Owned by: Tom Panaseny, Tampa, FL
Tom Panaseny grew up on Long Island, NY helping his Dad work on the family cars. In 1969, his neighbor drove home in a new 1969 Camaro Indy Pace Car - white with orange stripes and orange interior. Tom thought it was the coolest car he’d ever seen. It made a lasting impression, and started his love of Camaros.
Money was tight in the early ’70s, so Tom’s first cruiser ended up being a tired old ’64 Mustang, beat up from many years enduring NY winters. It did not take long though, before Tom joined his Chevelle and ’Cuda driving friends and built a total performance 1923 T-bucket with blown 350, and “all of the good stuff.” Talk about one extreme to another!
His first Camaro - a new 1989 IROC-Z - turned into an obsession. Once the loan was paid off, Tom made the car his. He replaced the stock 350 Tuned Port engine with a Lingenfelter-built 420 cube small block (with Vortech supercharger running 7 lbs. of boost), completely made over the drivetrain, and added custom red paint and a tweed interior. Quarter miles of 10.8 seconds at the drag strip were not too shabby either! Features in various magazines including Camaro Performers, Super Chevy and Chevy High Performance immortalized the car, so Tom decided to sell it.
Next up, Tom turned his attention to the often overlooked second generation Camaro. His new obsession was a 1970 Z/28. He did a frame off restoration, gave the stock, numbers matching 350 a rest and dropped in a ZZ430 GM crate engine. That car was sold in 2003.
Tom wanted to do “something different” for his ultimate love: the ’69 Camaro. In 2006, he started searching for ’69 Camaros and finally found this car in the Classic Auto Trader in Orlando, FL. It had recently been relocated from South Carolina. As best as Tom could determine, the car started life as an original SS 350 Camaro. It was now a 396 4-speed car with really nice “DuPont red” base coat/clear coat, deluxe interior and factory 12-bolt.
“Something different” turned into “something better.” The car came apart on a 4-post lift in Tom’s garage and everything was detailed, restored or modified to provide better overall performance. “There are more than a few big block '69 Camaros running around today, I wanted mine to stand out - reflecting a painstaking attention to detail, all the while maintaining that classic muscle car look,” Tom said.
When he got tired of the stock 325 horsepower 396 (simply not enough grunt for his taste), Tom turned to local engine builder, Gil Alfaro in Riverview, FL for help building a new 496. The goal was 600 hp and 600 lbs-ft in a streetable big block.
They started with a new World Products Merlin III block, and after much collaboration decided on Brodix 115cc Race Rite Oval Aluminum heads with 2.25 intake and 1.88 exhaust valves. The PAC nitrided Beehive springs (rated at 180 lbs on the seat and 475 lbs open), keep the custom Comp Cams Hydraulic roller cam in check. Cam specs are a streetable 242/248 duration with .631/.626" lift. Comp Cams Ultra Pro Roller Rockers and Morel Sportsman Hydraulic roller lifters round out the valve train. The intake is an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap underneath a custom-built Pro-Systems 986 cfm carb. The exhaust is spit out through 2" Hooker Competition headers into a dual Magnaflow exhaust. A Pertronix III distributor feeds the Taylor 8.2 mm ignition wires. The Melling HV Oil pump is always pumping Brad Penn Performance Oil.
The stock Muncie was replaced with a Keisler Tremec TKO-600 kit. The rear gears are 3.73 with new Moser Axles spinning the American Racing 17" wheels and BFG radial T/A tires. Cal Trac traction bars and Hotchkis weld-in subframe connectors help keep the torque on the ground. The suspension is Hotchkis front and rear springs, lowering the ride height 1.5 inches with Edelbrock shocks and a fast ratio AGR power steering box.
A 3" thick Griffin Aluminum radiator with March Serpentine system using the stock clutch fan keeps the 600 hp big block cool in the Florida heat. The pulleys, frame stands, valve covers, air cleaner, intake and other parts were all powder coated by Alan at ProCoat Performance Coatings in Tampa.
The addition of Auto Meter "bowtie" gauges in the factory console which monitor fuel, voltage, temperature and oil pressure are the only changes to the factory deluxe interior.
Tom remarks, “It's taken 6 years of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point.” He still plans to upgrade, including new Wilwood 4 wheel discs brakes. He drives the Camaro to local cruise-ins, shows and just for fun. And, has always taken home some type of trophy at all the events he has attended.
For the past 16 years, Tom has been a member and club VP of the Sunshine State Camaro Club. This association has led to his next project; a one-owner 1967 Camaro. The owner’s widow reached out to the club looking for a buyer who would treat the car as her husband had. “Roy’s car” will undergo a frame-off re-build with a pro-touring theme.