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What “Camaro” means to me

Posted 11-05-2008 at 05:24 PM by jg95z28
Sure any Camaro purist worth his salt knows that GM chose the name “Camaro” from an archaic French-English dictionary and it is supposed to mean “comrade”, “companion” or “friend”. However each and every one of us has a story to tell of what “Camaro” means to them.

My first recollection of a Camaro goes back thirty years. I’m sure I had seen many Camaros on the road before this, but my first up close and personal exposure was as a teen. I remember it to this day, my after school rec flag football coach Jim Deto had a black 68 SS-RS 396, and for some reason I lucked out and got a ride in it. The combination of the big block and the hidden headlamp rally sport grill hooked me big time and I was never the same again. From that point on, all I wanted was a Camaro. I began subscribing to Car Craft and Hot Rod and would cut out photos of Camaros and stick them on my wall. I’d draw sketches of supercharged big block Camaros on my book covers and folders for school. I was dead set determined to get a 67 or a 69 Camaro for my first car, as soon as I was old enough and had the money saved up of course. As fate would have it, I couldn’t find the right Camaro when it was time and I had the money, so I ended up with a 67 Chevelle Malibu, which I purchased from a friend’s folks for $600. I drove it my senior year of high school would have kept it, except that I was rear ended by an uninsured driver my freshman year in college and it was totaled.

That led me to my first Camaro. It was a 68 Rally Sport with the 210hp 327 and two-speed powerglide. It was originally British Green Metallic with parchment deluxe interior, however the seller had painted it Hugger Orange in an attempt to make it more attractive to buyers. I should’ve known better than buying a car with a “fresh-driveway” paint job, but I was 19 and I was finally getting a chance to own my “dream car”. That said, I paid more than it was probably worth at the time, a whopping $3,200. The car lasted through college as my daily driver and was essentially the car I learned to wrench on as I never really did many repairs on the Malibu other than slap some Bondo on the quarterpanels. The original 327 went south driving home from San Jose State one day, and I replaced it with a long block replacement motor from Sequoia Auto Parts in Redwood City, where my uncle Ralph knew the owner and got me a sweetheart deal. I had many sweet memories of that car, and after I graduated from State, I decided it was time to retire it to weekend status and bought a brand new 89 Nissan 240SX as my daily driver. (I couldn't afford the insurance on a new 89 Camaro Z/28 at the time.) I decided to “restore” the 68 RS and after several months of laboring through disassembly and discovering all the hidden rust and poor repairs done by the previous owner in an attempt to “flip-it”, I was at the point of just slapping a cheap Miracle Auto paint job on it and flipping it myself.

Then my younger brother turned 16 and needed a car and he started bugging me to sell him the Camaro, which I did, for $1,900. He ended up blowing up the 327 and replaced it with a built 355 and swapped out the powerglide for a TH350. He never did get around to restoring it, and sold it a few years later when he couldn’t get it to pass emissions testing.

I went for another four years without owning a Camaro. Then just shy of my 30th birthday, the date of my next big insurance break according to AAA, I purchased a new 95 Camaro Z/28. Although I had longed for a red M6 Z/28 convertible, fate drew me to a Polo Green Metallic automatic with t-tops and all the bells and whistles. I drove the heck out of that car and put 30,000 miles on her in the first two years, then started commuting on BART and drove her barely only on weekends after that. After 13 years of ownership, she is about to hit 60,000 miles on the odometer and is still factory bone stock. During that time, cars have come and gone, I got married, and had the privilege of gaining a couple stepsons, one of which is as much into cars as I am. He drove me to rekindle my passion for first generation Camaros and in 2002 I purchased a fairly original 67 RS Camaro which was very similar to my first Camaro in that it was a rally sport with the 210hp 327 and powerglide. A few years later while searching for a Camaro project for my stepson Chris and I to build up, I came across my old 68 RS on Ebay. It had been “restored” and was now Carolina blue with medium blue rally stripes and a black deluxe interior. Under the hood was the 355 my brother had built-up only it had been redone again, this time with an Isky cam. I was very close to dropping $12,500 on it to return it “home” but remembering the rust issues I had previously uncovered and not being in love with the paint scheme, I passed and ended up purchasing a plain Jane 67 Camaro coupe, which Chris and I have invested more time and money into than we’d ever want to admit. However my passion for Camaros has returned stronger than ever. I have since then collected books, models, parts, collectibles, clothing, etc. fueling that passion even greater, all of which came to a head when GM announced the Camaro’s return in the spring of 2009 as a 2010 model year vehicle.

So a new chapter in my “Camaro-life” is about to unfold. My wife has informed me that I own too many Camaros and if I plan to purchase a 2010 Camaro SS, I had better make room for it. I figure I have until next spring to decide which one stays and which ones go.

To be continued…
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