Road Rules! Gene Welch’s Coast-to-Coast 1969 Camaro
Gene Welch’s Camaro is proof that cool things indeed come in simple packages. The car’s use and purpose have evolved through the years, eventually leading to more than 40,000 long-haul miles across the country during eight years of Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tours.
The Camaro began as a father-and-son project back in 2005 with the simple goal of building a clean restomod cruiser. The objective quickly shifted into building a machine that could tackle track days with ease. Based in the Bay Area San Francisco Bay Area, Gene knew he wanted to visit historic California racetracks such as Lagua Seca, Sears Point, Thunder Hill, and more for track days and local AutoCross events.
Considering the planned track excursions, Gene used Hotchkis components to upgrade the suspension when building the car back in 2005. The rest of the build was relatively basic, which has helped the Camaro to be both versatile and reliable – simple 350c.i. small-block engine, Tremec five-speed transmission, American Racing wheels, and a pair of comfortable bucket seats inside. More recently, Gene added a Holley Sniper EFI unit to top the small-block Chevy.
The track day outings lasted for about eight years before Gene decided to sign up for a Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tour in 2013. Since then, he has turned his focus to long-distance road trips. He is one of only two people who can claim they have never missed a Goodguys Road Tour, and the only person who has done them all in the same vehicle.
Gene tells us there are 60,000 miles on the Camaro’s odometer today, and 40,000 of those miles can be credited to Goodguys Road Tours. Inflating those numbers is the manner in which Gene gets to and from each departure and destination location – he drives his car! To put it in perspective, back in 2017 the Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tour departed from Mooresville, North Carolina and worked its way to Texas. Gene drove nearly 2,700 miles coast-to-coast from his home in the Bay Area to North Carolina, just to work his way back west. Talk about dedication!
Getting started on long-haul road trips seems to have been infectious – Gene says he was hooked after the first one. In the past seven years, he has crossed more than 30 state lines behind the wheel of his Camaro. Most of the Northeast states are what remains for him in the Continental 48, but the plan is to visit them all eventually. “You’ll never have more fun and appreciate your car more than when you drive it every day for a week or two,” Gene says.
Keeping things simple with the Camaro seems to have kept things smooth on the road, as Gene has had very few problems during his journeys. “I’ve had two flat tires on road trips,” he says, “so the one tool I always take is a lug wrench, with a jack and spare tire.”
For creature comfort Gene also suggests installing cruise control. Good music is important, too. “At first it was Pandora, but I recently switched to satellite radio for the last Road Tour,” Gene says. “It worked out better when phone reception isn’t as reliable.”
Good tunes, a reliable classic Camaro, and the open road. It sounds like Gene has the right recipe for long-distance cruising.
Photos by Gene Welch & Steven Bunker