1969 Camaro – Cross Ram

1969 Camaro Cross Ram

This is a really unique car.  I first saw this car at an auction in AZ.  While I had heard of the cross-ram Camaro, I had never actually seen one.  I bought the car, and began my love/hate relationship with it.  The motor in this car is 302 cubic inches with 2 585 CFM Holley carburetors on top.  That’s a lot of air for a small motor, and it was designed for the race track, where the RPM’s can be kept up.  On the street, it was a bit of a dog until you hit at least 3000 RPM.  At that point, it screamed.

Chevrolet turned loose on the streets one of the wildest animals ever to roam the roads–the 1969 Z28 Camaro with its high-winding 302 cubic inch small block screamer. Despite its diminutive displacement, the little 302 “mouse motor” quickly became a force to be reckoned with on the street and the strip.

The 302’s main advantage on the street was actually its lack of low-end torque, and its ability to make strong power at an rpm level where most other engines were starting to sign off. While the torque-laden big block powered rides were often fighting for traction, the high-winding little 302 could quickly put a considerable gap between itself and its competition, and by the time 4th gear came around it was all over but the crying.

Given the fact that the 302 was developed mainly for the race track, one would expect such an engine to be a high-rpm screamer. For those who considered “too much” to be “just right”, GM also offered an over-the-counter optional crossram intake manifold with a pair of 585 cfm Holley carburetors to replace the factory dual plane high-rise manifold and 780 cfm Holley carburetor. Putting aside the potential for increased power output, the crossram had one other thing going for it as well–a rather stunning visual impact. Even today, 40 years after its introduction, when the hood comes up on a crossram-equipped car, a crowd is quick to gather. An obvious perk for the street crowd.

In practical application, the crossram intake system added notable power in the upper rpm ranges, which was exactly what was needed on the race track. However, with its huge common plenum design, the crossram intake made the 302’s already-lacking low-end torque situation even worse. Not a problem on the track where the engines seldom saw the low side of 5000 rpm, but definitely not ideal for street use.

Even in stock form, the 302’s lack of low-end torque often made for somewhat labored street manners under less spirited driving conditions. A wide-ratio 4-speed transmission was a welcome addition behind many 302’s, as were rear end gears well into the 4-series range and beyond. Excellent for racing, not-so-hot for daily commuting. Road trips? Only for the bravest of the brave. In the simplest of terms, a 302 needed to rev to do its thing.

Even so, this didn’t deter people from running a crossram intake system on the street in the never-ending quest for more power. The results were what one should expect…even less low-end power, making daily driving even more laborious.

Bill Sefton
Bill Sefton
Bill Sefton, Chicago native, and passionate car collector. Currently retired, but still involved in the car collection community. Reach out, happy to connect!