Ultimate Find? 9k Mile 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396

Update 10/17/20 – The auction for this Camaro is over $45k with about a day left! How high will it go?

From 10/13/20 – I think that it would be safe to assume that every person who visits our website has their own vision of what their ultimate barn find would look like. I’m also pretty sure that if I proposed a 1969 Camaro SS 396 with a genuine 9,600 miles showing on its odometer, plenty of you would say, “Yes please!” That is what we are told that we have here. Making this classic even more intriguing is that it has only just emerged after being parked in a barn since the early 1970s. The owner has coaxed it back to life, but it will be up to the buyer to return it to a roadworthy state. If you think you’re up to it, you will find the Camaro located in Carlisle, Iowa, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $37,600 off the back of some intense action. However, the reserve hasn’t been met.

The owner claims that the Fathom Green paint that this Camaro wears is original and has never received any touch-up or repaint work. It is in good condition for a car that has been sitting in a barn for decades, and you would have to think that the environment must have been pretty favorable. The paint has a few small blemishes, but it remains presentable if the buyer intends to retain the vehicle as an original survivor. The chrome and trim are in good order for that purpose, and the same is true of the glass. This is a late 1960s pony car, which means that we need to tackle the question of rust at some point. You can see a small area of rust in the lower rear quarter panel in this photo. There is a matching section on the other side. The owner believes that the paint has been gravel-blasted and that the bare steel has started to rust from the outside. That sounds like it would be a possibility, and some of the photos seem to support this claim. Beyond those two spots, the panels are clean. There are no issues with the doors, rockers, or the lower fenders. However, that’s just the entree. Let’s get this old girl up on a lift and take a look underneath.

We’ve now reached the point where this Camaro becomes a real surprise packet. The owner claims that what you see here is original, and once again, there has been no repaint work. When he pulled it from the barn, he pressure-cleaned the underside, and then wiped it over. Chevrolet applied the finish that you see there, and it has never been touched. There is the usual surface corrosion that you might expect to see on brackets and suspension components, but there is no penetrating rust. The condition of the trunk pan and rear frame rails match this, meaning that the person who buys the Camaro won’t be spending a bomb on rust repairs. The owner claims in the listing that the vehicle has a genuine 9,600 miles showing on its odometer. I don’t know whether he holds any documentary evidence to back this claim. However, this photo helps to make such a claim seem plausible.

This is an SS 396, so I’m sure that you expect a 396ci V8 to be residing under the hood. Well, you won’t be disappointed, because there it is. This is backed by a 4-speed manual transmission, while the buyer will also get a 12-bolt rear end and power brakes. This is the moment where I am forced to rain on your parade slightly. The seller is the Camaro’s third owner. The original owner ordered the vehicle outfitted with the L78 version of the 396. With 375hp on tap, that meant that the Camaro could demolish the ¼ mile in 14.4 seconds. However, it seems that he may have asked a bit too much of it one day, and the 396 made one of those loud and expensive noises that we hate to hear from an engine. The engine block and cylinder heads have been changed, but all of the peripheral items are original. It isn’t totally clear whether the replacement engine is also an L78, so that’s a question that will need to be answered. Once the Camaro had been returned to the road, the original owner sold the car to a pair of brothers. They used it for a short time and then parked it in the 1970s. It was from there that the seller finally took possession. He has coaxed the 396 back to life with an external fuel source, but the SS will need some work before it would be classed as roadworthy. Amongst the components it will need is an exhaust. There is nothing beyond the manifolds, so she’d be pretty loud if you kicked her into life right now.

Okay, folks, it’s time to break out the cleaning products. The next owner is likely to be spending more time than money in a bid to return the interior to its best. The seller admits that the carpet probably should be replaced and that the headliner has a couple of small holes. Beyond those issues, there isn’t much to criticize. The seats and other upholstered surfaces are spot-on, while the dash and pad are both perfect. The console is in excellent condition and still houses all of the correct gauges. Nothing has been cut, and there are no aftermarket additions. So, a carpet set will cost $220, and a new headliner will cost $340. Fit those and clean everything else, and the interior of this SS should present in close to as-new condition.

