Summer of ’69 Featured Ride – Stuart Adams’ stylish, sophisticated 1969 Camaro “Tux”
There’s little doubt that the Camaro is one of history’s most revered muscle cars, and that among all Camaros the 1969 model remains one of the most popular. It seems fitting, then, that Goodguys is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Camaro in spectacular fashion with the Summer of ’69 display at the 22nd PPG Nationals, July 12-14 in Columbus, Ohio.
Over 130 1969 Camaros will gather, from ultra-rare COPO and Yenko examples, to some of the most influential custom builds to come from the hot rodding community through the decades. We’re giving you a sneak peek at a few of those iconic Camaros that will be joining the display, starting with Stuart Adams’ 2018 Street Machine of the Year-winning ’69 built by the team at Detroit Speed.
If James Bond was a car (and American), he might choose to be this 1969 Camaro called “Tux.” Like a finely-tailored tuxedo, Stuart Adams’ car is crisp, tight, elegant, and undoubtedly timeless. It also has a calm, yet commanding presence that turns heads naturally without being flashy and is very sophisticated on the inside.
Stuart grew up with the “cool car crowd” at his high school and has liked them ever since, especially the lines of the 1969 Camaro. He has become friends with Kyle Tucker from Detroit Speed and Engineering over the years and has had DSE build him a few cars. This Camaro was started about nine years ago, when Stuart decided to have DSE build him a “nice driver.” Kyle dug the Camaro up in the middle of the country. It was a solid California black-plate car, green-on-green with a trusty 350 and Powerglide combo that absolutely would not give up during a “we’re going to get a new engine let’s blow the old one up” thrash at a dragstrip.
Work was started and stopped over the years as other projects at DSE were placed on the front burners, but the time that passed allowed the car to mature like a fine wine. In the beginning the folks at HRE had made a one-off wheel for the car. As time rolled on HRE ended up having enough interest in the design that they began to sell it, and who can blame them? Not us, nor Stuart. New wheels were designed by DSE and made by Forgeline a little closer to the car’s debut and there’s nothing like a fresh set of shoes for stepping out, is there?
Stuart’s inspiration for the car stems from an AMG Mercedes he had. It was a bit of a sleeper that packed a punch. He liked the combination of power and refinement and wanted to work that “supercar essence” into his Camaro – without disturbing the car’s integrity. He and Kyle spent many hours and worked through several renderings to create their “ultimate Camaro.” Stuart asked Kyle, left to their own devices, “what would DSE build?” Granted, it wasn’t an “open-budget” build, but there are ways to say more with less. Kyle, Stuart, and the crew at DSE became very fond of the project and it’s become a special car for all of them.
Though definitely a ’69 Camaro in appearance, there are hundreds of modifications to the miles-deep black body. Every panel has been touched, including the quarter panels, front fenders, rocker panels, hood, cowl, and lower valences. The door handles look stock, but the buttons now trigger electronic microswitches that actuate with a gentle push. The drip rails were shaved and the trim bolted on, tight to the body. Advance Plating made both the front and rear window moldings in single solid pieces and handled all of the plating. The DSE team even left the marker lights, where most would opt to shave them.
While the exterior looks stock, the interior is far from the lines of 1969. Stuart and DSE worked with M&M Hot Rod Interiors to create a cabin that was clean, tight, and high tech without being too wild. Recaro seats were modified and covered in Relicate leather with silver baseball stitching. Another set of Recaro cushions was integrated into the rear for continuity and a sleek center console was hand crafted.
While he was always excited to ask, “what would you do here?” Stuart knew exactly what he wanted in the gauge cluster. He’d been impressed with the stacked dials of a Porsche cluster and wanted that look for the dash. They worked with Classic Instruments to bring it to life and it really hammers home the performance feel. There’s even a roll bar for good measure.
Kyle brought in a repeating block of dimples as a design element that was gently spread throughout the cabin. DSE also designed the one-off billet steering wheel and shifter, and the whole car is controlled by a state-of-the-art Xfinity system through the touch screen. It even has its own IP address on the Internet, and all of the car’s functions can be adjusted on the screen.
With DSE as the builder, the suspension is no surprise and rock-steady. One of Detroit Speed’s hydroformed subframes is used up front and a QuadraLink rear suspension supports the Ford 9-inch rear from GearFX. The four-link setup attaches to a custom set of rear frame rails and is flanked by DSE’s mini-tubs to house the 20×12-inch rear wheels. Baer 6R R-Spec brakes are 3-pounds lighter than Baer’s other rotors, with a floating rotor design and forged aluminum calipers.
Those brakes could very well be put to test and much needed. There’s a Kurt Urban-built LS3 stuffed under the hood, swaddled in a sheet metal blanket of custom panels and topped with a Harrop TVS supercharger. Based in Australia, Harrop and Eaton share a synergy for research and development and work together on design, development, and delivery of their products.
Stuart says the DSE crew called him in saying they “wanted to talk” about the engine. Now, any guy knows that’s usually not a good thing, but they pitched their idea of skipping the usually muted colors and doing the engine in classic Chevy orange. He immediately liked the idea and requested that it be as shiny as possible. One-off valve covers by DSE emulate classic stamped metal small-block versions, and cloth-wrapped hose and wiring loom was used wherever possible, including the heater hoses and spark plug wires. The results pack a punch when the hood is opened and the meticulous attention to detail fails to snag the eye on anything amiss. It’s the perfect combination. Like a good tuxedo, the style is reserved and in the details.
While the Street Machine of the Year competition has brought out some of the nation’s wildest creations, it’s worth noting that the right combination of timelessness and restraint can also outrun the outlandish. Each year it’s a different crop of contenders and is anyone’s game, but it’s never a contest of “the most-modified is the clear winner.” As proof, “Tux” was able to waltz through the room and leave with the prettiest woman at the end of the night in 2018.
More importantly for Kyle and the DSE crew, Tux is their second Street Machine of the Year winner. Their first win came back in 2000 and helped usher in the pro-touring era of street machines. Like a fine suit, nearly two decades later, they still have what it takes to steal the evening.
Photos by John Jackson