Our Cars: Adam Martin’s ’68 Camaro

A lot of us here at Hagerty grew up as car guys, but not many can say they’ve actually grown up with the same car. Adam Martin, the West Coast senior sales manager, is one of the proud few who can. He purchased a ’68 Camaro when he was still in high school, and worked nearly full time to pay for a complete restoration. Lucy, as he calls her, followed him to McPherson College in Kansas, and she still enjoys a spot in his garage.

Car: 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Sport Coupe, aka “Lucy”

Background: "All of my childhood friends were car guys (or boys), and a lot of them were more of an enthusiast than I was at the time. Of course, I was only in the fourth grade – I guess I was a late bloomer! I was envious of their car knowledge and their ability to identify cars driving by. More impressive was their knowledge of older cars. I distinctly remember my buddy Ryan lusting after his new 1:18 scale diecast ’57 Chevy. At the time, he was the envy of the neighborhood for best Christmas gift.

"Needless to say, my friends were all involved with cars, and that carried through junior and senior high school. In fact, it was during high school that I got a loan to buy my Camaro and start restoring it.

"Owning my Camaro taught me a lot about budgeting and time management. I had nearly a full-time job as a high school student so I could afford to restore the car. I learned very quickly the power of money and the effort required to earn it. When I wasn’t in school or at work, I was in the garage tinkering away. One assembly after the other, I was slowly rebuilding my own muscle car.

"This hands-on experience, combined with my short career as a modern mechanic after high school, led me to pursue a higher education. That’s when I found McPherson College, which introduced a whole new world of collector cars that I never knew existed."

Why a Camaro? "I chose my Camaro purely on my dad’s influence. He had a 1969 Hugger Orange convertible Camaro when he was a kid. As I got older he told me about all the fun he had with the car when he was living in San Diego (young guy + muscle car + San Diego = great stories). When I was growing up, my dad had a 1961 Corvette and I remember cruising around the neighborhoods with him. He sold the Corvette before I really got interested in cars, so keeping and restoring it was out of the question. Besides I couldn’t afford to buy even the worst Corvette project car!

"I turned to the Camaro as a less-expensive alternative. I didn’t know the difference between the ‘67, ‘68, or ‘69 model years; all I knew was that my dad had a ‘69 and I wanted something close to that.

"Lucy was the third car I looked at and it was love at first sight! She was a diamond in the rough that was already partially torn apart. The seller was a young guy whose parents had divorced. His mother wanted him to work on something constructive so she bought him the Camaro. Like most projects, they’re fun in the beginning but after a while people lose interest. This is about the point when I saw the car for sale. I swooped in and took the abandoned project out of their garage."

Repairs and Modifications (planned or completed): "Lucy was a rolling restoration car from the moment I purchased her. She was in primer gray, half of the interior was already removed or eaten away by mice, and the exhaust note was ringing with holes in the system. Thank god for my nearly full-time position at the local pizza shop; I needed all the cash I could get! I took the car apart completely and restored everything that I could to keep the car as original as possible in its appearance.

"During high school, I also took an engine-machining course at the local technical college where I built several engines, culminating with a 454cid big-block Chevy. I was a proud papa at the dyno shop when we made the final pull for peak horsepower, where it produced 505hp.

"Most of the restoration took place during high school. I mated the 454 big-block engine that I built to a Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission, and rebuilt the differential along with the brakes and suspension systems. The most challenging part of the entire process was the paint and body work, especially for an untrained amateur like me. I made friends with the local body shop owners, asked a lot questions and I befriended the local paint supply owner and got a good deal on product. Fast forward several months and my dad and I were masking off our garage with plastic tarps and a box fan for ventilation – I had myself a paint booth! I learned a valuable lesson while painting in a garage: It’s not cool to trap mosquitoes into your final coat of paint. They don’t come out cleanly.

"I’ve owned Lucy for more than 15 years and she is about to go under the knife again with some suspension and braking enhancements. With my role on the road I have been able to see and meet the owners of the original Trans-Am racing Camaros from the late ’60s. As result I have an inkling to create a modern interpretation of a vintage Trans-Am racing car, but with the pro-touring side of comfort incorporated. Stay tuned for Lucy’s facelift."

Hobby activities: "My job with Hagerty has allowed me to expand my interests and enjoy other clubs outside the world of Camaros. I am active member in the Rolls-Royce Club, both nationally and locally in Southern California. I love driving cars and as a result I have become great friends with the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Association. They are a very active club and drive their brass-era Rolls-Royces all over country, 1,500 miles at a time.

"Another great automobile marque that I really enjoy is Bugatti. I’ve worked with several American Bugatti Club board members to bring in the next generation of enthusiasts.

"One of my favorite clubs is the Checkered Flag 200 club that supports the Petersen Automotive Museum. I have been a member for more than five years and they just recently invited me to join the executive committee. It is a huge honor and something that I take very seriously. My new fellow board members are some of the most important collectors in the country. I am looking forward to bringing some new events and energy to the board and to our club of more than 400 members."

Favorite Drive: "Each drive is my favorite with Lucy. It could be to my buddy’s house, or most recently, a cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway. What I like most about driving old cars is the sensation you receive. It’s drastically different from modern cars that isolate all forms of sensory involvement from the drive. When I mash the pedal to the floor I want to hear all 505 horses under the hood come to life – not to mention smell the burning rubber behind me!"

Best Moment: "One of the best moments with my Camaro was the first time I drove her from Minneapolis down to McPherson College. Until that point, I had only ventured 100 miles from home and the drive from my parents’ house in Minneapolis to McPherson, Kan., was 625 miles. I was home in Minneapolis for a break and I secured a storage shed in Kansas to keep my Camaro safe during the day, so I made the decision to bring her down to campus. I had been telling my friends at school that I owned a muscle car, but I didn’t have it on campus like they did. Peer pressure and my desire to have my car at school prevailed and I brought Lucy to campus!

"The 625 mile drive at 6 miles to the gallon took 10 hours and several paychecks to pay for, but I was welcomed to campus in true auto-rat fashion by my pals in the parking lot outside Templeton Hall, our restoration building. It was a late-night gathering of storytelling, poking around under the hood, and of course a few promised rides around town in parade fashion with all my classmates and their cars. It was a great way to finish a long day and a new beginning to the next round of stories that owning a big block ‘68 Camaro in Kansas would lead to."