One of the battles that we face here at Barn Finds is sorting the wheat from the chaff. Or, to put it another way, sorting the plausible claims from the fanciful. There is no doubt that the mileage claim made by the owner for this Camaro is pretty incredible, but the question remains as to whether it is plausible. I tend to treat such claims with a grain of salt, but there is enough supporting evidence with this car to make me believe that it is possible. In this case, the proof of the pudding is in the bidding. This listing opened at $19.69. It took 10-hours for it to leap from there to its current bid of $37,600. That tells me that there are a few people who like what they see. It also tells me that those people are willing to put their money where their mouth is. The owner seems to be extremely approachable and is willing to supply more photos to interested parties. That suggests that he has nothing to hide. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. BlondeUXB Member

    Strangely random surface rust.

    Like 7
  2. Tommy

    Where is the exhaust? Engine has been replaced? Please.

    Like 2
  3. skibum2

    9K miles?…. Hahahahahahaha.. I don’t think so…but then again, Hahahahaha.

    Like 17
    • Martin

      9,000 miles: one-quarter mile at a time.

      Like 7
      • moosie moosie Member

        @ Martin, yup my thoughts exactly

        Like 2
  4. Arby

    I guess it’s possible that the mileage is correct but what kind of “barn” was this car in to cause all that damage?
    A hog barn? A chicken coop??

    Like 8
    • Bruce Jackson

      What really jumped out at me was the surface rust around the engine compartment. That could be age-related or the environment in which it was stored (so, what happened to that exhaust, anyway?), but even if the seller had proof of mileage (?), I would consider that mileage claim as irrelevant, based on whatever this car has experienced in storage, and then bid on it as a decent Camaro that will need some work. If someone says that any car has 9K miles, I have certain expectations—including a price to match. Sorry, but those expectations have not been met here.

      Like 19
  5. Larry cammon

    S S had back up lamps in valance panel not in tail lamps didn’t see it

    Like 3
    • carappraiser

      I believe the RS SS had that feature, the SS did not.

      Like 24
      • Steve R

        That was part of the RS package, which was appearance and could be ordered with either the SS or Z28 performance options.

        Steve R

        Like 14
      • Larry cammon

        Yes it did all r s & s s had back up lamps in valance panel tail lamps solid red no back up in the lamps !

    • Kemic

      From my knowledge, only a camaro with the RS or Z28 package came with the valance panel backup lights.

      Like 3
      • Larry cammon

        Z/28 did not have back up lamps in valance unless it had the r s apprentice package if not in the tail lamps

        Like 2
  6. John Cee

    Nice car, if they would have mounted the mudflaps down farther it could have prevented all those stone chips, owner must of had a long stone driveway.

    Like 3
    • Arby

      Burnouts on a gravel road?

      Ouch!!

      Like 5
  7. Ralph McGehee

    identical to the 69 Camaro I had in high school in 69, except mine was dark blue.

    Like 2
  8. Skorzeny

    If I remember correctly, the L78 375 hp had a forged crank, and the 325 and 350 hp had a cast crank… So for this money, one better take a close look at that block.
    And Adam, it’s ‘take’ things with a grain of salt, not ‘treat’.

    Like 11
    • Bob

      You’re correct about the crank but many other differences exist between the 325 & 350 versions. Intake, heads, harmonic balancer, cam, pistons and rods just to mention a few. Many sellers try to fake the L78 and it requires a good look over to detect a look-a-like!

  9. i8afish

    Who parks a car with only 9K miles? Especially a muscle car specifically made for fun while driving?

    Like 7
    • ACZ

      Someone who is afraid of it. I had a friend with a Hemi Challenger who was that way. He finally sold it. Hardly ever drove it.

