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Reality Resto - Saving a Camaro Convertible

It is said that every car has a personality and that the personality develops further with every experiance you have with that car. This '69 Camaro Convertible illustrates this concept very well. See why this car had to be saved and lovingly restored for

By Jeff Trush, Photography by Jeff . Trush, Anders Oldeholm

Webster's defines an obsession as "an irrational motive for performing repetitive actions against your will." Nothing seems to describe my affinity for Camaros better than that. I guess you could call it Obsessive Camaro Disorder (OCD). I became afflicted with this disease well before I could drive, influenced by my father, Nicholas Trush, and his stacks of car magazines from the '50s and '60s. Those early experiences helped shape my interest in automobiles of all types, but I've always had a soft spot for the Camaro.

Ever since I was 16 and learned to drive, I have always owned an F-body in some shape or form. The first was a '78 Camaro that my parents bought new when I was 7 and that was passed down to my brother who beat it into the ground until he bought a new car. I ended up with it when I was 16. That car served me well for 18 months until it started to fall apart. The second round came in the form of a '78 Z28 with a healthy small-block, a four-speed, and a NOS Powershot system. It was quite a well-known car on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit. I never had the nerve to use the nitrous, as I was afraid of blowing the engine apart. I was only 17 and in high school, and the job I had scooping ice cream would hardly cover the cost of replacing the engine. My third bout with OCD came in the form of a '67 RS/SS with a 396. This was the first true restoration I accomplished, and it was a nice driver, but I still considered it merely a placeholder-I always had my heart set on a '69 four-speed convertible. Little did I know, the object of my desire was about to be dragged into a friend's garage.

I still remember that day in 1990 when my best friend Jeff Hanson called me to come over and see what his father had brought home. I was 19 and working two jobs at the time. Mr. Hanson told me he found a real deal on a '69 Camaro convertible and figured he would finish bolting on the sheetmetal, get it running, and sell it off to make some money. The moment I saw the car, I had to have it. Actually, "had" is an understatement-it became a moral imperative to own this car. The way I saw it, I was meant to have it. I immediately put "For Sale" signs on my '67 and every time I saw him, I begged Mr. Hanson to sell me the Camaro. I am sure if you were to ask him today what the definition of persistence is, he would think of me.

There was a problem with my grand plan though. Not many people were interested in buying my '67, which was the only way I could hope to afford the convertible. I was watching my dream of topless motoring quickly dissipate with every potential buyer who came to see the '69.

Once again, my father stepped in at just the right moment. He decided he might enjoy having an old car again-specifically, my '67 Camaro. I never asked him if he really wanted that car, or whether he just couldn't stand listening to me groaning day after day about how I was going to lose out on my dream car. Days after he took possession of my '67, I bought the '69 convertible. That was over 14 years ago.

This is where the story gets interesting. The convertible was a nice driver. When I went away to college, I drove the hell out of it every summer, working on it when necessary, and always dreading putting it away for the long Michigan winters when I returned to Central Michigan University. It remained a nice stock driver for 9 years. Throughout the years (as anyone who has owned a car for this long can tell you) many experiences, good and bad, help foster your love affair with these vehicles. While most people have great memories, such as meeting their soul mate in their car, or driving cross-country in their '32 roadster, most of my memories are scarier than the latest M. Night Shyamalan movie.

One of the worst was the time I took my car to the St. Ignace car show in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I had just arrived for the weekend festivities, and after driving for 5 hours with the top down and sun beating down on me, I decided that a nice cool dip in the pool was in order. I parked the car, and 20 minutes later I was on my way to the pool when I heard people screaming "Stop! Stop!" I turned around just in time to see a gentlemen in a Model T-this one must have had 11/44-inch-thick steel fenders-careen right into my Camaro. Apparently, the guy was backing out his brother's Model T but didn't know where the brake was. I ended up with a smashed quarter-panel; the T's fender sustained a small chip in the paint.

Needless to say, my weekend was ruined. The whole incident only took a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. I will give credit to the driver though. He was flailing about so frantically trying to figure out how to stop, that at first I thought he had some kind of medical condition. Happily, the owner of the Model T made everything right-note to readers: If someone hits you, it's better if he's a millionaire with his own restoration shop. Sorry Allstate, you lose.

By Jeff Trush
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