignment pin; a serious accident that caused body or frame damage, as well as a botched repair or a failure to straighten the frame or body after the accident.
The front subframe bolts to the body with six large bolts, which can shift when the body bushings have worn out. If your body bushings have been replaced, it’s possible the person who replaced them didn’t align the frame before tightening all the bolts. Front-end collisions and side impacts can also shift the subframe off center under the body.
Body bushings are not the only parts that rot and cause the subframe to shift. The subframe itself can also rust out and cause subframe alignment issues, which can only be corrected by repairing or replacing the subframe. Severe cases of the floorpan rusting out completely can also be a problem, but that would be a lot more obvious, since your seat would probably fall out or your feet would poke through the floorpan and you’d know something was very wrong.
There’s a happy medium where you can fit a specific-size tire and wheel without a problem rubbing or hitting anything—1967s and 1968s will comfortably fit 15-, 16-, and 17×8-inch wheels on all four corners with 43⁄4 inches of backspacing. Of course, there can’t be any serious problems with the car not being “square,” the rear-axle assembly must be original to your car (not wider or narrower out of another car), your car has front disc brakes (drum and disc brake spacing is different), and your car isn’t too low. The 17x8s fit with 235/45-17s in front and 255/45-17s in the rear without much, if any, rolling of the rear fender lip.
According to Rich Deans of Goodies Speed Shop in San Jose, California, “This 17-inch wheel-and-tire combo is the no-brainer fit for first gens, but you can fit bigger tires if you don’t mind doing a little massaging to get them to fit.”
The 1969s fit the same wheel and tire package very comfortably without issue, but it leaves more room in the fenderwells since the body is wider than the 1967 and 1968. The 1969 rear quarter with rolled lips can safely swallow a 275 wide tire mounted on a 17×9 wheel with 43⁄4- inch backspacing. This 275 news is good for the drag-racing look with tires tucked in the quarters because racing 275/60-15 (L60-15) drag tires on 9-inch wheels fit too.
These 275s being on the larger side of the envelope may rub a little on the inner fenderwell when the suspension articulates while pulling in and out of driveways, but as long as your trunkpan pinch welds are not bent out, the inner fenderwells are flat and the tiny bit of rubbing is on a flat surface that won’t cut the tire. Just make sure the entire surface is flat and no sharp edges on the surface or pinch welds are pointing toward the tire where it can cut the back side of the tire.
Every Camaro is slightly different due to brakes changing wheel position and factory variances. If you want to fit the largest tires possible in fenderwells of your specific car you should take your car to a custom tire and wheel shop like Goodies Speed Shop. It will test-fit a custom package using knowledge, measuring, and specialty fitment tools.
Correctly restored Camaros are not complete without the right tires. As far as tire performance goes, original reproduction tires do not ride or perform like new tires, so for safety reasons you may want to consider taking extra precautions when driving on them. There’s a strong possibility you’ve been driving on radial tires for many years and you have grown used to the limitations of newer tire technology. Driving on older tire construction and technology makes the car perform differently during acceleration and braking, especially in panic-stop situations. Just be careful when driving your pride and joy.
First-generation Camaros came equipped with many different styles of tire from the factory. Depending on the year, model, or RPO chosen, your car could have come with complete blackwall, whitewall, white stripe (thinner stripe than the wider standard-option whitewall stripe), red stripe, or raised white letters.
If you’re looking for a nice set of reproduction tires that would have originally come on your first-generation Camaro, check with Kelsey Tire for Goodyear tires. The 1968 and 1969 Camaro Z28s came with Goodyear E70-15 tires that had raised white letters that read “WIDE TREAD GT” along with the Goodyear name. These same tires are period correct for the 1969 Yenkos. Or check with Coker Tire. It makes reproduction Firestone and B.F. Goodrich Silvertown 660 tires for the first-generation Camaros.
For enthusiasts wanting a little more performance out of a tire or are upgrading to a 15-inch wheel that’s wider than 7 inches or to a 16- or 17- inch” or larger-diameter wheel, you’ll be forced to look at more than what Chevrolet offered as original standard or option tires. If you plan on doing any cornering or highspeed blasts, upgrade to some decent radial tires that match the driving application.
Tire technology has come a long way in 40-plus years for safety and performance. There are so many good tires out on the market to fit different budgets we can only offer up a few of the brands we’ve used with great success.
For regular street driving at a very decent price for larger-diameter wheels we’ve had good luck with Sumitomo tires and B.F. Goodrich Radial T/As for 15-inch tires. For more spirited driving around corners with larger-diameter wheels, we’ve found decent lateral traction predictability and streetability with BFG g-Force T/A KDWS and Yokohama Advan Sports. For excellent performance for the track and street we’ve had great luck safely driving an open-road-racing-prepped 1969 Camaro to a clocked 161 mph on BFG g-Force T/A KDW. We’ve had great success cornering on roadcourse tracks with the same tire.
There are many ways to keep water from getting into your Camaro where it’s not supposed to be: weatherstrips, gaskets and sealants around the doors, windows, trunk, engine compartment, accessories, and body seams.
When it comes to sealing the air and water out of the Camaro interior and trunk area, weatherstrip manufacturers offer products for two different applications: factory-correct look and fit, and aftermarket.
For factory-original-fit gaskets you can’t go wrong if you can find original NOS gaskets still in their original packaging. Don’t buy NOS weatherstrips in opened boxes; sellers may have slipped incorrect or illfitting newer gaskets in older boxes.
If you’re restoring your Camaro to concours condition, be careful with reproduction weatherstrips. Over the years, we’ve had mixed results from SoffSeal (www.soffseal.com) and Metro Molded Products (www. metrommp.com). It seems that over the years these two companies’ products have periodically gone through some changes and improvements.
