When my dad passed away in December 2013, he was nearing completion of his 1969 Camaro. Dad bought the Camaro when he was 17 for $800, and it became a 29 year project for him. It ran intermittently, and he never got it exactly the way he wanted it. His father-in-law, my grandfather, would tease him, “Have you finished the car yet?” And dad would roll his eyes, but after 29 years, it was close to complete. He decided to make several changes to the car, such as going from black to hugger orange—its original color—which I am partially to thank for that. He debated on the color for a long time and asked me my opinion when we were hanging out in the garage one night. I told him I thought it would be cool to paint the car the original orange color; few cars look good orange, and I think the Camaro is one of the few. I also suggested the black hockey stripe because I always thought they looked cool, and the combo would be less common. Other changes included the hide-away light kit to turn the car into an RS/SS, an upgraded the rear end, and four-wheel disc brakes. Some things remained the same. He rebuilt the 396 he bought in 1986, even though he always considered building a 383, but I guess big block power was just too alluring.
When dad passed, I decided I would make sure to complete the car for him no matter what, and I would take his ashes on a road trip to California to spread his ashes in the Pacific like he wanted. First, I had to finish my final semester at UT Austin, and I spent a year in Austin with my girlfriend while she finished school. Then in May 2015, I returned home to begin my summer of the ’69 Camaro.
Okay, summer is almost over, but referencing Bryan Adams was too tempting, and I did spend most of the summer clearing out the garage to work on the Camaro. When I returned home, the garage was full of boxes from storage, and from a despicable tenant—another story for another time. After the tenant removed her belongings, and some friends and I took some things to the dump, the garage became a workable environment—there is still a lot to organize, but it is currently manageable. With room to work some friends and I began to work on the brakes, which will be discussed in-depth in another post, because there is not enough room to discuss that odyssey here.
My intention for my future posts on the Camaro are to keep everyone with a connection to this car and my father informed about the progress of the Camaro. I know several people have many memories of my dad with this car, and would like to see it completed. Regarding memories of my dad and his Camaro, I always love hearing them, so if you have some, please share. It is nice to make my own memories with this car and my friends, having maybe a few too many beers along the way, and making something really cool. It is the best way I could think of to honor my dad.
I apologize for the heavy tone in this post, but as much as this blog is to inform friends and family, it is also therapy for me. It feels good to write about this process, and I hope it is therapeutic for others. I promise to keep future posts lighter, but I felt it necessary to set the scene. I will end with a little slide show. Next time, brakes.