      Like 4
    • SteveS

      There was also the 1973 Arab oil embargo which made gas scarce and expensive for awhile.

      Like 4
  10. ACZ

    This really brings a flood of good memories. I had a 69 Camaro SS/RS L78 a long time ago. Mine was dark blue with the standard interior. This one has the custom interior (formed door panels and woodgrain contact paper on the dash). Other than that mine was almost identical down to the slapper bars. A real powerhouse and a really fun car. Due to the condition of the bottom side sheet metal, I’d guess the mileage to be correct. Underhood corrosion could be caused by the car stored with a plastic cover over it (air could circulate under it but the plastic would still capture humidity higher up). All in all, a real time capsule that no one has screwed up. Incidentally, Steve R is correct about the backup lights. Man knows his Camaros.

    Like 8
  11. 3Deuces

    What, no exhaust system???

    Like 5
  12. jokacz

    Why does it have a 6000 rpm red line tach? L78’s in Vettes had 6500 red lines. Did they lower the red line in Camaros along with the hp rating, maybe to keep them from blowing up with regularity? I don’t know of any 396 with a 6 grand red line.

    Like 1
    • Rick

      The L78 in the Corvette was rated at 425 hp, and its cam duration and lift was different, more radical. Check out the specs between the two.

      Like 3
      • jokacz

        Then why are they both called L78 if they are different?

        Like 2
      • moosie moosie Member

        @ jokacz,,, good question, but one (425)was in 1965 Corvette & the 375 was in the infamously rare & scarce Z16 Chevelle SS & later years but not available in the Corvette. which had the 427’s in varying horsepower versions.

        Like 2
      • Troy s

        The L78 396 in the ’65 Corvette had solid lifters and better breathing exhaust manifolds, pretty much a smaller version of the L72 427 the following year. Although I read somewhere the Z16 396 Chevelle had the same cam specs it used hydraulic lifters instead and due to fit used different exhaust manifolds than the Corvette. Are we sure the ’65 Chevelles’ 396 was called an L78?
        I thought the ’66 version of this engine was advertised at 360 hp, a mass produced engine that also used hydraulic lifters. Heard it or read that several times.
        I dont believe the two 375 horsepower engines(Z16…L78) in the Chevelle used the same camshaft at the very least. Beat me up if I’m wrong, thanks.

        Like 2
    • Roy Blankenship

      The Z16 used a hydraulic cam: “The hydraulic cam specs for the Z-16 are .461 lift on intake ( same as the oval port 350-360 hp 396 factored at 340 hp). The Z-16 exhaust lift is .500 or .020 higher than the above mentioned 340 factored horsepower 396.” The Z16 motor was called “L37”. Otherwise, the L37 as the same as the L78 as far as forged internals and square port heads.

      Like 1
      • jokacz

        I recall the pre-release articles about the 396 in Hot Rod magazine spoke of engines of 425, 375, and 325 hp ratings. The 425 was the L78. The 375 was a hydraulic lifter engine probably with upgraded internals lacking in the 325 hp version. When the L78 was put in non-Vettes, it was rated as 375 hp, but still the same engine. The 375 variant was derated to 350 or 360, but was probably unchanged as well. This situation is similar to the L72 427 which was initially rated at 450 hp but was later reduced to 425 hp by corporate mandate, but no changes were made to it.

