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Published 5/22/24

A Mother-Son Camaro

WORDS: DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS: NATE LIGHT

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HOT ROD Power Tour is a trip like no other. Each June, thousands of hot rod brethren load up and visit a different city each day on a weeklong journey. Throughout the event, Chevrolet Performance maintains a significant presence.

Family projects are common occurrences in the performance world. In fact, there are likely dozens of father-son builds at any given event. Much more rare are mother-son projects like Becky and Derek Luck’s 1969 Camaro SS. 
 
“I was born a gearhead,” Becky Luck said during this spring’s Goodguys Griot’s Garage North Carolina Nationals in Raleigh.

Derek Luck and his mother, Becky, built this 1969 Camaro SS together. They hit a wide variety of shows each year.

True to her upbringing, her classic piece of American muscle is powered by a Big-Block Chevrolet Performance 502 HO crate engine.*

Becky and Derek both live in Virginia and hit a variety of shows each year. Derek lives in Charlottesville while his mom is in nearby Louisa, allowing them to work on the car together in the garage at her house. 
 
Becky’s father had always been into cars, a love she passed down to her son. Her first car was a 1970 Pontiac GTO and she has also owned several Corvettes in her life. Derek remembers both helping his grandfather polish vehicles and riding in a Corvette with his mother.

“I'll never forget, I was probably 6 years old, and she stomped [the gas] and was going through the gears and squealing the tires,” he said. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I was excited as could be. … Right then that got me hooked on horsepower.” 

The Lucks bought the car sight unseen.

In 2013, after Becky’s husband passed away, Derek asked what was on her bucket list. Although she had always been a Corvette fan, she said she would really love a ’69 Camaro. 
 
The hunt was on, and Derek found the car in Georgia on eBay Motors. He bid with just seven seconds remaining and the Camaro was theirs. 
 
“We’d never seen it, we had a transport company bring it from Georgia to Charlottesville, Virginia, and that was the first time I ever laid eyes on it,” Becky said. “The first year was just making it safe, doing the suspension and making everything new on the car to bring it up to specs. Then in 2019 is when we did a total, full-body restoration.”

An extensive restoration provided the Camaro with modern characteristics while maintaining its classic style.

That year was the car’s 50th anniversary so it was only fitting it should get a facelift. Derek does paint-and-body work at Taylor’s Auto Body in Charlottesville for a living, providing him with a knowledge advantage. However, he primarily does collision repair. Becky, who works in the petroleum industry, and her son each put hundreds of hours of work into the car from the powertrain to the body. The project took a year and three weeks to complete.

They knew they didn’t want to go the Pro Touring style, but rather build something that still looked like a timeless Gen 1 Camaro, albeit with modern performance. 

“He had a vision, he knew exactly what he wanted it to look like, and I just let him go with it,” Becky said. “When he finished his vision far exceeded my expectations. I had no idea it was going to turn out as nice as it did. I was in awe. He said that this car was going to be his masterpiece and it absolutely is.” 
 
The car is even tattooed on Derek’s forearm. 

A Chevrolet Performance 502 HO crate engine* is under the hood of the 1969 Camaro.

The Camaro originally featured a 396 cu.-in. Big-Block with a four-speed manual transmission. Along with the car retaining its original black color with white stripes, a Big-Block and a four-speed were among Becky’s criteria. That’s what led them to the 502 HO crate engine.  

“We get a lot of people come up to us and are like, ‘I love seeing the old-school Big-Block motor in this car,’” Derek said. 
 
“That's part of keeping it classic,” his mother added. 
 
The 502 HO crate engine cranks out 461 horsepower and 558 lb.-ft. of torque. The durable power plant utilizes a cast-iron block with four-bolt main caps, forged internals and a hydraulic roller camshaft. 
 
“You can’t build that motor cheaper than you can buy it from GM,” Derek said. 
 
He said the engine fit in the classic Camaro “just like it was built for it.” 

There is no doubt this car is a Big-Block.

The 502 HO does fill up the engine bay, but that’s part of the appeal. A March pulley system is on the front of the engine, which also features a custom radiator with a catch can on the side. Special valve covers etched with “502” alert passersby that this car is anything but a sleeper. The Lucks also replaced the carburetor with a Holley Sniper EFI system. The engine is mated to a four-speed manual Muncie transmission. The transmission came in the car, but it was rebuilt during the restoration. 

The exterior remains much the same as in 1969, down to the cowl hood and the black paint. However, the paint has been upgraded with PPG black, which Derek believes is the darkest shade of the color. In addition, “502” chrome badges adorn the front fenders. 

For the extensive project, Derek enlisted the help of a friend named Chris Donovan to aid with all the sheet-metal work. 

An interior upgrade is coming soon, but it will maintain the style from the muscle-car era.

The Camaro’s interior features a houndstooth pattern. An interior update is next, and Derek is planning to utilize an interior specialist to make a variety of upgrades to today’s standards, but to maintain the late 1960s look. Wheel and tire upgrades will be after that. 
 
Derek and Becky Luck spend a lot of time together, but perhaps their closest bond comes from their special piece of automotive history. In Raleigh, they even won the Homebuilt Heaven category.  
 
Becky summed up their passion for the car in three words. 
 
“It’s our baby,” she said.  
 
Be sure to keep watching The BLOCK for more Chevrolet Performance builds from Goodguys shows across the country.  
 
*Because of its effect on a vehicle’s emissions performance, this engine is intended exclusively for use in competition vehicles. This engine is designed and intended for use in vehicles operated exclusively for competition: in racing or organized competition on courses separate from public roads, streets or highways. Installation or use of this engine on a vehicle operated on public roads, streets or highways is likely to violate U.S., Canadian, and state and provincial laws and regulations related to motor vehicle emissions. 

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