It was quick enough to be a cruiser when I first bought it, but I wanted more… -Eric Gustafson
Back in the day, the coolest cats had Pro Street cars that looked fast but had no balls. Things change, and so do trends. Now that it’s no longer cool to be a poser, our hobby is filled with purpose-built machines that actually deliver the performance they portray, and look the part as well.
This trend towards functionality has bred a whole new generation of race cars that ‘show’ as good as they go! Eric Gustafson is a prime example with his 1969 Camaro SS.
This legit Super Sport began life with a 350 small block nestled between it’s fenders, and offered Gustafson the perfect platform to build on. It served him well when he initially bought it as his first car in high school. It looked and ran great, and got a lot of thumbs up from on-lookers. “It was quick enough to be a cruiser when I first bought it, but I wanted more,” Gustafson told us when we caught up with him at a PSCA heads up race.
However as is often the case, Gustafson soon became bored with the Camaro’s mild-manners, and was left at a crossroads. He could sell the SS and buy something quicker, or he could keep it and incorporate all of today’s performance technology into the old school machine. What you’re looking at on this page is the answer.
Bye Bye SBC, Hello Boosted Big Inch LSX
Out went the SBC, and in went a bored and stroked RHS block built by Kurt Urban. The reasons for the LS swap were simple: a lightweight, compact design; an immense aftermarket, and a huge amount of potential. Put boost to one of these motors, and it’s guaranteed that your car will fly.
What you’re looking at is over 1500 HP being produced by 412 cubic inches and one big F1X ProCharger.
That’s just what Gustafson did too, in the form of the massive but efficient ProCharger F1X and a PT 3000 air-to-water intercooler. All said and done, the Camaro puts down a “healthy” 1500 horsepower.
To handle that massive amount of power, the Kurt Urban-built, 412 cubic inch LSX has been fortified with some of the best components that the aftermarket has to offer. Starting from the bottom, the Camaro is equipped with a Callies crankshaft with a set of eight Howards connecting rods positioning an octet of Wiseco pistons into the cylinders.
A set of smallish 8.5 M/T ET Drags do a fine job of getting the Camaro hooked.
Working our way up through the valvetrain, we’re looking at a Cloyes double roller timing chain, a Comp Cams bumpstick (of secret, undisclosed specs), Kurt Urban-spec PAC valvesprings, Jesel shaft-mounted rockers, and Manton pushrods. A pair of ported All Pro cylinders heads sit atop of the block, and in conjunction of the pistons, help provide a total compression ratio of 9.5:1.
Not stopping there, Gustafson’s SS is topped off with a GMPP/Wenger intake manifold, large enough to handle all of the extra air the F1X can throw its way. The spent gasses exit through a set of Big Head Motorsports 2-1/8-inch custom stainless headers feeding to dual 4-inch collector Flowmaster mufflers.
Rounding out the engine mods are a dry-sump oiling system, MSD coilpacks, and a FAST XFI injection system. A B&M-shifted Steve Casner Turbo 400 gearbox sits behind the LS mill, relying on a Continental 6200 stall speed converter to set the correct RPM off of the starting line. Out back, a Chassisworks 9-inch rear sits, stuffed with 3.89 gears.
While much of the original trim remains, the Camaro does include every necessary safety and performance feature needed in a race car of this caliber.
Wrapped Up With A Neat Bow-Tie
Inside the cockpit, you’ll see the twin Kirkey race seats tucked with the 25.3 SFI-certified rollcage, the 43-year-old gauges, and an Auto Meter tachometer mounted on top of the original dash. The exterior is mostly stock, with the exception of the Harwood hood and rear spoiler. Even the Electron Blue hue, though not original to this model year Camaro, is a GM exclusive.
Having had the car painted just last year, Eric’s Electron Blue ’69 glistened in the sun.
Underneath the Camaro is a combination of Varishock double adjustable front and rear shocks, CalTracs mono rear leaf springs, a Chris Alston rear anti-roll bar, and a Chris Alston No Fab suspension up front.
The Camaro currently sits on a set of Weld Racing Aluma Stars 2.0 measuring 15×4.5 in the front and 15×10 in the rear. For rubber, the Camaro relies on Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pro skinnies in the front, and Mickey Thompson ET Drags spec’ing in at 26×8.5 in the rear.
It Came, It Saw, It Conquered
If you’re looking for exact dyno numbers, Gustafson doesn’t have them since his car has never run on a dynamometer. What he does have is a time slip that lays claim to an ET of 5.27 at 142.53 mph in the 1/8 mile. The Camaro’s race weight is 3,530 pounds, that roughly translates to 1,500 horsepower, based on the trap speed.
Having said that, Gustafson has been quite successful with this Camaro over the last two years. He has won SCSN 7 back in November 2011. The following year, the Camaro cleaned house at two WCHRA Outlaw 8.5 races, was was also the points runner up at the NMCA West Outlaw 8.5 class, setting both an ET and MPH trap speed record.
The location for our photo shoot was at Eric’s place of employment, Coast Packing Company. By employment, what we really mean is that Gustafson is the CEO, and we were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves for industrial backdrop we were looking for.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. As Gustafson puts it, “Unfortunately we came in 3rd at SCSN 8 this past November. We got a little greedy on the tune-up in the semi-final and struck the tires. At the very least we could have been runner up. So dating back to SCSN 7 we won 5 out of 10 Outlaw 8.5 races on the West Coast.” Any way you slice it, those are all notable accomplishments, especially for a guy who is only 34 years old.
So dating back to SCSN 7, we won 5 out of 10 Outlaw 8.5 races on the West Coast. -Gustafson
Two-thousand twelve may be the last time this car might hit the track – at least while in Gustafson’s possession. He tells us that’s he’s retiring the Camaro, and will be running an ’89 Mustang in Outlaw 8.5 for 2013, while building another new car for 2014.
The plans for the Camaro are still up in the air. He’s not sure if he’s going to sell it, or put it back on the street. For now, he’s basically going to park it until he decides it’s fate.
The Camaro isn't currently a street car, but Gustafson hinted that it might be again in the future.
Gustafson would like us to mention that he thanks his loving wife for putting up with his hobby, and his family for all of their support, including his dad and friends who have helped him over the years turn what was once a stock SS 350 into something quite a bit more substantial.
As of this writing, the Camaro isn’t street legal, but Gustafson also recently picked up a Fox-body Mustang to have some LS fun with. Even so, we wouldn’t rule out the Camaro making a return to the two-lane blacktop. In the meantime, keep an eye out for this ’69 to line up next to you on a West Coast track.
The view that most opponents see of Gustafson’s Camaro is this one. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.