Please don’t sue us for your frostbitten fingers. That’s just the price you have to pay for reading about a car that packs as much cryogenic coolness as Kevin Miller’s ’69 Camaro. Yeah, we know the Velveeta Patrol is going to ticket us for cheesy lines like that, but please bear with us as we try to prove our case. When Kevin says that he built his car, he really means it. We’re talking about some serious custom fabrication, not the typical bolting on of mail-order parts. Using nothing more than his bare hands and a welder, Kevin fabbed his own rollcage, tubular front subframe, rear sway bar, control arms, and chassis bracing. How cool is that? Fabrication skills aside, the dude can flat out drive, too. Going up against the biggest-name shops in the country at PHR’s inaugural Muscle Car of the Year competition last summer, Kevin’s Camaro posted the third-fastest autocross lap average. That’s despite nursing a fragged clutch. So while you might run across a nicer Pro Touring machine, if there’s a cooler car/builder/driver package than Kevin and his Camaro, we’ve yet to find it.
The Camaro is plenty cool in its own right, but that’s just half the story. At 26 years old, Kevin is half the age of the typical muscle car enthusiast. How cool is that? Unlike most young punks who have little appreciation for old-school Detroit iron, he spends his days building ’69 Camaros out of his garage, not Facebooking out of his mom’s basement. He attributes his love of muscle cars to his stepdad, Scott Mock, who exposed Kevin to the art of building race cars since early childhood. “My stepdad’s been building cars around me since I was a little kid, so it naturally rubbed off on me,” Kevin says. “Five years ago, I helped him finish up an LS-powered ’69 Camaro that was built as a tribute to Mark Donohue’s SCCA Trans-Am racer. I started driving that car in the autocross and at various Pro Touring events, and I got hooked. I had to have a Camaro of my own.”
All the years Kevin spent helping his stepdad turn wrenches paid off, as Scott set him up with a smoking deal on a spare ’69 Camaro he had sitting around in 2007. The car was nothing more than a bare metal shell, but very solid where it counted. “The only metalwork I did was smoothing out the firewall and installing mini-tubs,” he says. “The car was in primer when I got it, so all I had to do was some block-sanding and prep work before sending it out for paint. My friend Brian Kellison of Kellison Kustoms laid down the paint, and I helped him out as much as I could. I’ve given up a lot over the last four years to build this car, and doing all the fab work myself really saved a ton of money.”
Custom pieces aren’t limited to the outside. Not only do the custom A-pillar plates look c
When it came time to dive into the mechanical elements of the build, Kevin’s objectives weren’t that different from that of many Pro Touring enthusiasts. “I wanted a car that could run competitive laps on the autocross and road course, but was also comfortable enough to drive on the street to shows and cruise nights,” he says. While that’s a very typical set of goals, Kevin took a very atypical approach to accomplish them. Studly fabrication chops combined with a peculiar aversion to bolt-on parts has resulted in a car that redefines the meaning of homebuilt. “My stepdad has had his own welding business since I was born, and he builds cars for customers out of his shop, Vintage Racing and Performance. I’ve been around welding and fabricating since I was a kid, and I work as a welder at a forklift factory. I used the tubing bender in Scott’s shop to build the rollcage, chassis parts, and exhaust for my car. Everything else was done in my two-car garage.”
The long list of custom-fabricated components is mind-boggling to say the least. Take a gander at those epic 18x11 front Forgeline wheels. To get them to fit, Kevin built a custom tubular subframe assembly that was narrowed 4 inches. Furthermore, he tied it into the firewall with custom bracing, and additional networks of tubing fortify the shock towers, inner fenderwells, and radiator core support. How cool is that? Equally impressive are the parts you can’t see. Fully aware that suspension geometry often trumps the type of materials suspension hardware is built from, he kept the stock lower control arms but narrowed them an inch for improved camber gain. That also nets a bigger tire footprint, and therefore improved grip and handling.
