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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Readers ride: Stolen 1969 Camaro Z28 races back to life in Hugger Orange without DZ302


Fast times in a stolen 1969 Camaro Z/28. Forty years ago Alabama drag racer, Wayne Simpson, bought a theft-recovered 1969 Camaro Z/28 for $750. The 11,000-mile Rally Sport Camaro received a big-block engine transplant in 1971, then spent the next 13 years at the drag strip racing in Super Stock ‘D’ class. In 1984, when bracket racing became the only game in town, Simpson quit racing. That same year a small-block, new paint and a car cover were fitted onto the low-mile Z/28. Recently, I witnessed Simpson’s first look at the Camaro sealed in a car cover and tarps. “I haven’t uncovered the car in 10 years,” said Simpson.

This stolen-recovery ’69 Z/28 became a drag car after the missing front end and doors were replaced.

The driver
It was the late 1960s and Wayne Simpson was employed at Buffalo Rock bottling in Birmingham. He loved Alabama football and drag racing on the weekends. Simpson drove a fast 1968 Camaro drag car with a 427-cu. inch engine. His first-gen Camaro ran 127 mph in the 1/4-mile, around 10.65 second ETs. “I raced full-time from the 1960s to 1984,” said Simpson. Many nights were spent on Alabama dragways throughout the state. “I raced at Holiday Beach, Green Valley, Lassiter Mountain, Montgomery and Huntsville.”


Wayne Simpson stands watch over the ’69 Z/28 he bought in 1971.


The wreck
Simpson’s brother, Joe, flipped the ’68 Camaro in 1971 and fractured a vertebra in his back while racing the f-body one night. The car was destroyed but luckily his brother was alive. That unfortunate accident forced Simpson to locate another car so he could continue drag racing. “I had to get another Camaro because that was my only race car,” Simpson said.


This M22 tranny has been hammered with the Hurst stick a few times on the track.


$750 1969 Camaro Z/28
Simpson bought a 
theft recovery 1969 Camaro Z/28 for $750 in 1971. The dark green Z/28 had been sitting for several months at Goodgame Garage in Pell City, Alabama until the insurance company released ownership to the garage. With just over 11,000-miles, the ’69 Z/28 was nearly new but it was missing the front end and both doors. The all important 302-cu inch V8 engine was in place along with the factory 4-speed Muncie transmission which came standard in all 1969 Z/28s. Then Simpson paid $1,000 for a front end and doors to make his Z/28 a complete car again.

 1969 Camaro Rally Sports featured hideaway headlight doors with horizontal slits that allowed light to shine through if the doors failed.


Let’s go racing
Not long after Simpson bought the Camaro, he removed the low-mile 302 cubic inch small block engine and Muncie 4-speed transmission. He stored them in the corner of his shop while he converted the Camaro into a Big-Block drag car with a 427-cu inch engine and M22 Muncie ‘Rock Crusher’ 4-speed transmission. Simpson beefed up the Camaro with a 4.11 ratio Dana 60 rear axle out of a Barracuda. He raced the ’69 Camaro for 13 years in 'heads-up' drag racing in the Super Stock 'D' class.



302, gone. 427, swapped. 350, you bet.

“Borrowed” 302 engine sold!
Finding an original ’69 Z/28 with a matching number engine is extremely rare. The first-gen Z/28’s high revving 302-V8s were often blown up and replaced by engines with more cubic inches. Simpson’s theft-recovered Camaro had its original engine until he let his nephew ‘borrow’ it. 
  Simpson’s nephew, in his early 20s in 1971, spotted the Z/28 engine and 4-speed transmission in the corner of the shop. “My nephew wanted to put the Camaro’s engine and transmission in his 1966 Nova,” Simpson said. “I told him that I would let him borrow them but not to sell the car with my engine and transmission.”
  Guess what? The nephew traded the ’66 Nova in at a Chevy dealership in Leeds, Alabama for a new 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle. “I know when you let somebody borrow something, it’s like your giving it to them,” said Simpson. To this day, no tension exists over the loss of the rare Camaro’s low-mile engine. “We still talk all the time,” Simpson said.



10 years of garage clutter rests on the Camaro.


You never know what to expect under the car cover.


Changes colors, engine
Simpson removed two blue tarps and the car cover that protects his Z/28 on a recent Saturday morning. The 67-year-old Simpson has long since given up hot rodding Camaros. "The ’69 hasn’t been over 70 MPH the way you see it." Several years ago Simpson transformed the Z/28 from a drag car into a streetable hot rod. 
A 350-cu. inch/350 HP engine resides under the Z/28's striped hood. “I painted it Hugger Orange in 1984 or ’85,” said Simpson. “And I took the black vinyl top off.” 

All in the family

Simpson gave the car to his son, Scott, who coincidentally was born in 1969. There was one condition put on the ownership of the Camaro. “He could never sell it,” Simpson said. “I asked him to keep it in the family.” The Camaro now has 23,815 miles on the odometer. “My son hasn’t driven it much through the years because he was afraid somebody would steal it.” 


– Jody Potter, junkyardlife.com

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Just 23,815 miles on this 1969 Z/28!


A quick wipe-down and the interior would look good-as-new.


Very little wear on these original ’69 Camaro seats.


243,085 Camaros were built for the 1969 model year.


1969 Camaro Z/28s had 4-speeds and no a/c.


The 1969 Camaro’s rear spoiler produces 130 lbs. of downforce at 115 mph.


20,302 Z/28-equipped Camaros were built during the 1969 model year.


The 1969 Camaro is an icon and on my list of dream cars to own.


Tires were a bit low on air but the Camaro still shines after 10 years under cover.


Hugger Orange paint replaced the Camaro’s original dark green in the 1980s.


Chevy designed the ’69 Camaro with more aggressive body lines.


I bet more repop ’69 Z/28 emblems have been sold than the total Camaro production for 1969.


A 9-3/4" Dana 60 rear axle with 4.11 gears from a Barracuda is bolted under the Z/28.


Spotter alert: Backup lights were installed below the rear bumper on RS equipped Camaros. A Rally Sport front end doesn’t mean it's a true RS.

Send junkyardlife your photos and story:
Email junkyardbull@gmail.com