Tony Whatley's 1969 Camaro SS
...the 69 Camaro is still a favorite
The 69 Camaro has always been a fan favorite, and arguably, the best-looking Camaro ever made. When they were first produced they were a perfect package for tearing up the street, and the drag strip. Add on the Z/28 option and they were a force to be reckoned with on the road course.
Now a day with the pro-touring trend in full force, the 69 Camaro is still a favorite but some argue that it's an overused platform. So how do you set yourself apart from all the others in this ever-growing trend?
Well starting with a convertible is a good start, and if you have the attention to detail that Tony Whatley does, you end up with a car that can't be mistaken for any other.
His style and quality have always been above average
Tony has been around this hobby as long as anyone and at least for this writer, back when internet forums were a more common use for information, has been an idol of mine going on 10 years now. His first car was also a 69 Camaro, that he built with his dad and drove through high school. The car and restoration both were done on a budget but after selling it to pay for college, like us all, wishes he will someday come across it again.
His style and quality have always been above average, never following the same cookie-cutter trend as everyone else. Tony has always given it his all even back in his college years when he became the collegiate 9-Ball champion in his area. This prompted his forum username of “Nineball”, and it has stuck ever since, hence the design machined into the center cap of his wheels.
The vehicle you see now wasn’t supposed to end up as far as it did, but anyone with a project car knows the struggle of scope creep. The car was first purchased from a man in Tennessee back in 2005, it was the only Camaro in his barn full of Chevelle’s so this car was up for grabs.
What he purchased was an original hugger orange 350 SS 4-speed car with a 10-footer paint job that was just a “nice driver” as the original engine was long gone. 9 years later after another 69 Camaro project had left the garage
Tony decided to spruce this car up with a quick rotisserie sand blasting and simple paint job. Of course like every other 60’s muscle car there is always a surprise of some questionable body work hiding behind the paint. This is where Tony wished he would have started with a better shell but decided to take the car to the next level and go beyond a basic restoration anyways.
...original hugger orange 350 SS 4-speed car
The car was sent to GAP racing in Houston, TX for sheet metal replacement and some custom metal work to boot. When the quarter panels were replaced they were widened a half inch around the wheel wells which required the trunk to be widened the same amount. Adding in a pair of DSE mini-tubs gave the car a lot more real estate for some serious steam rollers in the rear.
After this process, Tony was a little burnt out and the car ended up sitting for about a year. Finally, the car was sent to RF customs in Spring, TX which ended up being an amazing place where the dreaded “body shop jail” stories didn’t exist. They flew through the panel fitment, body work, and paint in no time where a beautiful coat of Hugger orange emerged.
The car ended up sitting for about a year.
Finally came what I would call the “fun part” but instead Tony decided to do something crazy, he was going to take the car on the 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour. The problem with this was that the car was a hugger orange rolling shell and it was only four and a half months away.
The stress of the next few months were so bad that Tony turned into a common day Cyborg when a blood vessel burst in one of his eyes. Tony filled the car with an abundance of high tech goodies starting with a Texas-speed performance forged internals LS7 coupled to a T56 transmission from a newer Camaro. Billet Speedtech front suspension was added with their torque arm suspension kit to bring up the rear and a narrowed Moser 12-bolt stuffed in the back. Forgeline GZ3 wheels were fitted with 18x8’s in the front and massive 19x12’s in the rear, wrapped with Toyo R888 tires to help keep the car planted to the ground. A set of 14” 6 piston Wilwood brakes were chosen to help tame the LS7’s fury as well as Tony's heavy right foot
18x8’s in the front and massive 19x12’s in the rear
Two weeks prior to leaving for the power tour the almighty LS7 finally had its first breath of fresh air and the thrash was on. The car was trailered to and from the alignment shop only the day before leaving and its very first test drive was the next morning, which happened to be a 300-mile shot to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Tony left a few hours behind the rest of our group after being plagued with clutch issues but started on his trip anyways with his wife following in the truck and trailer just in case.
He made it most of the way but succumbed to clutch issues and had it towed the remainder of the way and back home again. This is where the car would end up getting its name “Rainmaker”.
Although Tony would run into some rain on his drive to the first Power Tour stop, once getting there we were all sure mother nature was trying to carry all of us away in a flood. After getting things sorted out with the car, It’s first ever 5 car shows were rained out including its most recent local show appearance. The 2017 Power tour was no different where the car would run into rain 3 out of the 5 days on the road.