Out back, Kevin ditched the stock leaf-spring suspension for a custom two-link setup. While it didn’t work out exactly as planned, you still got to give the guy props for trying and being man enough to admit that there was a better solution. “I built a rear suspension that used two lower trailing arms, a Panhard bar, and a sway bar, all of which were custom built,” Kevin says. It worked reasonably well under most driving conditions, but would bind up when driven hard in corners. To address the problem, I replaced it with a RideTech four-link setup. On the autocross, the RideTech system performs incredibly well.”
To make sure that all the time Kevin toiled away on the chassis didn’t go to waste, he dropped in a GM LS6 crate small-block. Other than a COMP Cams 224/230-at-.050 hydraulic roller camshaft, the motor is stock, but output gets a healthy bump to an estimated 500 hp. It’s backed by a Tremec T56 six-speed manual pulled out of a ’98 Camaro, and a Schreiner Enterprises 9-inch floater rearend. For halting duties, Kevin again opted for a creative, cost-effective solution. While he longed for an aftermarket big-brake kit, he pieced together a stock C6 Corvette setup and made it all fit using custom brackets. How cool is that? New or used, the C6 hardware is very affordable, and boasts twin-piston calipers and massive 13.4-inch rotors.
After busting his rump for three years, Kevin finally pulled the wraps off the Camaro. Although the Pro Touring scene is bursting at the seams with ’69 Camaros that see more car polish than daylight, Kevin’s car never suffered that fate. Right out of the gate, he beat on it mercilessly through the autocross, which is where it first caught our attention. “When I took it out to the Fort Worth Goodguys autocross in 2011, my car was only a tenth of a second slower than the top guys like Detroit Speed and Engineering and Brian Finch,” Kevin says. How cool is that? Over the next year, Kevin ran his car at nearly a dozen autocross events, fine-tuning the chassis setup every step of the way. Kevin went to extraordinary measures to dial in his Camaro, but excellent machinery is only part of why it always ran near the top. “I built my Camaro to be a street car, but I’m a very competitive person. I raced go-karts when I was really young, then raced motocross through my teenage years. I just started getting back into cars in my early 20s, and that itch to compete is always there.”
As events transpired, Kevin made a tradition out of running with the big boys. We were so impressed by how well his car ran at Goodguys autocross events, that we invited him to compete in the inaugural Muscle Car of the Year competition. Despite blowing up the clutch during the speed/stop challenge, which precluded a better finish, Kevin’s homebuilt privateer entry more than held its own against well-funded cars from the usual heavy hitters. The Camaro’s 12.84-second dragstrip average put it in the middle of the pack, but Kevin never intended for it be a straight-line machine. This car’s forte is ripping through corners, and Kevin laid down a stunning 51.64 lap average around the autocross. Only DSE’s ’66 Mustang and The Roadster Shop’s ’70 C10 edged out Kevin’s Camaro. How cool is that? What makes the feat even more impressive is how badly the car was wounded during the event. “By the time the autocross portion of the competition rolled around, the clutch wouldn’t disengage. I had to have a friend help push start the car in Second gear and I had to lug the motor badly, which really killed acceleration off the line,” he says.
Despite the bad luck, Kevin’s success on the big stage running up against the big boys takes his car’s cool factor to a higher level. Here we have a ’69 Camaro built on a blue-collar budget out of a two-car garage that looks the part of a $150,000 pro-built machine. Even so, it manages to hold its own against those machines around the autocross, and looks damn good doing it. To top it all off, this Camaro is the product of a 26-year-old hot rodder who insists on building the key pieces of the car himself. How cool is that? In the meantime, we’ll be looking for more car/builder/driver packages that pack as much cryogenic coolness as Kevin and his Camaro. If you’ve got what it takes to go head-to-head with a car like Kevin’s, keep an eye out for the announcement for the next Muscle Car of the Year competition!