In the interest of journalistic accuracy, this is not where the Camaro currently resides.
This is a story without the usual ending. In the classic barn find narrative, our hero unearths a long-lost iconic muscle car in some barn in rural Iowa discovered after accidentally overhearing a lunchtime conversation. He then completes a meticulous restoration that wows the assembled throng, who sings his praises, making him an instant celebrity.
None of that happens here.
Like the drag racer who said, "I'd rather be lucky than good," this story is all about being at the right place at the right time and sweetened with a heaping tablespoon of dumb luck.
When I somehow managed to bluff then-Car-Craft-Editor Rick Voegelin into hiring me as a wet-nosed feature editor in the spring of 1979, my future ex-wife, Susan, and I moved to Burbank, California. After a few weeks of learningthe art of negotiating L.A. freeways, we began the search for the car she wanted-a red '66 Mustang fastback. While I harbor no ill feelings toward Fords, I secretly planned to convince her that an early Camaro was a far better choice. We spent a whole Saturday looking at a rash of unworthy Mustangs.
After dismissing all the previous Fords, there was a Camaro just around the corner that we investigated. After a quick once-over, the Camaro appeared a bit shabby but straight. During the testdrive, the engine detonated badly, but I had already decided to buy the car-with her money. The Camaro was fitted with what I assumed was a 275hp 327, a Powerglide with a nonstock but OE shifter that looked like it came out of an early Vette, front disc brakes, 15-inch Rally wheels, and dual exhaust. The Granada Gold color and gold interior were lame, but we drove the Camaro away for $1,250. As we learned later, that was the deal of a lifetime.
This photo was taken in 1980 soon after we bought the Camaro and discovered it really was
One thing it did do well was accelerate, especially for a Powerglide car. Nailing the throttle produced impressive tire spin from both tires, but it detonated badly. What was odd was what appeared to be a factory-installed square-tube traction bar on the passenger side of the car. After we had owned the car for a couple of weeks, I decided to determine if the engine was original to the car. The sequence stamped into the block matched the VIN stamped in the doorjamb, so it appeared this was the original engine. When I looked up the two-letter MP code stamped into the block, my motor's manual listed this as a '67 290hp 327 with AIR. I knew that couldn't be correct because that was a Z/28 engine-and at this point I didn't want to believe this was a Z/28. Where were the aluminum intake, Holley carb, and four-speed?
I began to do research in earnest, and most of my contacts at that time scoffed at the idea that the car was a Z/28. I mentioned all this one day to Jim McFarland, who at this time was the vice president of R&D at Edelbrock. He told me about someone named Jim Losee who had previously worked at Edelbrock and knew an awful lot about Z/28s and that I could find him at Gledhill Chevrolet in Wilmington, California. I called Jim and we took the car to him one weekday evening.
Jim and I spent the next few hours partially disassembling the car looking for clues. The fact that the engine numbers matched was a puzzle to him, and he was equally skeptical. We counted tire revolutions and realized the car had a 3.73:1 rear gear, which was the standard Z/28 gear along with what Jim recognized as a factory traction bar. Up front the car had the correct disc brakes and Z/28-only 15-inch Rally wheels. It even had this rectangular hole cut in the firewall that was the exact dimension for what would have been a cowl-induction air cleaner. All this pointed to the fact that the car was a Z/28, but Jim was still not convinced.