Big Creek Restoration Restores John Fairleigh’s 1969 COPO Camaro
The growing availability of reproduction parts make restoring a classic muscle car easier than ever. John Fairleigh, however, chose the hard road when resurrecting his rare 1969 COPO Camaro. He relied on restoring original components that came on the Camaro as well as sourcing new old stock parts for even the smallest pieces – suspension bushings, ball joints, etc. – as well as sheet metal panels.
The 425-horsepower 427c.i. big block car was originally sold in Nebraska and passed through several owners – each of whom did some street racing in it – before sideswiping a pole and being stored in a small garage for several years in the late-’70s. It traded hands again in 1984, landing in the garage of John’s longtime friend, who had plans to use the engine, transmission, and rearend for a Super Stock project. Fortunately, those plans never materialized and the car stayed intact. When his friend was ready to sell many years later, John jumped at the chance and called on Big Creek Restoration in Ellis, Kansas, to bring the Camaro back to life.
The team at Big Creek Restoration handled the necessary metal repairs using NOS metal and factory-style spot welds, and then Big Creek’s Jeremy Clark applied the PPG Garnet Red paint. Subtle white stripes and a white vinyl top completed the exterior look. The only hint this Camaro is a beast hiding in plain sight is the cowl induction hood and the dual exhaust tips.
The high-compression 427 was rebuilt to stock specifications with either original pieces or correct date-coded components. A correct 780-cfm carburetor sits on a stock high-rise manifold. Exhaust gases flow through stock components. A Muncie M22 four-speed transmission with a Hurst shifter feeds the power to a 12-bolt Positraction rearend with 4.10 gears. Date-coded stock 14-inch wheels with dog-dish hubcaps are wrapped in Goodyear Wide Tread F70-14 tires.
The interior restoration was performed by Alex Havens at Haven’s Upholstery in Russell, Kansas. He worked with SMS Auto Fabrics to get an exact shade of red vinyl before stitching the seats and door panels to match the original pattern. Rebuilt gauges and a push-button radio reside in the restored dash. An optional stack gauge option sits on the center console.
The 1969 COPO Camaros came about when a few dealers – Yenko, Berger, Gibbs and others – wanted Camaros with more oomph than the 396c.i. assembly line models offered. They wanted the 427 power to compete in NHRA drag racing against big-block Mustangs and Hemi Barracudas in Super Stock and the soon-to-be Pro Stock categories. John’s meticulous two-year restoration honors the historic significance of the approximately 1,000 ’69 COPO Camaros produced by Chevrolet.
Photos by John Jackson