True gearheads are always open for a deal on a classic American muscle car, and I’m no different. At a Daytona Beach car show and swap meet in 2000, a chance conversation with a German man opened the door to an opportunity most muscle car lovers only dream about. We talked about the popularity of American muscle cars in Germany, which he said started during the ’60s and ’70s when American military personnel shipped their personal cars over there. He also said the survivors were pretty reasonably priced.
The Real Deal
I was hooked and called a friend who bought European sports cars to sell here. While he knew little to nothing about muscle cars, I filled him in and he promised to keep an eye out for a deal. In August 2001, I got news he found a garaged Camaro in the former East Germany. The call was great, but the photos were better. They were rear shots of a ’69 Camaro convertible with the letters SS on the rear panel. Bingo! I wasn’t sure it even had a running drive train, but I went for it.
During the negotiations, I worried that I might be buying a stolen vehicle sold in Europe without a title, so I tracked the car back from where it was shipped and the paperwork was clean. My Camaro arrived on a transport ship the next month and after clearing my paperwork with U.S. Customs, I found it parked in a sea of Volkswagens in the holding lot. Even after years of storage and a long sea journey this car was a beaut. It was a ’69 RS/SS package with hideaway headlights. There was not a bit of rust, dents or scratches anywhere on it, only a cracked mirror on the driver’s side.
Too Good To Be True
I shipped it to my shop in Southeastern Massachusetts, got it up on a lift and went to work. The frame, suspension, and drive train were all original and intact. There was absolutely no rust in any of the body panels, floor pans or rocker panels, none of the floor panels or body panels had ever been replaced and it had all its original sheet metal, including the inner fender panels and radiator support. Inside was the original instrumentation equipped with a tachometer including the original gauge.
Unbelievably, it was still equipped with its original 350 ci, 300 hp engine, 3-speed turbo 350 tranny and 12-bolt open rear differential. The engine misfired and the underside was caked with years of road grime and fluid leaks, but it also had its original brake booster, wiper motor, vacuum reserve tank, radiator, fan shroud, air cleaner and power steering equipment.
The original Delco–Remy voltage regulator was replaced with a European-version Bosch and the cylinder head gaskets were replaced years ago, but after checking part numbers and date codes, I confirmed it had the original carburetor, distributor, intake manifold, cylinder heads, cylinder case and rear differential. It even had its original disc brake components and the original date-coded rally wheels. The Camaro was in remarkable condition and my gamble had paid off.
After removing the engine and transmission, I disassembled the engine bay to the bare block to photograph the broach marks, the casting numbers and stampings to authenticate the drive train. After decoding the data plate on the firewall, I discovered the car was originally dark green with a green interior. The car was now black with a black/white hounds-tooth interior, white hockey stripe and white convertible top. It looked great, especially after filling in several scratches and buffing it to a high luster. I also rebuilt the engine using new piston rings, valves and bearings, installed a reproduction exhaust system and new suspension components.
This iconic muscle car was never built to be a “trailer queen,” so I’m keeping it on the road until the day I decide it should go to someone else. It deserves the continued care and storage that preserved it for so many years, so it’s been stored in Seekokonk Car Storage, a professional climate-controlled facility, since it was purchased.