Any fan of drag racing knows the legend of Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and the early days of NHRA Pro Stock that he compete in with a variety of early Camaros, including this 1969 model We call this car a “tribute” since it’s still a tad unclear that it is one of his original cars, but we bought it from a man that worked with Jenkins in Pennsylvania and ended up with this car, turning it into a bracket car before blowing up the engine and sticking it in his garage for several decades. It had been repainted and the owner had removed all the stickers that Grumpy originally had on the car, but he swore it was the real deal and sometime after we got it and did some investigation of the car itself, we found a few secret clues that makes it fairly obvious that it was indeed, a legitimate Grumpy Camaro.
So, we built it as a tribute to Grumpy with a big-inch small-block Chevy and a Powerglide transmission (not the 4-speed that Jenkins was known for). The engine was built by a local engine builder that is well-known for NASCAR and drag engines and when we asked our shop guy Crimson Sanders about where the recommended shift point should be, he just smiled and said “I’m not going to tell you”—meaning that it is built to spin very high rpm. The car has just been finished so we have yet to make a full at-power pass on the dragstrip with it, but in brief shakedown runs at the track, we’re pretty sure it’s a high-9-second car. The car is ready to run as it sits now, but is truly meant to be in a museum somewhere where the complete Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins story can be told.
Jenkins was well-known for building high-winding Chevrolet small- and big-blocks. For this car we chose to build a small-block, with well over 350 ci (more like 427 cubes) and had a local engine builder known for his drag and NASCAR engines put this one together with all the best parts. Knowing it needed to spin a lot of rpm, when we asked our shop guy Crimson Sanders about where the recommended shift point should be, he just smiled and said “I’m not going to tell you.” The car has just been finished so we have yet to make a full at-power pass on the dragstrip with it, but in brief shakedown runs at the track, we’re pretty sure it’s a high-9-second car. While Jenkins was well known for shifting his own gears, we went with a TCI-built 2-speed Powerglide since we had it and it’s a proven transmission.
Just like back in the day, the car has a basic ladder bar setup with a Dana 60 rearend with 4.30 gears and stock-style, non-adjustable shocks. The tires are Hoosier 31.5-inch tall, 13.5-inch wide slicks on Cragar SS wheels. The front is stock ’69 Camaro with disc brakes and Hoosier skinnies.
There is no fluff in a race car, so the interior only uses parts for speed. A fiberglass bucket for the driver, full cage with window net, a TCI Outlaw shifter, a dash-mounted SUN tach, a switch panel, and just enough gauges to tell the driver information on oil pressure and water temperature. An MSD 6AL ignition box is also mounted on the passenger’s side of the trans tunnel.
Painted the car in traditional Grumpy colors of white with a black hockey stick stripe and we tried to duplicate all of the vintage sponsor stickers that were on the car in 1969.