Black Gold – Dave Tucker’s Family-Style ’69 Camaro
Like a lot of hot rodders, Dave Tucker comes from a family where cars were more than just transportation. Growing up in the Cincinnati area in the ’60s and ’70s, Dave remembers helping his father restore several vintage cars, and Dave had his own ’68 Chevelle to mess with in his late teens and early 20s. Even trips to Missouri to visit his uncle Jim and younger cousin Kyle often revolved around the family’s automotive pastimes.
“Kyle’s dad was always a street rodder, and that got me interested in hot rods,” Dave says.
Dave has been an active rodder in the decades since then, building a number of cars – mostly Model As – just for fun. His cousin Kyle eventually moved to Michigan, helped popularize the pro-touring muscle car movement in the late-’90s and early-2000s with a bright yellow ’69 Camaro called “Twister,” and ultimately launched Detroit Speed, a company that builds performance muscle car suspension systems and related parts, in addition to crafting complete cars.
“I’ve been following Kyle since he got started,” Dave says. “The older I got, the more I thought that if I ever had somebody build me a car, I’d see if Kyle was interested.”
That day finally came a few years ago. Dave approached Kyle about building something and, naturally, Kyle was interested. Though the Detroit Speed team has proven it can craft just about any make and style of car, Dave thought it made sense to do a ’69 Camaro. “The ’69 Camaro is what started his business,” Dave says. “I just thought it was cool. I always liked ’69s.”
Dave soon commenced a nationwide search for a good car to build. “You can’t find a solid one in Cincinnati,” he jokes. He was fortunate to find a clean, rust-free, one-owner ’69 in Florida. The higher price of buying a solid starting point paid off in the long run – even after media blasting, the Camaro needed hardly any rust repair.
The cousins talked a lot about the direction and style of the build. “I said, ‘I want all your stuff on it that you make for a ’69,’ so it would be a good representation of what they build,’” Dave says. There was only one Detroit Speed hallmark Dave wanted to avoid. “I didn’t want a LS,” he says. “I’m a carburetor guy.”
The decision to use a Chevrolet Performance 572c.i. big block helped steer the car’s direction a little more. “We wanted to make this look like it came out of 1969 – like the dealer cars that were modified before they were sold,” Dave says. The theme of an updated, slightly modernized dealer supercar began to take shape.
As Dave requested, the Camaro was treated to “all the Detroit Speed stuff” underneath – a complete front subframe with rack-and-pinion steering and single-adjustable shocks, a QuadraLink rear suspension supporting a 9-inch rearend with 4.30:1 gears, plus a pair of Detroit Speed subframe connectors and mini tubs. Baer brakes helped enhance the upgraded suspension, while 18×10- and 19×12-inch Forgeline CR3 wheels provided an updated spin on a classic five-spoke wheel design.
The 621hp big block received classic touches like orange paint and chrome valve covers, along with enhancements like custom-built headers and a Vintage Air Front Runner accessory drive system. A manual transmission helps provide classic muscle car flavor, but this one is a Bowler-prepped T56 six-speed, making for much friendlier driving on modern freeways.
Detroit Speed fabricator Paul Morgan handled the minimal metalwork that was needed on the Camaro’s body. In keeping with the vintage supercar theme, he crafted a custom heat extractor hood built using two 4-inch cowl-induction hoods, with a little Corvette L-88-style scoop influence thrown in.
When it came to paint, Dave knew he didn’t want the common Super Sport stripes seen on so many ’69 Camaros. “I always liked Yenko stripes,” he says. “I just think that’s a neat combination.” Another thing he thought was neat was gold stripes over a black body, similar to the Hertz Shelby Mustangs from the ’60s. “I’ve never really seen a black and gold ’69 Camaro,” he says. Detroit Speed’s Austin Moor and Michael Neighbors made it happen using PPG materials. The dealer-prepped effect was even carried over to the matching gold spokes and one-off DSE center caps on the Forgeline wheels.
The clean restomod theme carries over inside, where Robert McCarter recovered the stock seats with factory-style upholstery. The Detroit Speed roll cage is barely noticeable, while the Classic Instruments gauges are well integrated thanks to a DSE insert. The black Budnik wheel and white shift knob also play to the OEM theme.
With so many pro-touring first-generation Camaros out there, it can be easy to blend in. This gold-on-black big-block-powered ’69 is just different enough to stand out. Dave credits a lot of that to his cousin Kyle. “He knows how to do it all,” Dave says. Having the backing of the talented team at Detroit Speed doesn’t hurt, either. “Those guys are craftsmen,” Dave says, “They are something else, I tell ya.”
Photos by Alex Stivaletti