If you go to a local car show or cruise night, chances are quite high you'll run across a first-generation Camaro. These things are everywhere, and people continue to build them in a variety of styles. You may even see a Pro Touring car, a drag car, and a restored stocker at the same event—there's absolutely no question about the first-generation Camaro's popularity. Looking back about 40 years though, building a Camaro would result in the car you see here, which features big-and-little Cragar wheels, protruding rear tires, and highly visible traction bars. Those were the key components to a cool car during the early '70s, and this radical styling eventually led to the Pro Street era, which was an equally cool time in automotive history.
Claude Minor has owned this Camaro since he was 17 years old. He salivated over the car for three years, as it belonged to his uncle, but the two finally struck a deal at $2,500—quite the sum for a 17-year-old in 1983. Claude drove the car for three months and decided to have it painted, so he could have his senior pictures taken with it, thus making him the coolest guy at his high school. New quarter-panels and front fenders got rid of the rust, while a slick coat of lacquer paint turned his beater into the ultimate high school cruiser. Unfortunately, the thermostat stuck one day and the small-block overheated, cracking the heads and putting the car out of commission. Fast forward to 1989, and Claude is ready to put the car back on the road and drive it to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the Fall Grand Run. As it turns out, this trip would change his life forever. Cheesy but true.
Sitting in the legendary Pigeon Forge traffic, the Camaro's alternator failed, leaving him stranded in the middle of the road. A young lady he'd never met hopped out of her car to help him push it off the road, and she must have done a great job, because he ended up marrying her the next year. They drove away from their wedding in this car, but it sat in storage for several years before it was transformed into the configuration you see here. During the restoration, Claude went as far as tracking down the original owner to get the story on the car and discovered its original options. His research revealed the car was a factory Super Sport 350 with the Rally Sport package, in addition to air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes. With a highly optioned car like this one, most folks would've opted for a full restoration, but Claude decided to go with an early drag racing theme. Claude says, "I like cars the way they were in the '60s and '70s, hot rod style."
After a five-year restoration, the Camaro is nothing short of flawless, inside and out. It has all the cool stuff a car guy would've wanted back in the day. In addition, it has a serious small-block under the hood with plenty of internal goodies that equate to 540 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque on pump gas. It's a killer street machine that perfectly embodies a period restoration, and Claude and his wife, Jennifer, are certainly proud of the finished product.