The online enthusiast audience consensus says the Metro Supersoft and NOS weatherstrips are softer than other companies’ products and are quite happy with the feel and fit of the Metro product. Metro weatherstrip construction is not hollow like some other weatherstrips, depending on application, and they are not multiple pieces bonded together. They are also a slightly different shape than other gaskets because Metro attempts to improve upon deficiencies in other weatherstrips.
Concours-restoration professionals prefer original NOS first, for obvious reasons. If they can’t find what they need in NOS, they go to SoffSeal because these reproduction seals more closely mimic the factory weatherstrip look and construction.
If you install a weatherstrip that doesn’t seem to seal properly right away, consider that the rubber may need a few days to conform to the new surfaces: the one it’s attached to and the one it’s supposed to seal against.
If a rubber weatherstrip or seal is rubbing on a window or another seal, lubricate the seal with some clear silicone paste, but keep in mind that silicone and uncured paint don’t get along and will have a terrible reaction. We suggest installing weatherstrips on completely painted surfaces after new paint has been applied (or a good coat of paint is present). Be sure that the paint is completely cured before you attempt to install weatherstrips and seals.
Because the trunk weatherstrip is the only cut-to-fit weatherstrip on the first-generation Camaro, it seems to be the most feared seal to install. All the other seals are formed and only fit one way, unless you’re really talented. Because the trunk weatherstrip draws the most inquiries, it deserves more detailed installation instructions.
The original trunk weatherstrips had a string in the center of the seal; later GM replacement seals had a hollow plastic tube in the center. These internal “back bones” performed a great job in keeping the gaskets taught and in place, especially around corners. Brian’s restorations don’t see much weather so in some cases he doesn’t completely glue his in, so he can pull the seal out of the channel and clean it out periodically. Brian always uses original NOS GM trunk weatherstrips and does not suggest doing this with aftermarket reproduction seals.
The trunk weatherstrip is the seal that you have to cut to fit. It’s always longer than it needs to be. Just about every brand of weatherstrip is thick enough to make it hard to close the deck lid for the first few weeks until it gains a compressed memory. Install both of the rubber trunk bumpers before you start slamming the trunk lid to get it closed. Because the trunk seal is obviously going to have a spot where both ends meet, place the butted joint along the rear near the latch assembly. The seal is often located 10 inches to the left of the latch, but it can be located anywhere along the rear, and this has been documented.
Before gluing the weatherstrip into place, test fit it without any adhesive. Don’t pull the weatherstrip tight when installing it, because as time passes, the seal settles in and doesn’t fit as well.
When putting the seal into the channel, you can push a little extra weatherstrip in the channel. Try not to bunch too much into the channel or the gasket will compress and cause the gasket to get too firm and cause problems getting the trunk closed. On the other hand, don’t put the seal in too short so you can easily get the deck lid closed. The rubber itself could just be inherently too thick for the application and needs time to compress properly.
The weatherstrip channel is about 135 inches long. Dispersed over the entire length of the seal, you could safely add 3 or 4 inches without having too much weatherstrip. Be sure to test fit your seal and close the deck lid. Cut the butt-joint ends very square with a sharp razor blade.
Before you glue your weatherstrip into place, make sure the channel is completely painted and the seams in the channel and at the quarter panel joints are sealed with a thin coat of seam sealer. This is necessary because if water gets past the seal, it will get into untreated areas and start to rust.
Follow these steps to install the seal:
Pull the seal out of the channel a couple of feet at a time.
Put a little adhesive into the channel and put the seal back.
Installing the seal all at once may allow the adhesive to dry too much.
Where the two ends butt together, they should join perfectly flat against each other. You can choose to leave them resting against each other or you can dab an extremely small amount of Super Glue around the butt-joint and stick them together. Don’t get Super Glue on the sealing flap or sealing surface.
Don’t close the trunk until the Super Glue and adhesive have cured, or you may glue your trunk shut.
If you need to tape your weatherstrip down to keep it in place or try to coerce it into a different shape, make sure you don’t use the wrong tape. Only use Scotch 3M blue Painters Tape for Multi-Surfaces or Delicate Surfaces. If you use anything with stronger adhesive you can pull the top sealing surface off the weatherstrip, or worse. Don’t leave the tape on the weatherstrip for more than a day or two or the adhesive may bite into the gasket.
Chevrolet installed the firstgeneration Camaro weatherstrips with black adhesive. It wasn’t very clean about it either. We’ve seen unrestored original cars with excessive adhesive on the surrounding painted surfaces. Nothing too bad, but enough to notice, so if you’re going for a true factory- installed look it won’t hurt if a little adhesive oozes out of the channel. If you’re looking for perfection where everything is as clean as a whistle and perfect, you’re not performing a true “original” restoration. Keep in mind that the factory line workers had to install the seal in a matter of a few seconds. Getting it done cleanly was not the goal; getting it done was.
Use the proper weatherstrip adhesive for keeping gaskets in place. 3M Black Super Weatherstrip Adhesive (P/N 08008) or Kent Automotive Ultra-Stick (black or clear) are the best product to use for installing weatherstrips. The tube allows you to easily apply the adhesive in the weatherstrip channel. The adhesive remains flexible but keeps a strong bond.
The trunk lid has two rubber bumpers to keep the deck lid snug when it’s closed and also to keep the deck lid from crashing down into the tail pan when slamming the trunk lid, which will chip your paint on the trailing edge. These rubber bumpers have been found in two different thicknesses, so pay attention to the fitment of the bumpers on your deck lid. If you leave too much of a gap, the bumpers will not be effective.
Written by Tony Huntimer and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks