This is a story without the usual ending. In the classic
barn find narrative, our hero unearths a long-lost iconic muscle car in some
barn in rural Iowa discovered after accidentally overhearing a lunchtime
conversation. He then completes a meticulous restoration that wows the
assembled throng, who sings his praises, making him an instant celebrity.
None of that happens here.
Like the drag racer who said, "I'd rather be lucky than
good," this story is all about being at the right place at the right time
and sweetened with a heaping tablespoon of dumb luck.
When I somehow managed to bluff then-Car-Craft-Editor Rick
Voegelin into hiring me as a wet-nosed feature editor in the spring of 1979, my
future ex-wife, Susan, and I moved to Burbank, California. After a few weeks of
learningthe art of negotiating L.A. freeways, we began the search for the car
she wanted-a red '66 Mustang fastback. While I harbor no ill feelings toward
Fords, I secretly planned to convince her that an early Camaro was a far better
choice. We spent a whole Saturday looking at a rash of unworthy Mustangs.
After dismissing all the previous Fords, there was a Camaro
just around the corner that we investigated. After a quick once-over, the
Camaro appeared a bit shabby but straight. During the testdrive, the engine
detonated badly, but I had already decided to buy the car-with her money. The
Camaro was fitted with what I assumed was a 275hp 327, a Powerglide with a
nonstock but OE shifter that looked like it came out of an early Vette, front
disc brakes, 15-inch Rally wheels, and dual exhaust. The Granada Gold color and
gold interior were lame, but we drove the Camaro away for $1,250. As we learned
later, that was the deal of a lifetime.
One thing it did do well was accelerate, especially for a
Powerglide car. Nailing the throttle produced impressive tire spin from both
tires, but it detonated badly. What was odd was what appeared to be a
factory-installed square-tube traction bar on the passenger side of the car.
After we had owned the car for a couple of weeks, I decided to determine if the
engine was original to the car. The sequence stamped into the block matched the
VIN stamped in the doorjamb, so it appeared this was the original engine. When
I looked up the two-letter MP code stamped into the block, my motor's manual
listed this as a '67 290hp 327 with AIR. I knew that couldn't be correct
because that was a Z/28 engine-and at this point I didn't want to believe this
was a Z/28. Where were the aluminum intake, Holley carb, and four-speed?
I began to do research in earnest, and most of my contacts
at that time scoffed at the idea that the car was a Z/28. I mentioned all this
one day to Jim McFarland, who at this time was the vice president of R&D at
Edelbrock. He told me about someone named Jim Losee who had previously worked
at Edelbrock and knew an awful lot about Z/28s and that I could find him at
Gledhill Chevrolet in Wilmington, California. I called Jim and we took the car
to him one weekday evening.
Jim and I spent the next few hours partially disassembling
the car looking for clues. The fact that the engine numbers matched was a
puzzle to him, and he was equally skeptical. We counted tire revolutions and
realized the car had a 3.73:1 rear gear, which was the standard Z/28 gear along
with what Jim recognized as a factory traction bar. Up front the car had the
correct disc brakes and Z/28-only 15-inch Rally wheels. It even had this
rectangular hole cut in the firewall that was the exact dimension for what
would have been a cowl-induction air cleaner. All this pointed to the fact that
the car was a Z/28, but Jim was still not convinced.
This is what the engine compartment looked like just after
we bought the car. All Z/28s de
The previous owner told me he had put an Earl Scheib paint
job on the car, and Jim and I already knew that in 1967 the only external cue
for the Z/28 was the factory stripes in a contrasting color. After a couple of
hours of searching, we had not found anything conclusive. Remember, this was
long before anyone had deciphered the mystical trim tag hieroglyphics, so we
were hunting without knowing about the magic 4L code I would learn much later.
That's when Jim saw a faint yet visible paint contrast just at the base of the
rear window where the trunk seal met the body. There he saw two sets of what
had to be factory-applied black stripes that carried over in the trunk seal
"You see that?" Jim asked me, pointing to the
stripes that were all but painted over.
"Yeah!" I said because we both knew at that point,
we had proved to ourselves that this was a Z/28.
"You, my friend, own a '67 Z/28 . . . wanna sell
At that moment, a guy I had previously never met instantly
became a good friend that I am proud to say extends to this day. Jim now lives
in Texas and is still deeply buried in this wonderful automotive lifestyle that
affects everything we both do.
