Back in high school in the early 1980s, the really cool kids had cool old cars instead of driving mom’s gutless Buick Century. Back then, you could pick up an at least running 1960s muscle car for not much money, bring it to the school auto shop and get it into decent shape – and learn a lot along the way. A good friend of mine who had a decent job at the time saved up enough to reel in a very clean 1969 Camaro. It had been repainted and the interior was still holding together, but the real prize was the 327 cubic inch V8 under the hood. After school, he and the rest of the auto shop grease gang got it tuned to perfection. It was a fast, fun and loud machine that I rode in every chance I could get.
Now, of course, a clean ‘69 Camaro brings big bucks at auction, and the car is rightfully acknowledged as one of the icons of the muscle car era. And you can still pretty one up in shop class – provided your shop is Finale Speed in Ohio, where they specialize in recreating classic muscle car icons clothed in modern carbon-fiber.
Their latest creation is the Viral, a beautiful 1969 Camaro custom replete with all-carbon body panels and a bit of a bump in power over that old 327 – to the tune of 650 horsepower from a modern, LT4 GM Crate supercharged V8. A Wegner LS3 upgrade making 1,000 ponies is a $12,000 upgrade.
Replacing stamped steel with carbon fiber drops the weight of the Viral to a feathery 2,500 pounds.
There’s no paint hiding that signature carbon-fiber weave, but a coat of BASF Glasurit Clear protects it from harm and UV rays, and lends it a bit of shine as well. Of course, if you decide to pony up the $429,000 for a turn-key Viral of your own, Finale will paint it however you’d like for a price (about $10,000). You can also get a rolling chassis and slot in your own engine. The cars come with DOT-spec chassis and VIN numbers for straightforward registration. Finale Speed says it takes their team “over 2,500 hours to craft each vehicle.”
The Viral loses the tiny rear seats of the original but gains a roll bar and much stiffer chassis.
Inside, the Viral’s creature comforts are bit of a step up from a stock ‘69, with TMI leather or alcantara seats with four-point harnesses in place of the old black vinyl buckets with lap belts. There’s even working A/C and a retro repro instrument panel. And while my friend slotted in a Pioneer cassette player and four speakers in his Camaro (which Rush sounded damn good on BITD), the Viral goes a bit beyond that with an Alpine digital head unit driving a Mosconi amp powering four Focal speakers and a subwoofer
Blower-equipped LT4 GM crate plant make 650hp, a 1,000hp option is… optional.
Tons of horsepower means nothing if it can’t reach the ground, and the Viral sports a Tremec T-56 Super Magnum six-speed manual transmission driving a 9-inch 3.70 rear end with posi traction for the inevitable rear wheel smoke show. Should be fun at the strip, as well. And yes, you can also get it in an automatic for another $7,500.
Meats include Toyo R888R 315/30/18s up front and fatter Toyo R888R 335/30/18s at the back, all on Forgeline three-piece hoops. Speedtech ExtReme boingers with JRi coilovers smooth out the ride – but not too much. Wilwood 14-inch Aero disc brakes with six pistons in front and four out back bring the whoa, with tuning capability through an adjustable rear- proportioning valve’
Those curves, those hips. Most car lovers can spot a 1969 Camaro from a ways off.
An obvious question is why someone would pony up supercar money for a carbon-fiber-wrapped blast from the past. Clearly, cars like the Viral are emotional purchases, made by people who once made $4.29 an hour but went on to do a bit better than that and want the car of their dreams – then and now. Plus, as is or with a splash of paintwork, it is conceivably an under-the-radar daily driver, perhaps with a muffler swap (or perhaps not). Most people don’t commute or pick up groceries in their McLaren 750S. A 1969 Camaro can do those things, despite its go-fast capabilities. Seems like a bargain to me.