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Why I Love Old Cars: My Dad's 1967 Camaro Project

Why I Love Old Cars: My Dad's 1967 Camaro Project

I know I’ve written about my late dad’s 1967 Chevrolet Camaro previously but I had shared a picture of it on the Chasing Classic Cars (my favorite car show), social media page and got a good response so I figured I’d talk about that Camaro project in depth.

So in 1982 (and I was six years old), my father decides to build his first hot rod in nearly 20 years (he had a Ford Falcon he drag raced prior to my birth), and he decides to buy a used Camaro.

My father was a dedicated reader of what was then called “Tradin’ Times”, it’s now known as Auto Trader and is online and a great way to check out cars for sale, yes I have a login and browse often.

Next thing we know a guy comes our house with a red 1967 Camaro V6 with black interior and stock wheels, he and dad make the transaction and thus we own a Camaro.
My father’s dream was to make that car a true hot rod, 350 V8 engine, Cragar rims, it would be his version of the top of the line Z28.

So first the old engine (I think it was a 283), and parts had to come out of it and my father and a few guys from work (Chicago Transit Authority), did that. Dad had a yellow engine stand, anchored a chain and pulley in the garage rafters and they lifted the engine out. I’m watching (from a safe distance), in absolute awe.

My father decides to keep the factory automatic transmission in and this is key because down the road this becomes an ongoing problem. Several of his fellow CTA mechanic friends say to pull it too, but he didn’t.

So the next task is building the new engine, dad got a 350 V8 GM block (his favorite kind of engine), and built it on that yellow stand. He got the parts from JC Whitney and Washawsky also he took me to several “swap meets” and “rod and custom shows” for additional ideas and parts.

See why I’m so in to cars now?

The engine build goes quickly and my father “bench fires” (starts it up outside of the car), one Saturday afternoon and the sheer power rattles the kitchen window from the detached garage several hundred feet away. The four barrel Holley carburetor sat on that engine like a crown.

I was hooked on horsepower from that moment on.

Then came the hard part, putting a fully built 350 in the engine bay. My father and his (now late), friend John Wilson literally pounded that engine in, at times beating the fire wall to make it fit.

Once the engine was in, linking it up with the transmission became an ongoing issue that was never truly resolved along with a few nagging electrical problems.
A new Kraco radio was installed and the Cragar wheels were put on the front with larger (wider), drag style wheels in the back.

It was a good looking car but wasn’t running consistently well.

I remember they got two really good runs in on it, once (with dad’s friend John at the wheel), they took it down to 120th Street by the old abandoned International Harvester plant and claimed they got it over 100 MPH.

I went on the other run and I’m in the back seat and it started off good down by the old Dutch Boy plant on 121st Street but then it wasn’t running quite right and that was kind of it.

The next few months my father used all of his mechanical and engineering knowledge and asked every mechanic he knew on how to get the car right. A few times it seemed close and then I guess the old man got tired, he had spent good money on it and the car ended up under a canvas cover in our backyard.

A few years later he sold it to a different young co-worker (Jeffrey), and he was going to take his shot at it.

I remember that day well, it was bittersweet, the car wasn’t running at all and had to be towed and it was part relief that this ongoing saga was over but also sad that we never got that car right.

Both dad and I always wanted to do one more car but never did. Once my father retired from CTA (and graduated from DePaul University), we often talked about “doing one last car” then over the years dad had health issues and he passed in April of 2014.

So yeah that car still burns at me all these years later.

It’s why I write about cars on this blog so much, why I almost bought a collector car on eBay earlier this week and one day I’ll get my project car to work on with my son.

 

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul University alum, class of 1999 and prior to that Brother Rice class of 1994. . And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say, feel free to email charles.w.johnson@hotmail.com

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