Underhood, the subdued elegance persists, with shades of silver, gray, and black highlighting a distinctly mechanical theme. Powering the Camaro is a 540 big-block featuring a Dart block, Callies crank and rods, and Wiseco 10.5:1 pistons. Matched with Dart Pro 1 aluminum cylinder heads, an Edelbrock intake manifold, and a COMP solid-roller cam, the Rat puts out 712 hp and 693 lb-ft of torque through a Tremec T56 six-speed stick. That’s some mighty impressive hardware, indeed, but in true street rod fashion, it takes a back seat to the stunning craftsmanship surrounding it. Johnson transforms even the most insignificant and utilitarian of parts into works of art. The air cleaner is a custom-formed, dual-snorkel piece that draws air from beneath the cowl like a ’60s road race machine. The valve covers, oil cooler bracket, and upper radiator mount are all custom CNC-machined with a recurring triangle theme tying them all together. Even the valve cover breather and hood hinges are custom machined items.

Like any proper Pro Touring machine, Nathan’s Camaro packs all the right stuff in the suspension department. Up front is a hydroformed Detroit Speed and Engineering front subframe assembly, control arms, spindles, and sway bar. In the rear, the stock leaf springs have been dumped in favor of a DSE four-link setup. Bilstein shocks and Hyperco springs are situated at each corner, and six-piston Brembos and four-piston Wilwoods clamp the front and rear rotors, respectively. Getting it all to stick are Forgeline wheels measuring 19x10 in front and 20x12 in the rear wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. For now, Nathan plans on logging as many street miles as possible before taking the Camaro out for a road course thrashing.

As a man who has applied the street rod formula of fastidious attention to detail to muscle cars, Johnson is extremely well versed in what that arduous process entails. He’s keen to point out the little things that the average enthusiast may never notice. “The hardest thing about a build of this caliber is making everything fit properly, like the grille inserts, bumpers, windows, and moldings. We had to go through six different rear windshields on this Camaro in order to get one that fit right, so the factory tolerances definitely leave a lot to be desired,” he says. “In the ’30s, cars were merely transportation and people didn’t care about body gaps. After WWII, people were just excited to be driving cars again so the gaps were even worse. For a while, people just wanted to restore their muscle cars, but now people are willing to spend some money on them and go all out. We keep all the body gaps on our cars at less than 1⁄16 inch, and it’s the little things like this that are taking muscle cars to the next level. Things have definitely changed, and you’re not going to build a street rod that drives as nicely as a muscle car.”

Nathan intends to use his Camaro for more than just cruising and showing, but even if he weren’t, it’s still a damn impressive piece of work. Considering hot rodders as a whole are all fighting the good fight against hybrids and ethanol-diluted gasoline together, can’t we all just get along? Ultimately, regardless of how they’re used, everyone wants to make their cars as cool as possible, and that’s something at which Johnson and the JHRS team are second to none.

By the Numbers

1969 Chevy Camaro

Builder: Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop
Owner: Nathan Powell • Chelsea, AL


Type: Chevy 540ci big-block
Block: Dart Big M bored to 4.500 inches
Oiling: Melling pump, Stef’s road race pan
Rotating assembly: Callies 4.250-inch forged steel crank and rods, Wiseco 10.5:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: Dart Pro 1 aluminum castings
Camshaft: COMP Cams solid-roller
Induction: Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap intake manifold, Holley 850-cfm carburetor
Fuel system: Fuel Safe fuel cell; Holley mechanical pump and regulator
Ignition: MSD billet distributor, coil, plug wires, and 6AL box
Exhaust: custom by Johnson’s 21⁄8-inch long-tube headers and X-pipe, dual 3.5-inch inlet/outlet Flowmaster muffler
Cooling: Walker radiator; Stewart water pump, custom electric fan
Output: 712 hp at 6,000 rpm and 693 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm
Built by: Automotive Specialists Racing Engines


Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed, Lakewood bellhousing, Tilton triple-disc clutch and pressure plate
Rear axle: Currie 9-inch rearend with 3.70:1 gears and Posi differential


Front suspension: Detroit Speed and Engineering front subframe assembly, spindles, control arms, and sway bar; Hyperco springs and Bilstein shocks
Rear suspension: Detroit Speed and Engineering four-link, coilovers, subframe connectors, and sway bar; Hyperco springs and Bilstein shocks
Brakes: Brembo 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front; Wilwood 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers, rear

Wheels & Tires

Wheels: Forgeline 19x10, front; 20x12, rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 295/30R19, front; 335/35R20, rear