        Like 2
    • Roy Blankenship

      To answer your post about the differences between the 396 variants: Chevy seemed to like having two platforms, hydraulic cam/cast crank, and solid lifter/forged internals. If you look back at their V8 history, this is a pretty consistent theme. The two variants are the 327/350 hp, which was forged internals with a hydraulic cam, and the Z16 motor, the L37, which was also forged internals with a hydraulic cam. The L37 did not show up in any other production vehicle. The L78 396/375 and 396/425 were the same motor, forged internals, 11 to 1 compression and square port heads. Chevy liked to fudge the hp numbers depending on the application, as they did with the 360 hp LT-1 in the Camaro vs. the 370 hp LT-1 in the Corvette, and the initial offering of the 450/427 at the beginning of the ’66 model year that they backed down to 425/427, which was the same motor available in the full-sized cars. They did not want the Corvette overshadowed in any way. Witness the 390/454 in the Corvette vs. 360/454 in the Chevelle. Same motor, some excuse about the “exhaust” making the difference. Back to the 396, the 325/396 was oval ports and usually a Q-jet, while the 396/350/360 hp usually had a Holley and a hotter cam. Both were cast cranks, but I have read accounts of some 350 hp 402 motors (’70 and newer) blocks having 4 bolt mains which were supposed to have been a feature of the forged internal motors only. The 396/375 and 425/427 are identical except for displacement, the 450/454 is identical except for 11.25 compression, .25 higher, and they used a low-rise intake manifold for hood clearance (allegedly). Chevy obviously had to lower the hp rating on the 396/425 to 375 as they now had the 427/425 in the Corvette. The 396-375 was not initially offered in ’66 in the Chevelle, it came about mid-year. My high school buddy received a ’66 Chevelle SS 396-375 for graduation, it had belonged to one of our math teachers. I hear people claiming you could not get the 396/375 in ’67 Chevelles, but one of our friends had one. In ’68, 396/375’s were all over the place, there were four in our high school, 3 Camaros and a Chevelle.

      Like 5
      • Troy s

        Roy, I’ve heard that too about the ’67 L78 396 not being available from the factory. What I’ve heard was that the L78 became a dealer installed option in ’67, then in ’68 became a regular option again clear through early ’70, being replaced by the LS6 454 axle twister. As usual, anything I say can be disputed.

      • Roy Blankenship

        To Troy: I heard similar things, but mid-year the 325/396 and the 375/396 became an option in Camaros. Interestingly, they did not offer the 350 hp 396 in Camaros for ’67, but did in ’68.

        Like 1
  13. Roy Blankenship

    There was a ’68 Camaro in our community that belonged to a man who had issues. It was ordered as an L78, 4.88 gears. Some local racers who were “helping” him took the L78 and parted it out, replacing it with a used Dick Arons racing engine. By the time my friend was able to pry the car away from the guy, it had 2500 miles on it. My friend let it sit for years, and he was not kind to it, it was in a non-climate controlled garage, he put parts on the seats, the driveshaft was laying on the back seat, he took the 4-speed out and put a Turbo 400 in it, but the car never saw the street again until a friend of HIS bought it and put it back together. It still had the original red-line Uniroyals, but they were dry-rotted. It still showed less than 3,000 miles, which was correct, but a lot of cleaning and parts acquisition was necessary to bring it back to “factory”. I am telling this story to try and illustrate what can happen to even a low mileage car over the years. The expectations expressed here are often unrealistic, this car is 51 years old, and a lot can happen in that time, they were not always classics. There are a lot of clues that this car is authentic, and it makes me wonder what made a lot of you so sour to the world that you can’t look at a car like this and appreciate the fact that it is still here and in one piece.

    Like 25
  14. charlie Member

    We had one, same color, but standard interior, and vinyl roof. After 14 years in New England, it rusted to death. Look at the underneath photo. The “sub frames”, front and rear, are attached to the body floor panels. A great design to save weight, but, the sheet metal panels rusted out and there was no place to weld the spring ends/subframe to! This one looks solid.

    Now this sits higher in the rear than it probably came from the factory, so probably additional springs for drag racing, aftermarket. Mine had a single leaf spring on each side as original equipment, both eventually broke and were replaced by multileaf ones.

    The only rust, on mine, above the midline of the body was under the vinyl roof, so a painted roof is a blessing.

    And, if you intend to drive it, they drive very well for 1969, put radial tires on it, and GO.

