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It seems like everyone loves ’69 Camaros. Even people who say they don’t like Camaros like ’69 Camaros. We like to think this particular car is one of the reasons the ’69 has been such an enduring icon of the muscle car era.

 

If you think you’ve seen this car before, you probably have. The Innovator has been in more than 20 magazines over the years, on multiple TV shows, and has even made a cameo appearance in a movie or two. Not bad for a car that started life as a 307-powered RS convertible.

 

Here’s some background on the Innovator: Back in 2001, YearOne had just released a catalog covering 1982-2000 model Camaros and Firebirds. As part of the promotional efforts for this book, we built a hot-rod ’95 Z28 project car. We upgraded the Camaro with some bolt-on goodies, added a few suspension pieces and learned a great deal about both the late-model vehicles and the people that played with them. (At this point, you’re no doubt wondering what this has to do with the Innovator, but hang on, we’re getting to that.)

 

Along about this time, Kevin King, our fearless prez, was looking for a car of his own. Like virtually everyone else in the world, Kevin really liked ’69 Camaros, particularly ragtops with RS front ends. Kevin also wanted a car he could drive and enjoy, whether that meant blasting down the drag strip or putting a few hundred miles under the car on the way to the beach. What he wanted, he said, was a ’69 RS ragtop that performed and drove like the new Camaros we’d recently learned so much about.

 

 

That started the Innovator project – where we combined the classic look of the ’69 convertible RS with most of the drivetrain from a ’98 Z28. Getting the aluminum LS1, the steering rack and the overdrive tranny into the stock-type front subframe required some fabrication and experimentation, but otherwise the initial build wasn’t too bad. In keeping with the early/late theme, the ’98 seats and console were adapted to the ’69 interior, and a new fiberglass hood was crafted that incorporated a late-style scoop.

 

To say the car was well-received would be an understatement. Enthusiasts everywhere loved the car, and so did most of the magazine editors and television producers who saw it. The highlight of the initial year, 2002, had to be the naming of the Camaro as one of thePopular Hot RoddingStreet Machine of the Year finalists at the annual Goodguys show in Columbus. Even better was the fact that the Innovator was named to the group after 10,000 miles or so had passed beneath it. In fact, it has to be one of the few top five cars ever driven to Columbus for the event.

 

Like most hot rods and project cars, the Innovator is continuing work in progress. Engines have run the gamut from basically stock ’98 LS1, to a 382-inch naturally aspirated stroker, to a blown 382, to the current blown 6.0 liter LS2. Along the way the stock front subframe was replaced with a Martz tubular unit with coil-overs, and the car now features a complete Air Ride Technologies adjustable suspension front and rear.
One thing about the Innovator hasn’t changed, though. It still gets driven and beat on constantly. The car now has about 30,000 miles on it since it was first built in ’02.

 

Oh, and another thing hasn’t changed – people still love the car. Even those that don’t like Camaros.

Vehicle Specifications:


Engine:



GMPP 6.0L LS2

Magnuson MagnaCharger

2003 Cobra heat exhanger/pump

Comp Cams cam/valvetrain

Stainless Works headers

Flowmaster exhaust

FAST EFI system

FAST coil-on-plug ignition

Fuel System:



Fuel Safe fuel cell

Holley 255 lph in-tank pump

Kenne Bell Boost-a-pump

Aeromotive filter

Aeromotive regulator

MagnaCharger rails/injectors

Cooling System:



Be Cool aluminum radiator

Be Cool SPAL electric fans

Transmission:



TCI 4L60E 4-spd automatic

TCI lock-up converter

TCI T-Com trans controller

Front Suspension:



Martz tubular subframe

Adjustable tubular control arms

Air Ride Shockwave system

Martz rack/pinion steering

Rear Suspension:



Air Ride AirBar 4-link

Air Ride Shockwave system

Body:



YearOne composite hood

YearOne ’69 TA rear wing

DSE electric headlight doors

Brakes:



SSBC Tri-Power front calipers
13″ front rotors

SSBC rear calipers
12″ rear rotors

Interior:



AutoMeter gauges

DSE instument panel

Modified ’98 Z28 console

’98 Z28 seats

Entertainment System:



Alpine head unit

Boston Acoustics amps/speakers

Rear Axle:



Moser 31-spline 12-bolt

Eaton limited slip

4.10 Motive gearset

HVAC:



Vintage Air

Wheels/Tires:



Foose Nitrous Thrust wheels

18″x8″ front

18″x10″ rear

BFGoodrich g-Force KDW tires

245-45-18 front

295-35-18 rear