Hail to the King baby!
Drives: '13 ATS 2.0T & '14 Chevrolet SS
Join Date: Dec 2008
The Camaro, what it has come to mean for me
On the way back from Florida, and having a wonderful drive once we cleared the 42 construction zones in Georgia, I began contemplating some type of trip report to post for you guys to read. How the car was great, got good fuel economy, how many people loved the car. I could write about the meetings we had at the Daytona Motor Speedway and on International Drive in Orlando. And I could tell you all about our new friends in the Osceola County Sheriff’s office. But it dawned on me that most of that was posted in little snippets using my iPhone and that maybe at this point that would all be redundant.
But as I was thinking about all of those memories that I wanted to tell you about from this trip, I ended up simply wanting to tell you what the Camaro has come to mean to me. And by that I don’t mean Thor, or even the 2010 Camaro, but THE Camaro.
Over the past few months of driving several of the 2010 Captured Test Fleet cars, I have had so many thoughts and memories come back to me. And that, it seems, is what the Camaro has come to mean.
As it turns out, my very first evaluation of a car was about a Camaro. I don’t mean to say I don’t have memories of other cars as a child, because I do. But I can distinctly remember the picture of the 1969 RS my father contemplated buying. A picture of a car with the flip away head light covers. And my first memory of judging any car was over that one. And what I remember thinking was, “boy is that stupid”. Sue me! I can tell you I wish that my parents had bought that car and that I wish it were one of those father/son cars for a lifetime of memories and that I still had that car. But it never came to be. The fact that my opinion had nothing to do with it is my only saving grace in the matter.
About 6 years later, at the age of 14, I recall my dad picking me up after my round of golf in the Flint Junior Golf Program. He showed up in a white 1976 Rally Sport Camaro. “Cool” I remember thinking when I realized it was my dad driving the car. We headed home, but we took a distinctly different route. We got just a bit outside of town and got on a dirt road and my dad pulled over. “Your turn”, he said. Holy #$%^&*!!!! I get to drive!!!! So first you have to understand that at this point I’ve never driven a car other than the “sit on your dad’s lap when you are a kid” kind of driving. And second, this car is a manual. So my dad gives me the instructions on letting the clutch out slowly, feeling the engagement point and simultaneously giving her some throttle. So a few false starts and then we’re off and I’m bombing down this old dirt road. So after a short while, my dad calmly asks, “So, how fast are you going?” “I don’t know”, I replied. “Maybe you should look”, he says. “60”, I report. “Might want to slow down a bit”, was his response. Then we come up to a stop sign. And my happy little dirt road is now cut down the middle by a 4 lane divided highway. “What do I do now?” I ask in pure panic. “Just let out the clutch and give her some gas”, was the answer. So I did. All I remember was burning rubber all the way across to my next section of dirt road heaven. Accidental at the time, and certainly an event I would later duplicate with pure malice and forethought later in my driving life, but that was my first burn out.
I often think about those two cars, the 1969 and 1976 Camaros. And when I think of them I miss my father, I miss him very much.
Later, when my parents divorced, my father bought a 1982 Camaro. Poop brown (at least that’s how I remember it) with T-tops being the only option that I know of. He was single again and apparently that meant the requisite cool car. I was able to take that car on my honeymoon in Northern Michigan. I was still in school and flat out broke, but I had a Camaro for that week. And even that car managed a lot of attention as it was one of the first around with the new body style. And just like Number 3, it sure was a lot of fun for what was an almost base car.
And later still, on a vacation in Florida, a part of my life unraveled and I had to get home quickly. My friend Karl, who now works at Ford, drove me home to Michigan straight through in under 17 hours. The car for that trip? A 1994 V-6 Camaro.
More often than not, I would find someone to swap away their company car Camaro on weekends. Most of the guys with kids didn’t want a Camaro on the weekends. They wanted and SUV or Sedan. So I almost always had one Friday through Monday. Sometimes I could manage a Corvette, but for the most part, it seems, I was driving Camaros. And it was just recently that I remembered that. The sport of locating and negotiating swaps of our Product Evaluation Program (PEP) cars so that I could somehow end up with a Camaro.
I remember one day, I was sitting in some traffic on Telegraph Road. My vivid recollection was, “why is that SUV suddenly backing up over my hood?” In fact, I had been rear ended by another SUV and it had driven me under the SUV in front of me. When I realized what was happening, I turned my head quickly to look behind. This caused my neck to twinge badly during the collision. I still have pain to this day from that event. The car? The wedge shaped car that drove under the bumper of that SUV leaving me a full view of the gas tank? A Camaro, of course.
I have a wonderful vision of Mrs. Number 3, sitting on the back of a Pace Car convertible. A car with a weekend full of wonderful memories for me, and I hope Mrs. Number 3. It could be the car, or it could be the shorts she was wearing but it is a very detailed memory for me. I can’t even tell you where that picture is, but it will remain in my mind as fresh as if it was yesterday. That car was arranged for by Fbodfather, by the way, which makes it, of course, a Camaro.
And then, then there was nothing. There was no more Camaro. It was gone. All that was left were hopes that someday there would be a Camaro again. The torch was born by Fbodfather and many others, pushing and prodding, but I think mostly hoping that what was, could be again.
And I sat in this car, now known as Thor, driving home from Florida and it hit me that the reason THIS Camaro has gripped me so hard isn’t that IT is a great car, which it is. I think it is that I have so many memories that are connected to the Camaro. From my first real car memory all the way up to today, when we gathered the Fantastic Four Camaros and ate lunch at a historic hangout on Woodward Avenue. We talked Camaros, we talked cars and we talked GM. All of these memories, good and bad have become more distinct for me because there is a Camaro somewhere in the story.
And now there is the possibility that there will be more.
From so many meetings with you, I can tell you that almost to a man and woman there is one singular response to seeing the 2010 Camaro in person. First your jaw drops, just a bit, but noticeable. Then your eyes open a little wider. Then there is always a pause. Just for a second, but it is always there. And then you form speech……..Holy something or another…………it’s beautiful…………………I can’t believe it. Every time I have watched that consistent and singular reaction I have felt what you are feeling. The awe, the wonder, that Camaro dreams and memories are again possible.
A large number of you that have met Mrs. Number 3 and I have come up to us and started with, “Is that your Camaro?” only to end up telling us about your own Camaro. The light in eyes of the guy from Wisconsin we met at Taco Bell in Tennessee as he told us about his 2002 SS was unmistakable. A car waiting at home to have the cover removed and in his annual rite of Spring, driven, enjoyed and loved.
It is simply that it is again. And in the past 3 months Mrs. Number 3 and I have created more Camaro memories that I know will last us the rest of our lives. And that is what I hope for you, too. That as your jaw drops and your eyes open, just a little, that you have just started creating your new Camaro memories that will last you a lifetime.