This is the collection of repair receipts and canceled
checks Mary Bobel collected over th
Along the way, I also learned much more about the Z/28's
history. The gentleman who sold me the car was a mere intermediary. We'll get
back to him in a minute. In the glovebox was a collection of receipts all
pointing to a woman by the name of Mary Bobel. From these records, it appeared
she had owned the car since 1969, and I found her living in Monrovia,
California (yes, that's almost Pasadena). Susan and I set up an appointment to
talk, and this wonderful lady filled in much of the car's missing history. In
1969, she was looking for a car, and her son found this Granada Gold Camaro
with black stripes sitting on the used car lot at Lindy Chevrolet in Arcadia.
The car was equipped in much the same condition as I purchased it 19 years
later, but Mary was quick to point out that it was in fact a Z/28
In a disappointing sidebar to this tale, in the middle of
our discussion, I asked Mary if she had ever seen a small plate that looked
like a metal credit card. This perky little lady immediately said, "I
think I still have it." She disappeared into a side room for several
minutes only to reappear with a frown. "I just remembered that I cleaned
out the closet where I kept that a couple of weeks ago. I threw all that stuff
into the garbage. I'm sorry." For a moment or two, I had this vision of me
sifting through mountains of garbage, searching for a '67 Camaro
After driving the Camaro for 10 years, Mary sold it to a
friend for the princely sum of $500. At the time, Mary said she told him the
car was a Z/28. "But I don't think he believed me." That would be his
loss. He had the car painted and then sold it to us.
I now knew more about the car's history and slowly began
collecting a few OE parts in anticipation of a full restoration. But since Car
Craft was never a muscle car restoration magazine, there was never a push to
rebuild it. Plus, there always seemed to be other projects that were more
important. I eventually moved to Hot Rod as editor, and the demands on my time
with travel and two young children meant the car just sat. We bought a new
house a few miles away with a bigger yard to store more cars, and that's when
my marriage came apart and I ended up with the car.
The Camaro has changed very little from the days when Susan
drove it every day to work. The disc brake calipers began to leak back in the
early '80s, which was a common affliction. I had Stainless Steel Brakes install
stainless liners in the calipers, which is how that company got its
start-rebuilding Corvette calipers. The engine is still disassembled and
sitting in my shop, maintaining the same state of disassembly for more than 25
years. Like I said in the beginning of this soliloquy, this story has not yet
arrived at its Cinderella ending. The car is exactly as you see it in the
current photos. I have most of the parts to put it back together, and I've even
toyed with the idea of building the engine, tossing a wide-ratio Muncie behind
it, and getting it running, shabby seats and all. Maybe that's the next new
movement for barn find cars. It might be a hoot. Then again, maybe not...
The Z/28 Option
The whole reason the Z/28 was created was to compete with
the Fords and Mopars in the SCCA Trans-Am series. The over 2.0L class limited
displacement to 5.0 liters, or 305 ci. Since Chevy didn't have a 5.0L engine,
it responded in classic car crafter fashion by building a 302ci engine using a
small-journal 327 4.00-inch-bore block and a forged-steel 3.00-inch-stroke 283
crankshaft. The cam was the classic Duntov 30-30 mechanical lifter camshaft
along with a set of 462 iron 2.02/1.60-inch valve heads, an aluminum dual-plane
intake manifold, and a Holley carburetor.
Since this was a road race car, Chevy bolted on a set of RPO
J52 four-piston disc brake calipers and then specified a set of 15 x 6-inch
Rally wheels mounted with 7.35 x 15-inch tires. A Muncie four-speed was the
only transmission available (close ratio was standard, wide ratio was optional)
along with a standard 3.73:1 rear gear and a factory-installed traction bar.
This was back in the day when you could also get as deep as a 4.88:1 gear
straight off the factory order form. The minimal Z/28 package in 1967 was the
engine, four-speed, a 3.73:1-geared 12-bolt, and power disc brakes. Other
options such as the RS package, headers, cowl induction, an air cleaner, a
vinyl top, the spoiler package, and tach and gauges were available. My car did
have a few options, including a tinted windshield, a console, and Positraction,
along with a radio and a heater.
Everyone knows there were only 602 of these cars built in
1967. What I've never uncovered (not that I've looked very hard) is the number
of Z/28s delivered for sale with the California emissions package. This has to
reduce the number down to perhaps a few dozen at most.
YOU ARE NOT JUST BUYING PARTS – YOU ARE GETTING OUR CAMARO EXPERTISE
Tags: camaro part, camaro parts, Camaro restoration parts, 69 camaro, 1969 camaro, aftermarket camero parts, chevrolet camaro, ss, z28, rs, chevrolet, restoration, 68 camaro, chevy, 67, 69, f-body, camaro, chevy camaro, chevrolet camaro, gm, z-28, 350, ls1, z/28, pace car, camaro ss, 69 camaro, first generation, copo, fbody, yenko, 67 camaro, 68 camaro, musclecar