A FIGHTING CHANCE – Joseph, James, & Joseph Sr. Carilli’s 1969 Camaro
This is the story of a man who had a fighting chance to keep himself and his American classic alive for as much time as he could.
Jimmy R. Branigan was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in the summer of 1983 after just purchasing his dream car, a 1969 Camaro convertible, for a few thousand dollars. Jimmy had loved Camaros since he had started driving, but this car was special. It was a real Rally Sport with hide away headlights and was also optioned with power steering, power windows, a 327, and a drop top. He intended to restore it and show it off at car shows when he finished it.
In high school, Jimmy was a quiet and laid back boy who never had any problems with anyone he knew. He was very close to his brother and his three sisters and enjoyed rocking out on his guitar while his brother played the drums. He even raised pet rabbits in addition to becoming his high school basketball team captain. His nephew Joe says, “He was well liked by many of the girls in school, but he loved those Chevrolet Camaros”.
After receiving new tires for his first Camaro upon graduation, a few jealous kids slashed them and killed his rabbits. Why anyone would do this to such a nice guy is a mystery, but Jimmy was never one to give up on anything, so he stuck it out until he purchased his 1969 Camaro in 1983.
Once Jimmy reached his early 20’s, his prized Camaro was no longer the only love of his life. He was also in love with a girl named Rachel whom he planned to eventually marry. Needless to say, the 1969 Camaro was put on the back burner so that Jimmy could save money to eventually get married and buy a home. He never got to finish restoring his Camaro.
Later that same year, Jimmy became ill. What was thought to be a minor virus of some kind turned out to be AML. A few months later, Jimmy realized how sick he was, but he refused to give up without a fight. Right before finally losing the battle to Leukemia in the winter of 1983, he asked that his 1969 Camaro be left to his new nephew and god son Joseph Carilli Jr. who had just been born.
He also requested that it be left in part to any future nephews that he may have (which would later be James). He knew that he might not ever able to finish it himself, so he wanted to give his prized 1969 Camaro a fighting chance to one day be restored when his family thought the time was right.
After being in a closed garage for nearly 22 years, the Carilli family decided that it was time. The Camaro was started once again after changing the oil, spark plugs, and spark plug wires as well as taking out the old gasoline that had been in the tank for nearly 22 years and replacing the old battery. Once the car started up it was taken for one last drive around the block before it was torn apart and rebuilt the way that Joseph’s uncle wanted it to be done.
The Camaro now sports a GM crate 350/425 horsepower engine with hooker headers, aluminum fuel lines, a March performance pulley system, Edelbrock fuel pumps, MSD Ignition, a B&M cheater nitrous system and a BeCool aluminum radiator to take a little heat off. The engine is backed by a B&M Turbo 400 racing transmission with a pro ratchet shifter and a Hole Shot 3000 rpm stall converter.
All of that power is put to the ground up a custom Moster 9 inch Ford rear end with an Auburn posi rear with 3:89 gears. The car is stopped with Wilwood disc brakes all the way around with polished aluminum calipers and drilled and slotted rotors. The custom Boze “Fatal” 17 inch wheels turn via a power rack and pinion kit hooked up to a polished tilt column. In addition to the tilt column, the 1969 Camaro also features a custom blue interior with a custom gauge cluster.
This Camaro is what Jimmy would have wanted and more. For the man who had a fighting chance and never gave up, his legacy will now live on through his Camaro through the love and hard work of those close to him.
The Carilli’s would like to especially thank Kevin and Wayne of K&W Custom Automotive in South Windsor CT for all the body work, exterior and interior painting, and also for transporting the Camaro whenever it had to be somewhere for the next phase of the restoration, Guys Upholstery for all the interior work, the seats, flooring and convertible top, C&R Automotive in East Hartford for all the mechanical and electrical work to the car, Luis Rosa out of Wallingford for the custom airbrush work on the interior fender walls, Jamie Lassie from Explicit Airbrush of Plainville for the exterior Airbrush work, Kane and Adam of High Fidelity Auto Sport of Newington for all the Audio and custom box construction, and Ground Up of Meriden for supplying all the needed parts to complete our Camaro.