Whenever a great Camaro like this black-on-black RS/SS 396 convertible shows up, the very first thing we do is check the cowl tag. With GM, they made it awfully hard to document legitimate cars, but sometimes, as with this car, you get lucky and the right codes show up on the tag to verify everything that matters. Ill decode the tag for you in a moment, but the most important thing to note here is that this is a real L78 SS 396 convertible restored to top-flight condition in its original color combination. With just one mile (yes, one) since the restoration was completed, this is a car that can compete and win at the highest levels right off the trailer.

OK, here's that cowl tag decode:

ST69 Model year (1969)12467 Convertible NOR Norwood assembly plant345962 Body number TR 713 Black and white houndstooth interior PNT 10 B Tuxedo black with black convertible top06A Built first week of June, 1969X22 Style Trim Group with SS396 (black rear panel)D80 Air Spoiler Equipment

I suppose it goes without saying that the bodywork on this convertible is expertly done and in spectacular condition. If any panels were replaced, the work is invisible because there are no weld seams or other obvious signs of repair, although the rear side marker lights suggest that perhaps new quarters were installed. At any rate, with workmanship this good, it doesn't matter because panel alignment is better than new and the gaps throughout the car are very, very good. The black paint is beyond deep, looking like Loch Ness at midnight so smooth and flawless, and the side stripe is painted on, not a decal, which is a high-quality addition. The cowl induction hood looks awesome in black without the SS stripes, giving this car a very aggressive look that must have been mind-blowing in 1969. Imagine rolling up on some poor schlub in a Mustang at a stoplight in this thing; it looks as nasty as the engine sounds.

In front you'll find the flat grille and hidden headlights, and in back the correct tail lights and low-mounted back-up lights, all easy identifiers for RS cars. Chrome bumpers with a show-quality finish just pop off the black surface, and all the chrome badges have been replaced with exact reproduction units. You'll note that this car carries the optional bumper guards which give it a slightly different look that a lot of people like (myself included). The correct spoiler is still fitted on the deck lid, and without the white SS stripes it looks very aggressive indeed.

In 1969, smart street racers who ran across an SS 396 would listen carefully if they heard 16 tiny hammers on a solid lifter car, they would have to very quickly consider their next move. This car, with its solid lifter L78 big block, was one of the most potent machines on the street and was exactly what most other drivers would hope to avoid. Making 375 horsepower and spinning like a small block, the L78 was far nastier than its numbers would suggest. The one in this car has been fully rebuilt to stock specifications, and runs with that precise mechanical sound that is music to performance lovers. Detailing is show-quality, with the finish on the block being as nice as the paint on some cars, and the chrome has been restored to concours levels. The proper 375 horsepower decals were used on the cowl induction air cleaner, as well as throughout the engine bay to properly replicate a factory-correct appearance. Shift stamps on the cowl reflect the cars original build sequence, and all the finishes are correct, from the cadmium-plated power brake booster to the hood latch. Of course, power steering was not available with the solid lifter cars and the alternator uses a larger-diameter pulley similar to those on the Z/28s for high-RPM use.

Living behind the big block you'll find a correct Muncie M21 4-speed manual driving a bulletproof 12-bolt with surprisingly mild 3.31 gears on a Posi limited slip. Together, however, they make this car a pleasure to drive, and the engines big torque will probably still destroy those bias ply tires at anything under 40 MPH. The chassis components are probably over-restored, with things like powder coated sway bars and springs, and immaculately finished satin black A-arms. Correct decals on all the components give it a highly accurate look and the brightly plated hardware pops against the near-flawless satin black floors. Even the exhaust system is incredible, with polished tailpipes that are hardly ever seen. At this level, you know things like the brakes, fuel system, and spiral shocks are new and fully functional, and it's going to be hard for a judge to find deductions on this undercarriage. Rounding out the features underneath is a set of Rally wheels wearing F70-14 Goodyear Polyglas tires as original.

Is there anyone who doesn't think the black and white houndstooth interior is awesome? It's the perfect complement to the black paint and top, preventing the car from being too severe and taking it up a few notches from simple street fighter now it's more like a heavyweight boxer in a tuxedo. The seat covers are new, of course, and the white is blindingly white, and the black hasn't seen any UV rays stronger than the lights in our photo booth, so it's vivid and dark. New door panels and fresh carpets maintain the same high standards, and the center console is fully restored. The steering wheel is a lovely rosewood piece, which replaced the early style walnut wheel to better match the wood grain appliques on the dash and console. The gauges have been fully rebuilt with crisp, precise lettering and crystal clear lenses, and the console includes the four optional auxiliary gauges to keep an eye on the engines vitals. New black seatbelts complete the interior, featuring new webbing and fresh reproduction buckles. Overhead there's a new black vinyl top that is almost completely wrinkle-free when erected, and we have a new black boot on order to finish it when the top is folded. The trunk features a new mat, correct full-sized spare, and a complete jack assembly.

Restored Camaros don't get any nicer than this, and when you look at the rarity of the L78 motor and color combination, it becomes a very special investment-grade automobile. And while I'm certain it is a spectacular car to drive, this car seems destined to win some big events at the very highest levels before it starts prowling the pavement again. No expense was spared in bringing this car to this level, and at this price, it's like buying the restoration and getting the car for free; that's a real bargain. If you don't agree, go find another car with these specifications and restore it to this level. In the meantime, this one will be busy collecting trophies. Call now!

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1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS

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