The mystery of this oddly optioned 1968 Camaro
Everything that’s wrong with Norm Graves’ 1968 Camaro is what makes it so collectible today. The combination of options and paint color are a puzzle that will never be solved. And then there’s the VIN number. Norm’s Camaro is the 102rd 1968 Camaro built, which means it was built on the first day of 1968 Camaro production at the Van Nuys GM plant in September 1967. That may be a clue to solving the puzzle that his Palomino Ivory Camaro poses.
This really isn’t Norm’s Camaro, it was his mother Margaret’s—and even the purchase was odd. The first owner purchased the car from Clippinger Chevrolet in Covina, California, off of the lot—it was not special ordered this way. A string of tickets ensued, and with 1500 miles on his new Camaro he lost his driver’s license. He parked the car while trying to get his license reinstated. After a few months without success he mentioned to Norm’s brother Ron that he’d need to sell it. Ron drove the car home to show mom Margaret, who was ready to purchase a new car. She bought the Camaro, but insisted the dealer-installed Cragar mag wheels be substituted for steel wheels and hubcaps.
Margaret drove the Camaro for decades, putting 80,000 miles on it before giving up her driving privileges at the age of 85. Always parked in her one-stall garage in Baldwin Park, California, her driving duties were limited to daily jaunts to work with the school district, church on Sundays, the local grocery store, and occasionally to see Ron who was living in Corona, California, a good workout for the Camaro at 30 miles.
So what’s weird about the Camaro? Let’s start with the bench seat, called a “Strato-back” front seat, which only found 4,896 customers. Or the tilt steering—called “Comfortilt”, which was installed in only 5,294 1968 Camaros. The Palomino Ivory paint was found on less than 1.5-percent of 1968 Camaros, and adding to the paint oddity was the addition of the “front accent band” bumblebee stripe, seldom seen on lower-optioned Camaros like this Sport Coupe.
Margaret’s Camaro came with the L30 327/4-bbl Turbo Fire V8, rated at 275hp—found in over 21,000 Camaros this year. It’s hooked to a Powerglide, the only automatic available for the L6 and small block V8s in 1968, except for Z28-optioned cars.
While you may think the vinyl top is rare, over 77,000 Camaros received the option in 1968. The order sheet also included the “Exterior Style Trim Group” which included wheel-opening moldings, stainless drip moldings, and belt moldings; which you seldom see on restorations today. Most Camaro owners eliminated these options over the years. Power steering and power brakes round out the options, which most Camaros came with.
When his mother stopped driving, Norm took over as caretaker, performing small tasks as he could afford them—things like replacing the carpet, vinyl top, and generally cleaning things up. After Margaret’s passing, Norm slowly restored the Camaro, replacing bad or worn out parts with new or reproduction replacements, but always keeping it stock. He was tempted to install bucket seats and a console like all of the other 1968 Camaros he saw, but better judgment prevailed and it was returned to the way he remembered when his mom purchased it in 1968.
Norm’s Auto Body in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, performed the bodywork and then painted the Sport Coupe in its original Palomino Ivory color. Norm detailed the engine compartment, but hasn’t so much as adjusted the valves. He says, “I don’t think the valve covers have ever been removed.”
Once he started attending car shows the questions and comments started coming. He realized what made the Camaro an oddity also made it a great conversation piece, and Norm loves conversation.
Non-stock items are the American mags, steering wheel, and soon to be installed front disc brakes. “Camaro guys ask me if it was originally a girl’s car, and I tell them yeah,” says Norm. Whether it was special ordered or possibly used to verify assembly procedures for the installed rare options, it remains a mystery why it was built this way. Though we’ll never know, it’s one of the fun outcomes from digging into your collector car’s past.