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It took John Goodby a while to come around on the whole muscle car thing. As the founder of NorCal Rock Racing – a shortcourse series that will be entering its 17th season in March – it’s no surprise to discover that he gravitated more toward motocross and lifted trucks in his youth. Those interests would eventually lead him to become a regular at King of the Hammers and other off-road competitions, but along the way, he realized his passion for high performance wasn’t confined just to the dirt.
“I think the street side of the horsepower game started for me with my fourth-gen Camaro SS,” he says. “It was nothing crazy; typical bolt-on stuff like intake, exhaust, and sort of thing. But one day I came home from racing people up Comp Hill at Pismo Beach in my Jeep, and I looked at my Camaro in the garage. I was like, ‘I need one of those engines in the Jeep.’” That realization inspired Goodby to embark on his first LS swap back in 2003.
While an injury caused by a collision with a drunk driver would put an end his racing career in 2012, he continued to build increasingly hardcore machines in the years that followed. His collection now includes not only supercharged Jeeps and purpose-built rock crawlers, but also a variety of street-driven C10s, a ’64 Impala, and this head-turning 1969 Chevrolet Camaro restomod.
“I guess I’m kind of a cliché car builder in that way, but that’s where I landed,” he jests. “Every kid’s got that one dream car in their head, and for me it was always the ’69 Camaro.” In 2015, his nation-wide search for a proper build candidate led him to a small-block, four speed-equipped car in central California. “It was a runner, painted flat black with gloss stripes. It was already a pretty nice car. I just got excessive with it.”
Initially he started off with the basics – wheels, tires, and suspension upgrades – but it wasn’t long before he decided the car was ready for a more comprehensive reinvention. So, in the summer of 2016, the car went up on the rack and the existing motor, gearbox, rear end, and suspension were all yanked out in favor of more potent hardware. In the engine bay now sits a 434-cube LS7 with a Comp cam, PRC cylinder heads, an MSD Atomic intake, a Holley HP EFI system, and an array of other go-fast components that add up to a peak output of around 700 horsepower by Goodby’s estimation.
“I mean, it’s kind of undrivable, there just isn’t enough tire,” he says with a laugh. “But the Holley HP system has really helped us improve the car’s overall performance. My tuner is in Alabama and I’m in California, and when we were initially doing remote tuning with the factory computer it turned out to be kind of a hassle. Switching over to the Holley system just made the whole process a lot easier, and I really like how plug-and-play the system is.”
The LS grunt is channeled through a six-speed Tremec manual gearbox and makes its way to the rear tires through a Currie rear end with a third member from Yukon Gear & Axle. The mean stance is provided by a Ridetech air suspension system, while subframe connectors and Wilwood brakes at all four corners help modernize the Camaro’s handling and braking capability.
Those hassles during the early stages of the tuning process with the factory ECU actually helped the car earn its nickname, Nightmare. “We were in the shop tuning on it one night, and it backfired,” he recalls. “That blew the intake right in half and lit the engine bay on fire. I thought the whole car was going to burn down.” Thankfully that didn’t happen, but unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the Nightmare-inspiring headaches for the project.
“After we got the mechanical stuff sorted out, I drove like that for a few months, and then it went in for round two – paint and body. At the first shop it went to, it sat there for a year with almost no progress at all. I pulled the car out of there and took it to Rooker's Collision in Auburn, California. It was a three-year process from that point forward, but it got done the right way.”
Complementing the murdered-out paintwork is a set of LED headlights from Rigid Industries, along with Fesler fog lights and tail lights. Raceline wheels wrapped in Nitto high-performance rubber round out the aesthetic package. “With this build I wanted something that was nice and stood out, but was also very usable,” Goodby tells us. The Scat sport seats and Autometer gauges found inside also add to that focus on functionality.
Completed in the fall of 2021, the Camaro has since been showcased at events like Hot August Nights and LS Fest West 2022, the latter of which it spent on display in front of the Holley Performance trailer. Goodby says that at this point he’s just stoked to be putting in seat time with the car, but he does have a few more things in store for this menacing F-body.
“There are a couple of details that I want to clean up, and I’d like to update the brakes and suspension a bit. Ridetech’s got a new self-leveling feature for this air suspension that I want to try, for instance. But that’s really it – there’s not much else that the car really needs. It’s at the point where I want it to be.”
With this Camaro build sorted out, Goodby has now turned his attention to a few other projects that he has in the shop, a few of which may make an appearance at LS Fest West 2023. “We should have a new prerunner-style off-road truck there, and we might have a twin-turbo squarebody at the show as well. Stay tuned.”