(Image/Reggie Triggs – Summit Racing)

In 1969, the Camaro Z/28 was all about firsts.

The DZ 302 engine was designed specifically for SCCA’s Trans Am Class. To hit the 5.0L displacement limit for the class, Chevy stuck a 283 crank in a 327 block to destroke it to 302 c.i.d. and gave it domed forged pistons to hit 11:1 compression. The engine was only rated at 290 horsepower, but came with the best factory heads and internals available. Simply putting headers and a tune could bring it close to 400 horsepower at over 7000 rpm, plus the car offered nearly unlimited potential to customize.

And customize is exactly what Mike Francis did—though we’d say he took it quite a bit further when he modified his Z/28 into a Sportsman drag race car.  

He purchased the ’69 Camaro in September 2018, and wasted no time getting started.

“It immediately went in the shop and I made a lot of changes to suit me and to be able to drive it on the street for short distances,” Francis said. He added a 608 cubic-inch big block engine that cranks 989 horsepower, a custom fabricated aluminum dash, and a mild steel custom built roll cage.

He completed the car like he drives—fast—with only an eight-month turnaround time.

“I have always enjoyed going fast,” Francis said. “I grew up with my dad’s 1967 Coronet R/T 440 Magnum car and I guess it all spawned from that. I did drive it quite a bit, but my dad ended up giving it to my older brother, who wasn’t as much of a fast-car guy. Dad eventually told me the reason he didn’t give it to me was that he only had one young son and didn’t want to risk losing me to a fast car.”

Great advice that we’re glad Francis seems to have heartily ignored. He has almost 10 rebuilds under his belt—all but one Camaros and Corvettes.





  • BTE Pro Sportsman Powerglide with 1.80 low gear
  • BTE Pro torque converter; 5,000 RPM stall


  • Custom mild steel roll bar cage with 2″ x 3″ tube chassis
  • Narrowed and braced 9 inch Ford rear axle
  • Mark Williams aluminum third member
  • Strange 40-spline gun drilled axles
  • 4:30 ring and pinion gear set
  • Mark Williams spool
  • Stroud spring launcher parachute with custom built mount
  • Rhodes Race Cars wheelie bars

Suspension and Brakes

Wheels and Tires

  • Weld Racing black anodized AlumaStar 2.0 wheels on Moroso D52 tires
  • Weld Racing black anodized double beadlock AlumaStar 15 x 15 wheels
  • Hoosier 32 x 14.50 rear drag slicks
  • Mickey Thompson 32 x 17.50 ET Street rear tires for street use
  • Glasstek fiberglass front end
  • Glasstek fiberglass 6 inch cowl hood
  • Harwood Marguard Lexan windshield
  • Custom roll down windows
  • Mercedes Arctic Silver paint with PPG Perfect purple stripes



  • Best E.T: low 8 second
  • MPH: 150-plus

Special thanks to:

His wife, Lella Francis, and David Hayes

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Author: Kim Klimas