    Like 6
    • Frank

      SS cars that year had multi leaf springs in them

      Like 4
  15. moosie moosie Member

    Lack of any kind of exhaust with the presence of the universal tailpipe hangers along with the slapper bars leads me to believe it saw a LOT of 1/4 miles,(check the glove box for time slips) the low mileage, along with the general good condition of the interior leads me to this conclusion. What puzzles me is the lack of headers and a scattershield, but maybe someone along the line was starting to return it to the street ? Anyways,,,,,,,,, I’d love to have it.

    Like 11
  16. Troy s

    Some muscle cars and beefy pony cars seemed to drop out of sight or off the map so to speak over time, even my dad kept telling about some yellow car with black stripes that would go by his house, he couldn’t figure out what kind of Chevelle it was or maybe it was a Pontiac,,, no dad, that’s a Buick GSX.
    A BUICK?
    Yea, and it’s a stage 1 455, real fast and super rare`
    ..he was shocked that Buick had ever made anything like that. His era not mine.
    Now, a Camaro, especially a sharp looking ride like this one here, is the opposite. Popular and well liked since new and to this day, any type of build any combination of parts, wheels, engine swaps it’s been done. I like seeing this one as it sits here now, replacement block and all, T handle ready for power shifting, it’s not a day 2 car in appearance so much,, but it really is. No clone, a real one. Go easy on it.

    Like 4
    • Nathan

      People forget the heyday of muscle cars lasted like… 5 years tops. That’s shorter than a model cycle of many modern cars.

      Like 6
  17. George M Adams

    Good Lord.

    This is the most laughable “low mileage” “barn find” yet.

    a 9000 mile car would be showroom new. This car… isn’t.

    Like 1
    • Roy Blankenship

      Read my post above. 51 years can take their toll on the condition of a car that is not hermetically sealed.

      Like 7
  18. Michael Allen Thompson

    Why does it have the RS door panels?

    • ACZ

      There is no such thing as RS door panels. That is called the deluxe interior package. It was available on all models.

      Like 2
  19. IZZY

    What you need to know here is that Iowa is chuck full of gravel roads. Practically every side road out in the country is gravel hence all the blasting on the lower rear quarters.

  20. JBD

    More questions than answers here:

    If a scattershield was added this car could be a drag car.
    Lots of B-J cars with low mileage are 1/4 cars.
    These cars need subframe connectors as they are easy to twist up.
    Looks fairly clean with too many questions…

  21. John C.

    Bidding is over 45,000! for a car that needs a good bit of work, has missing parts, and a lot of unanswered questions! SMH.

    Like 1
  22. Michael Burnell

    Not buying this story……….Just sayin

    Like 1
  23. John C.

    She is up to 48K as of Sunday morning, reserve still not met, I’m thinking the reserve is 50K, we will see. Too much to spend as far as I am concerned, I had a 69 SS back in the day, bought it cheap, semi restored it, and sold it for 4500. It’s still around in my town till this day, only comes out of the garage about once a year. The owner of mine knows he has a goldmine, but that’s all they would bring back in the day, they were not a collector car back then.

    Like 1
    • Barzini

      You were right about the reserve.

  24. John Cee

    SOLD FOR 53,600! good luck to the new owner! he may need it!

    Like 1
    • Rainer Seitz

      …and relisted. High bidder apparently flaked.

  25. Steve

    My later brother had numerous 69 Camaros over the years (his Indy Pace Car was featured on this site a few years ago before he passed away). He had a black SS with red hockey stripe black deluxe interior 350/ 300hp 4 spd with ac ps pb that I lusted after. Also a green one like this but with a 6 cyl 3ott and a bench seat!

  26. Steve

    He also had a yellow RS with a black vinyl top. It wasn’t an SS, just an RS. I am trying to remember but I think it had a flat hood, since it wasnt an SS. It had yellow houndstooth seats, IIRC. I cant remember if it had a black hockey stripe, hood stripes or no stripes. Its been 40 years!

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