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Angelo Vespi’s 1969 Camaro by Detroit Speed

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 4/1/2015 Brandan Gillogly

Angelo Vespi’s 1969 Camaro, built by Detroit Speed and recently debuted at the Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio, took home a GM Design award for Best Chevrolet Sports Car and also the top spot in the new Battle of the Builders award, as chosen by the country’s top car builders. Here are the details that caused other builders to take notice.

A custom rear valence houses trapezoidal exhaust bezels fabricated from stainless steel. Also note the rocker panels extend and wrap under the car. © Provided by Hotrod A custom rear valence houses trapezoidal exhaust bezels fabricated from stainless steel. Also note the rocker panels extend and wrap under the car.

Starting with a decent 1969 Camaro, the crew at Detroit Speed in Mooreseville, North Carolina, led by project manager Michael Strubeck, stripped the body shell and got to work on a number of major modifications that are actually easy to overlook. For instance, the cowl panel was eliminated and the hood extended from the grille opening all the way to the windshield because there’s also no header panel. That alone didn’t change the silhouette of the car, but it did get rid of a lot of seams that would otherwise interrupt the car’s lines. The custom hood was then given a set of scoops that would feed the engine cool air. The rocker panels were extended and wrapped under the car, another often-missed facet of the build.

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Starting with a steel cowl hood, Detroit Speed lengthened it forward and back, eliminating the header panel and wiper cowl. © Provided by Hotrod Starting with a steel cowl hood, Detroit Speed lengthened it forward and back, eliminating the header panel and wiper cowl.

Angelo commissioned Detroit Speed to do the build because of its reputation in the aftermarket industry for designing and building suspensions that leave 1960s handling in the dust. Consequently, Detroit Speed pulled out all the stops to give the car the handling of a late model along with most of the comforts. The rear suspension uses a Detroit Speed Quadralink four-link and coilovers in place of the factory leaf springs. The Quadralink ties into the factory subframe and eliminates axlewrap while reinforcing the body by adding a shock mount that ties the two sides together. Detroit Speed offers both 12-bolt and 9-inch rear axle options, and Angelo opted for the 9-inch with 31-spline axles and a Moser Pro N centersection fitted with a Truetrac differential for this build. A set of Detroit Speed Deep Tubs were welded in place of the factory inner wheeltubs. Combined with the Quadralink, and a bit of sheetmetal massaging on the outboard side of the wheelwell, the Camaro now wears a set of steamroller-sized 345/40ZR19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport rear tires.

Sideview mirror stalks were recessed into pockets in the doorskins to better blend in with the body. Rather than perching on the door, the mirrors now seem like they were carved from the same material as the body. © Provided by Hotrod Sideview mirror stalks were recessed into pockets in the doorskins to better blend in with the body. Rather than perching on the door, the mirrors now seem like they were carved from the same material as the body.

In the front, the factory F-body subframe was replaced with a Detroit Speed hydroformed subframe. Built using the same hydroforming process as late-model OEM frames, the Detroit Speed subframe uses high-pressure water to form steel tubing into the complex shapes required. This low-temperature process helps make a stronger, more precise part from a single piece of steel. The subframe uses unique suspension geometry with tubular upper and lower control arms and a proprietary forged spindle. The Detroit Speed subframe and suspension uses a tuned rack-and-pinion for improved steering response and plenty of power to turn the 275mm Michelin front rubber.

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A Bosch accelerometer mounted on top of the trans behind the shifter measures acceleration and braking, as well as lateral acceleration of cornering. It works in conjunction with wheel speed sensors to give the Camaro antilock brakes.

A Bosch accelerometer mounted on top of the trans behind the shifter measures acceleration and braking, as well as lateral acceleration of cornering. It works in conjunction with wheel speed sensors to give the Camaro antilock brakes.
© Provided by Hotrod

To allow the suspension to work to its full potential, the Detroit Speed crew fabricated a rollcage that closely follows the A-pillars and tucks up close to the roof. The vertical bar matches the door opening to be as unobtrusive as possible. It’s easy to miss the cage in the rear, as it enters the trunk through the package tray close to the C-pillar, but at the A-pillar it’s practically invisible. With the fabrication complete, the underside of the body was sprayed in textured rubber undercoating for a quiet ride and for durability, while the interior was sprayed in semigloss black before getting a full wrap in Dynamat Xtreme to reduce road noise and give the car a solid feel.

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New custom door panels and dash were sculpted from aluminum by fabricator Aaron Elenbaum to create a more integrated interior, with the top of the dash pad blending into the upper door panel. All of the engine vitals are displayed on a Racepak data logger in front of a billet aluminum wheel, keeping the important info right where Angelo can see it in one glance. A fifth-generation Camaro shift knob and boot were used in a center console, keeping with the rest of the understated and simple interior. A single knob controls the heating and A/C, while a small LCD screen and LED report on the status of the A/C compressor. All four window switches are in the console, eliminating wiring and switches from the doors. The audio system is uncluttered as well. A shallow tray folds down from the center of the dash to hold an iPhone for audio duties on the Sony XAV-712HD, a 7-inch AV receiver that allows phone apps to be displayed right on the dash. Audio is handled by Polk components in the package tray and doors, and two 12-inch Focal subwoofers are aimed right between the shoulder blades of rear-seat passengers.

The signature gills on the quarter-panel were hand-formed to give them a more modern feel. Wheels are from Rushforth and measure 18x10 in the front, 19x12.5 in the rear.

The signature gills on the quarter-panel were hand-formed to give them a more modern feel. Wheels are from Rushforth and measure 18x10 in the front, 19x12.5 in the rear.
© Provided by Hotrod

Like the fabrication and assembly, the Camaro was painted in-house at Detroit Speed by Michael Neighbors and Ted Dobkowski . The flat white paint and subtle graphics in the stripe are the most striking thing about the car from a distance. Had Angelo decided to go with hugger orange and a set of 17-inch, five-spoke wheels, this Camaro would seem virtually original, and that’s kind of the point.

The LEDs, set in a billet aluminum bezel behind the chin spoiler, give the car a bit of European supercar flair. Aluminum trim was added to the Rally Sport headlight covers to make them more substantial. © Provided by Hotrod The LEDs, set in a billet aluminum bezel behind the chin spoiler, give the car a bit of European supercar flair. Aluminum trim was added to the Rally Sport headlight covers to make them more substantial.

1969 chevrolet camaro detroit speed front three quarter © Provided by Hotrod 1969 chevrolet camaro detroit speed front three quarter
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