Over the years, we’ve seen more LS-powered restomods than we can count. From first-gen F-bodies to late-model G-bodies, and everything in between. We’ve seen it all. While we can definitely appreciate the concept and build style, at some point they all get less than original. How many ultra clean first-gen Camaros can you see before it takes more-than-clean to turn your head?
As you may have guessed, we’ve seen more than most so it takes a lot to capture our attention, but that’s just what Jack Warren’s 1969/2002 Camaro mash-up did—it grabbed our attention, and then some. The car first caught our eye at LS Fest Bowling Green. We had just rolled in and were collecting our media credentials when we spotted the car. At first, it appeared to just be another ’69 Camaro. Clearly, we gave it a once over and then moved on.
But after the initial scan, something seemed…off. The car was gorgeous, no doubt about that, but the proportions just seemed a little bit different than they should. However, they were so close that we almost missed it all together. And boy are we glad we took a second look.
Jack’s Camaro is no restomod. No, if anything it’s the reverse. What lurks under the sheet metal of the beautiful creation you see before you is a fourth-gen F-body. That’s right, this F-body left the factory as a 2002 Camaro Z28. But what happened when Jack got his hands on it is nothing short of miraculous.
“That car started as a 2002 convertible Z28 Camaro and we basically removed the whole front dog house and then used ’69 parts that we modify to fit the chassis,” Jack explained. “Measurement wise, if you look at the front of the car, the width of the nose is standard ’69. The grille is the correct width and height and everything, we don’t even modify it. It could come right off and bolt onto a ’69. The only thing we modify on the front of the car is where the fender goes back to the door, we add like 10mm gradually to make it wider to fit that 2002 door—that way we don’t have to do body filler.”
That’s right, the entire front clip of the Camaro you see before you uses 1969 parts that would bolt straight on to a first-gen F-body. Jack tells us that they went to great lengths to modify the panels metal instead of smoothing it with filler to make sure the bodywork would last for decades, just like the originals. Obviously, the panels have to be modified to accept the new mounting locations specific to the fourth-gen, but other than that, everything is identical to a first-gen.
It’s easy to see how the car could fool even our trained eye since, for all intents and purposes, it’s actually a ’69 front end on a 2002 Camaro. But that’s not where it ends either. The treatment is continued at the rear where Jack has used authentic ’69 panels there as well.
“The best part about the way we built it is we tried not to disturb the structure of the 2002, the rockers and everything were left intact,” Jack said. “The trunk lid, taken straight off the car, will bolt right on to a ’69,too–it’s not modified. Even the bumpers will fit right back on to a ’69, so dimension wise, it’s about as close to an actual ’69 car as you can get.
“The trunk lid, taken straight off the car, will bolt right on to a ’69, too—It’s not modified. Even the bumpers will fit right back on to a ’69, so dimension wise, it’s about as close to an actual ’69 car as you can get.”
Once all was said and done, Jack told us that the car is almost exactly 1 inch longer than an original ’69 and 1 inch shorter than a 2002, striking the perfect medium and ensuring that the proportions on the car were just right. Really, the only give away that it’s not actually a first-gen is the door glass, A-pillar angle and doors. Other than that, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the real deal.
You’d also be forgiven for assuming this is a one-off custom, but it’s not. Jack and his partners over at London Auto Sales actually turned out 25 of these cars, some of which have fetched a pretty penny at prestigious auctions such as Barrett-Jackson. And while it may seem like a straightforward procedure, Jack tells us there are over 400 man hours invested in just the bodywork alone to get the cars looking just right.
To streamline the production of the vehicles, however, templates were made out of the first set of fenders and quarters they created for the cars. The originals, on the other hand, were simply worked out with an English wheel, a sharp eye and a sure hand. Metalworking like that is somewhat of a lost art these days but the craftsmanship shines through on every car Jack and his team ever touched.
“We sold our very first car in North Carolina,” Jack reflected. “We took it there to the auto show at Charlotte. It was a Hugger Orange car, and we numbered every single one of them from 1 to 25, and that was the first one. It was around 2008 when we sold that car.”
And though the first vehicle was sold in 2008, Jack and his team had been working on turning their concept into a reality since 2006. Two years of research and work that helped Jack produce his first anti-restomod. By the time they were available to the “public,” the fifth-gen Camaro was well into development and the world was awash with rumors about just what the new Camaro had in store.
Jack told us that he would frequently be approached by people who thought his creation was the new Camaro. “When we were taking it to the auction there, someone pulled up alongside us and said, ‘Hey is that the new Camaro?’ and we were like ‘Yeah, it is,’” Jack remembered with a chuckle.
And though Jack eventually got building the cars down to a science, he told us that the first couple of cars actually used a clam-shell design on the hood and deck lid until they figured out how to get them to open like the originals. Those cars are still out there and are actually even rarer than the other 22 or so with the standard opening gear.
Inside the car, the seats have been recovered in houndstooth to mimic the original first-gen offering, but aside from that, it’s standard fourth-gen running gear, though some models did have their air-bagged steering wheels removed in favor of other period-correct pieces. However, most models retain all of the modern accouterments, as was the reason behind building them in the first place. Jack even refers to this particular car as his “’69 with airbags.”
Under the hood, Jack tells us that each car was modified differently, depending on how the mood struck them. The same goes for the exteriors of the cars. No two cars are identical. Every single Camaro produced used something different, and that includes the drivetrain. Jack says that they did everything from a simple bolt-on LS1 to a built LS7 in one of the cars, and everything in between. This particular model has a simple breathed-on LS1 that puts out a bit more power than stock but keeps things pretty tame.
You may be wondering if they ever built a hardtop version and the simple answer is no. All 25 cars produced were convertibles due to the hatchback styling of the fourth-generation F-body. However, Jack tells us that he is working on a ’70 1/2 replica that actually uses a hardtop and the same fourth-gen underpinnings, but we’ll have to wait to see what it ends up looking like, though we’re sure it will be stunning just like this.
The best part is, every single one can be repaired using standard fourth- or first-gen parts meaning that just about everything can be fixed by a shade-tree mechanic, though heaven forbid you ever get in a fender bender with one. As we mentioned earlier, there are over 400 hours invested in just the metal work alone. And that doesn’t include the paint jobs, some of which could range as high as $12,000, according to Jack.
And though Jack is still toying with the idea of making a new model, the production run for these ’69/’02 Camaros is officially over. Jack’s is the last one ever produced and he says that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Not because he hasn’t toyed with the idea of selling it, but because he wife repeatedly tells him “Nope, you’re not selling it, that’s my car.”
So, if you’re looking to get your hands on one of these, it’s not going to be cheap and you’re probably going to have to talk Jack’s wife out of it. Either way, owning one of these is the both of best worlds, with its vintage looks and relatively modern drivetrain. And we can say this, it certainly stands out in a crowd, as long as you know what you’re looking for.