For most folks, the big questions in life are “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, and “What do I want to do with my life?” To a fifteen–year old red–blooded male in the South, one of the big questions is “Ford or Chevy?“
With much soul searching and mechanical lust over Mustangs, Chevelles, Camaros and GTOs, I decided that the ‘69 Camaro was the car for me. After some hunting, my Dad and I found my car. She was much in need of repair, having no engine, about four layers of bad paint and primer, and rusted–through trunk and floorboards. But she was a convertible with a good interior and plenty of potential, and she only cost 400 bucks!
We found a donor station wagon for the engine and tranny, and after many hours in the garage, busted knuckles and trips to the country junkyards, we had the old gal back in tip–top shape in time for my 16th birthday and driving road test. She now had a 300 horse 350 V8 motor with headers and dual exhaust, a new top, and a shiny Marina Blue paint job complete with racing stripes.
The car and I bonded quickly. She put up with my lead–footed teen driving, even the multiple burnouts and doughnuts that were de rigueur leaving the Lee–Davis (no kidding!) High School parking lot. We made quite a pair. There was a catch, however. My parents put a stipulation on me keeping the car: I was to graduate high school with a 3.50 average so that I could get into a good university. Yikes!
There wasn’t much to do in Mechanicsville, Virginia, in 1984, and I certainly wasn’t about to waste my entire year studying trigonometry. So the Camaro and I spent a lot of time together, cruising the strip, seeing punk rock shows in nearby Richmond, and having a lot of fun with my friends.
One episode involved coming in at curfew and sneaking back out to push the car down the street. (I was worried the dual exhausts would alert my parents to my escape.) I then drove back to the big party I had just left an hour before. Later I was back in the Camaro with my girlfriend in the front seat and another couple in the back. We were partying and making out, having a great time! Of course, I didn’t know that my friend’s mother had called my folks looking for him, prompting my parents to find that the pillows I had placed under my blankets were just a lame attempt at deception. My dad came to the party and practically dragged me out of the car and home to about a month’s worth of grounding. My future wife, who was in the back seat at the time, and I still have some laughs about that party to this day.
Needless to say, I was a little distracted back then, and didn’t make the grades my parents had hoped for. I still ended up getting into the art school I had wanted to attend, but the car was sold during my first year there. One of my former high school classmates ended up buying the Camaro. Years later, I heard that he had badly wrecked her and she had to be totally rebuilt and painted again. I wonder where she is now?