I purchased my Camaro December 20, 1981 when I was 18 and home for Christmas from the Navy. I had seen her on the lot at Hanover Auto Sales (Hanover, PA) when I was home after boot camp and thought she was way too nice for what I could spend ($3000). But since she was still there 2 months later, Dad and I stopped to check her out. She was a factory '71 RS with no mechanical modifications other than a set of Lakewood traction bars, had been repainted white with black skunk stripes from the original dark green, a light green interior, black vinyl top, CB antenna, and 104,000 miles. She drove nicely except for a clunk in the rear suspension. We dickered with the dealer a bit and I drove her home.
I gave her a good cleaning up and found the clunk in the rear was a broken shock mount on one of the HiJackers. Dad had it fixed for me as I was off to school at Great Lakes Naval Training Center for the next few months. Along about March of '82 I had missed my new ride enough so flew home and drove it 21 hours back to Great Lakes. While there I INSTANTLY became EVERYONE'S friend when they found out I had a car-and a nice one at that. My first introduction to the Wisconsin Highway Patrol came soon after our arrival and a trip to bar in Kenosha. The officer did not care for our return velocity to the base. During our stay we also made a trip to Great Lakes Dragway where we logged a best 1/4 mile time of 16.78. Compared to the Super Pro car I was lined up beside, I felt like I had hit R instead of D!
With my assignment to the USS Glover (FF-1098) came a new home in Norfolk, VA. During my tour I spent a lot of time at the base Hobby Shop where I swapped in a new 4V intake from a 350 Buick, a set of headers and Hush Thrush mufflers, and an Alpine stereo with Jensen coaxial speakers. During weekend trips home I added a chrome air cleaner and valve covers, Accel SuperCoil and wires, Sun SuperTach II, and dyed the interior black. During my first deployment to the Mediterranean Sea I left cash and instructions with Mom & Dad to get her painted Hugger Orange with White stripes and a new black vinyl top, and also get new black carpet and recover the front buckets in black vinyl. Dad told me I was nuts for wanting to paint it ORANGE.
Six Months Later...
I am manning the rails as our ship pulls in to the D&S Piers in Norfolk, and I can see an orange dot in the parking lot at the head of the pier. We get moored and as families start to come aboard I see my Mom and Dad & Sister. The first comments they make are about all the looks my car got coming down the highway from Pennsylvania. Dad was finally pleased with the color.
Years went on without too many changes until I got married in 1987 and bought a home at Lake Meade in PA. I decided it was time for an overhaul and I finally had my own garage, so I tore the engine and tranny out, then got orders to the USS Frank Cable (AS-40) in Charleston, SC. Down the highway we went with the car in pieces. I found a great little machine shop in Summerville, and a transmission shop in North Charleston who helped me build up a 700R4. Once I got her back together we made trips to Pennsylvania and Florida to see my folks in Winter Haven. She was getting about 18 mpg on the highway. We went to lots of car shows, won some trophies, and really got to enjoy drag racing at Dorchester Dragway. With the new 355 and 700R4, the original 2:73 open rear only melted the tires, so I found a '70 Torino 9" Ford rear housing, 3:50 TracLoc hogs head and 31 spline axles. I eventually found a 4:11 center as well. With this combination and a good set of tires, we hooked.
All good things must come to an end, and after 5 years in Charleston they closed the base and I was sent to Jacksonville, FL where we spent 1 year and I retired from the Navy. From there it was back home to Pennsylvania. The old girl hadn't been driven much and after 30 years I figured it was time she have a new owner who would love her as much as I had. I had her in storage for several years and through my divorce, up for sale and on EBay, but no one I wanted to sell her to. In June 2011 I remarried and the light came on...
My cousins from Fort Collins, CO came in for the wedding, and I found out my 17 year old 2nd Cousin was seriously into muscle cars, racing, 4X4's and monster trucks. I had always wished I had someone in my family that I could pass my car on to, but nobody had the 10W-40 in their veins like I had. Until I got to know Claire. I thought it over a little and pulled her Dad aside and asked him if he had room for another set of wheels in his garage (he's a Porsche Guy). He talked it over with his wife after telling me I was insane, and said: "Sure!". So, they returned to Fort Collins, and for Claire's 18th birthday in July I sent her a card with a letter, and a copy of the Camaro Title with her name photoshopped in. In the letter I explained why I chose her and asked if she was willing to accept my gift.
She was one VERY HAPPY young lady. For the next year I worked. The engine had developed a knock and needed to come apart. The #6 rod bearing was wiped and took out the crank journal too. I had decided long ago if the motor ever came apart again it was getting stroked, so off to Gebhart's Machine Shop in New Oxford it went. Stroked and balanced with 10.4:1 hyper pistons and H-beam rods in 383. I added Dart aluminum 220 heads, an RPM AirGap intake and new headers to the motor. The doors got new glass and seals, and I massaged the front end a little where it had some old bumps and bruises. As the old girl came back to life I was beginning to run out of time, for I wanted to deliver her to Claire in Fort Collins on her 19th birthday. I didn't get all the fine tuning done before it was time to leave, but she ran well, and she ran strong.
On July 1, 2012 (the hottest day of the year) my wife and I headed west with no A/C. On the way out the PA Turnpike I started seeing lots of smoke behind us going through the mountains. Luckily, I had overfilled the tranny fluid and it was burping out-nothing major but it sure made a mess. Onward we went to a hotel just south of Chi Town. We were so glad to see that hotel! Next day was on to my Uncle Keith's house in Lincoln where we spent the night and Unk gave the old girl his prime parking spot in his garage.
July 3rd, Claire's Birthday, and we are off on an early start to Fort Collins. The weather is beautiful, and HOT. Sweet Emotion ran perfectly, no heat problems except for the passengers. Our tongues were hanging out the windows by the time we got to my cousins' driveway. And so a new chapter begins.
We spent a few days in Colorado before flying home. Claire and I got the title and tags changed, and we got the old girl all cleaned up and took her to Claire's first car show, where she came home with an award. She's pretty busy now with college, but enjoys coming home to her new old car :)