(first posted 8/12/2012. I still see this Camaro in daily use) So what is this thing with me and white six-cylinder Powerglide gen1 Camaros? The last one inspired a ridiculous flight of fantasy, so maybe this one is baiting me, to trip me up and write something stupid again. Or is it their way of extracting revenge for my going way overboard with its 1970 successor? No, I know what it is: it’s the fact that I refuse to take shots of all the pristine, restored and modded ’69 Camaros that come out of their hiding places on sunny summer Sundays. Well, I’m not going to fall for that….crash!*&#!!
Back off, Great White Camaro Spirit; I actually did shoot this on a sunny summer Sunday, after waiting two years to catch it out of its garage. Seriously. Well, more like a carport; one without a roof, actually. But I could never get decent shots of it, sandwiched between a couple other mundane cars. How often we detoured down the alley, to see if its neighboring car might be gone.
Then one day early this summer, in one of our last seasonal rains, I spotted it in traffic, heading to its lair. Aha! I zipped in behind it, parked two cars over, and stood in the dumping rain for the driver to get out. Now, for some reason, I always assumed it would be a guy, despite it obviously being a six. No, it was a woman, fifty-ish, which made me feel like even more of a stalker than I already did, trying to confront her in an absolute gushing downpour. But in addition to wet, she was cool, and said she’d leave it on the street on Sunday.
Unfortunately, that Sunday turned out to be blazingly sunny. Where’s the ever-present marine layer, when you really need one? Most cars are tough to shoot in the sun, much more so if they’re partly in the shade. And it’s all that much more unpleasant with a white car; a study in contrasts. The Great White Camaro Spirit was out for revenge.
The other unfortunate thing about this whole affair is that I really wanted to know a bit about this Camaro and its owner. Was it her first and only car? Hard to imagine; how many miles would it have by now? A hand-me down from…an aunt? Mom? Dad?!? How many guys would have bought a six cylinder Powerglide ’69 Camaro? This is the ultimate all-American hot-blooded pony car; and I guess I’m going to have to use the word “icon”, even if I promised myself I wouldn’t.
Let’s let a few facts get in edgewise here: this really is a six cylinder ’69 Camaro. I actually got down on the ground to look at the engine’s undersides enough to absolutely confirm that. The lack of a 327 badge on the front fender should have been enough, but you never know. And it really does have a column-mounted shifter for the Powerglide. Uh oh; better run to my second- favorite site and do some quick fact checking………oops; the Turbo-Hydramatic was also available, as well as the Powerglide, in 1969, even on the sixes; which were either the standard 140 (gross) 230 incher, or the 155 hp Turbo-Thrift 250.
And there’s more: it could have the legendary Chevy Torque-Drive, a Powerglide with a lobotomy, so dumb it doesn’t even know when to make its one shift between Hi and 1st. Just leave it in Hi, and listen to the six whine and wheeze. Car Counter: here’s what you’ve been looking for.
It cost some $100 less than the smart version; in 1969, some Americans really were still watching their pennies. Quaint. So am I going to have to hop on my bike and ride a dozen blocks to go check which one it is? Here’s the deal: I’ll look at it next time I’m there, and if it is a THM or T-D, I’ll do a follow-up. Good enough?
We do know it’s not the three-speed or four-speed manual. Wow! Five different transmissions available on a six cylinder Camaro. And not one of them with an overdrive ratio. Yup, O/D was not available on the three speed. Gas was getting cheaper (inflation adjusted) all through the sixties. So what was the last year for overdrive? Now that would make a good subject for a post: the death of overdrive, before it re-emerges in its new form.
And just how many of the ’69s were sold as sixes? My trusty Encyclopedia says….exactly 25%. A bit more than I would have guessed. And how many didn’t get their sixes ripped out in favor of a V8, big or small?
We all know the basic Camaro genesis story, so we’re not going to repeat it here. But let’s just say that the ’67 and ’68 had a very modest face; as in cheap, or hurried, or something that caused it to look like it was a bit low in the IQ department.
The biggest change for the 1969 was a significantly more dynamic front end. It looks so much more awake and on the ball than the dull and sleepy ’68. Downright eager, even. Just don’t even mention the current Camaro; thank you.
The odd thing about that is that the ’69 front end is almost a dead ringer for the one on this 1964 XP-836 clay concept for the ’67 Camaro. Was it four bucks too expensive, like the 1960 Corvair’s anti-sway bar? The legendary GM bean counters hedging their bets, not yet aware that the pony wars were going to go thermonuclear? GM hated playing follow-the-leader, and the very safe 1967 Camaro shows that.
But by 1969, it was starting to feel just a bit more self-confident. New lower-but-wider hips and squared-off wheel openings gave the Camaro a more sculptured look along its sides, that really worked rather effectively.
And the previous rear end which also seems to have been bean-countered into a generic facsimile of a rear end,
developed a bit more character for ’69. I dunno; looking at these two, maybe I’m just blowing smoke out of my exhaust. Let’s just say that the ’69’s new perkier face was the best thing it got that year of the various cosmetic changes.
That’s better, moving to the less shadowy curb side of the Camaro. We haven’t talked about its wheels and tires: No Rally Wheels!! From this vantage point, those tires seem to fill out their wheel houses reasonably well, sitting on stock-looking steelies and certainly stock dog dishes.
Let’s take a look, just to appreciate a ’69 Camaro without giant bulging tires stuffed in its fenders. 215/70R14. That’s a bit bigger than stock, which would equate to a 195/75R14, on 5″ wide wheels. These are almost certainly 6″ wide wheels. Well, so much for my headline.
So what exactly has made the ’69 Camaro so über-popular? Memories of a distant youthful longing that was never fulfilled at the time? Or re-living (in perfected form) that heap of a battered ’69 Camaro that finally had to be shot dragged to the dump in 1977? But I suspect this owner doesn’t fit into either of those categories quite so easily, which of course may explain why she’s driving a grungy survivor six cylinder as her sole daily driver. Or maybe she knows something we don’t: that the value of her last unmolested ’69 Camaro six now vastly exceeds that of every resto-modded 502-powered Z/28 clone. Doubly so if it has Torque-Drive.