I bought the car for $1,800 from a friend in high school back in New York in 1985. As deli
As I pulled the last box off the hood of the '69, all hopes that it wasn't actually as bad as I recalled were dashed. It looked like hell. I'd been toting this Camaro around for more than 15 years, ever since it had ceased to provide transportation while I was still in college, and being dragged about the country and stored in dusty, damp quarters hadn't helped a car that already looked haggard in 1985. Most people scrap cars when they're no longer useful, but this just wasn't the sort of car that got junked.
But once the car didn't run anymore, its condition worsened despite my efforts to maintain it. The spray-bomb primer continued to fade into an ever more blotchy, chalky mess; the interior steadily became more musty; and its arch nemesis, oxidation, quickened its pace. Adding insult to injury, thieves made off with some of the Camaro's best remaining bits in several separate incidents, leaving it up on blocks the last time after absconding with the rally wheels. I hadn't had the means to get the car running again, nor to store it securely, but once stuff started disappearing, I scraped and scrounged and screwed it back together with junk parts so it would move under its own power. Finally, it returned to the security of my parents' garage--the first of many storage spaces it would occupy in the coming years.
I took the Camaro to college in Pennsylvania where I blew up the "new" used motor I'd inst
Through it all, I was determined to someday return the Camaro to a level of glory it had not seen since sometime prior to my ownership, though I wasn't thinking that I'd have to wait for nearly as many years as I'd then been alive to get it there. Probably a good thing; I didn't have that kind of patience at 19.
Back then I had developed typical teenage pie-in-the-sky visions for my pride and joy, seeing past its many faults to envision what the car could look like with "just a little work." The trouble was, I wanted perfection. So even after I'd finished school and started earning a little money, I kept the car stashed rather than combating its immediate problems and getting it back in action. In my mind, the car deserved nothing less than a full-on rebuild.
This is what I was left with by 2003. Hard to believe I was ridiculed for hanging on to th
In retrospect, I was being stupid, waiting for the perfect combination of time, money, and suitable work space to come together for a total rebuild when I should have been chipping away at it so that it would be on the road and in some way useful, even if it fell way short of my ideal. It took until I was over 30 and living in California for the foolishness of my ways to hit me; I realized that sitting on the car was a waste, both of time and of a Camaro.
Automotive artist and GM stylist Jeff Angeleri took our thoughts and penned the Camaro wit
At that point my thinking finally shifted to the here and now, and I formulated a new plan to make something happen soon. The revised philosophy was based on the notion that even with a limited budget and timeframe, it should be possible to return a car to some sort of useful state--not necessarily daily-driver useful, but at least cruise-night useful. I took some inspiration from the retro-rodders who bolt cars together in their most Spartan form, with functionality the main motivator, just like they did after WWII. If done right, the patina of old parts and primer is brutally cool, so why not take a similar approach with a muscle-era ride? Spend the money where it's most needed, reuse the decent parts, fog it with some kind of uniform finish, then worry about making it better later . . . or don't.
Done . . . sort of. The made-over '69 made its public debut at a cruise night at Ricky & R
The ball was set in motion by tackling the car's worst feature: the dented, rotted body. We covered the installation of Goodmark quarter-panels in the April '04 issue and soon after ordered more Goodmark sheetmetal for the front end. With that handled, the car began to garner more respect; it was now a solid foundation for a project. Shortly after, during a staff meeting, Freiburger suggested I take the '69 on Anti Tour, though it was implied that limping it there with its Sanford and Son vibe was not what he had in mind. The rest of the staff chimed in and the "intervention" was in full swing. So, with a mixture of peer pressure, a six-week deadline, and some extra hands for help, the Camaro was officially underway.
The accompanying photos tell the tale, though in the end, the car fell just short of making the Tour. I blame the California DMV. No biggie, as the Tour was merely the carrot that fueled this project and got the Camaro looking and running better than it ever has during my ownership. Now it's on the road for the first time in over 15 years and evoking a bit of lust from onlookers rather than contempt. Meanwhile, I feel like I've got a new toy, when actually I had it all along.