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Remembering the Camaro

The last of its kind rolled off the assembly line in August. This week, readers share tales of how the automotive icon has touched them.

October 02, 2002|John O'Dell

The legend under the Highway 1 banner says "Autos California Style." It is not a boast but a promise we try to keep each week. This week's issue is one of the better examples as readers reminisce about the Camaros in their lives.

That legend really should say "Autos Southern California style," because almost nowhere else has the automobile become so much more than a mere conveyance. Our jobs, families and homes may reflect who we are, but our cars and trucks often project who we want to be, how we want to be seen. That's why we dress them up in custom wheels and paint, in graphics and aerodynamic kits, in chrome and leather. We want them to look good because that makes us look and feel good.

Rare is the Californian who cannot recount in exquisite detail his or her first car. Some vehicles, though, evoke more emotion than others; reliable and technologically advanced as they are, it is hard to get choked up about a new Accord or Camry. But turn the conversation to Mopars and Mustangs, roadsters and rods, and see where it goes.

We recently remarked on the passing of one of those automotive icons, the Camaro, which General Motors Corp. launched in 1967 to fight Ford's Mustang and killed last month, along with its Pontiac Firebird twin.

The last Camaro, a red Z28, rolled off the assembly line Aug. 27. The final Firebird had rolled off the line just minutes before. Weakening sales, caused by years of corporate tinkering that reduced the Camaro's sportiness and appeal, caused its demise.

We asked readers to share Camaro memories, and the letters and e-mails came from as far away as Texas and as close as downtown Los Angeles. Some sent bittersweet stories, others funny tales. They were a joy to edit, and we think you'll have fun reading this selection.

John O'Dell


25 Years and Going

The Camaro has left an indelible imprint on my life. It was my first car out of high school.

I learned a lot of what Bob Seger calls "Night Moves" in the back seat of one. Unless you are a pygmy or contortionist, this should be left to professionals.

Like most young kids with their first hot rod, I did quite a bit of racing with it, both officially sanctioned and otherwise. Yeah, it was a lot of fun beating up on a rival Mustang or Firebird.

For 25 years now I have always owned a Camaro and I will continue to do so, even though Chevy has decided to discontinue the model. They can discontinue the car but they can't discontinue the memories. Memories of simpler times, I guess. Memories of times when American performance was supreme. When they build one like the original, I'll be back.

Jon Mello



The Man Magnet

She was not called a muscle car in January 1969 when she arrived with a bow affixed to her gold hard top. She was the coolest car a college coed could get for graduation, though. And I knew she was a "she" because she attracted men right from the start.

She was my first car and she continues to bring me pleasure in spite of the obstacles of aging. She has outlived smog testing and leaded gas, and her replacement parts now are from JY--junk yards--not GM.

She attracts more men than ever. Men have climbed out of their trucks to ask if she's for sale. Some have stood patiently beside her in parking lots, waiting for me to come back so they could ask about her.

Many have told me sad stories of how they once owned one like her, but traded theirs in and now regret it. Sometimes, while we're stopped at a traffic light, men in their cars check us out, smile at us or give us a thumbs up.

She has been a reliable pal, and I take good care of her. The older she gets, the more fun we have.

Joanne Adler Grant

Los Angeles


To the Moon and Soon Back

I am still driving a 1968 six-cylinder Chevrolet Camaro I acquired new from the dealer in 1969.

Because it now has 386,655 miles on it, it has been as far as the moon and is now on the way back. The car also has appeared in a television show spotlighting my research on California Indian astronomy.

I intend to pilot the Camaro to a safe return to Earth and an odometer reading of 476,160 miles.

E.C. Krupp

Director, Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles


Like Father, Like Son

In 1978, my wife, Christine, our son Sean and I welcomed two new additions to our family: first, a new Z28 Camaro, and then, after a midnight race to the hospital, a new baby, Patrick.

The Z28 was school-bus orange; Patrick was pinkish and clashed a little with the Camaro during his ride home from the hospital, but we kept them both anyway.

In the fall of that year our little family headed north through California and the Pacific Northwest. It was probably the perfect time for us to take the trip. Each of us fit into our assigned seats, the Camaro was fun to drive, and we have no negative memories of our road trip with a baby, a toddler and a late '70s GM car.

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