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Xplantdad 05-10-2018 02:42 AM

Anthony's 1969 SS 396 Convertible!
4 Attachment(s)
Thank you to Anthony for sharing his pride and joy with us! (Photo credit goes to Jesse Kiser)


The Camaro” as I and the family have always referred to as is a:

1969 SS396 L35 325 horsepower Convertible, TH400, Hugger Orange with Black trim, restored to stock configuration and condition – single family-owned car, documented extensively. The title has been always been in my father’s, mother’s or my name.

The car was purchased new by my father and was always a fixture in the family. I recall many memories of it, and even back then it turned heads. Mum used to drive me to kindergarten in it which was on the other side of the city and I remember stopping halfway at the park downtown to enjoy a picnic most days on the way home – it wasn’t until years later that she related that the reason for our stops was because it used to overheat and she'd let it cool. The story of the purchase was that Dad used to drive past one of the HiPo Chevrolet dealers (it's not a HiPo car, but many of the others on the lot were!) on the way to work and one day this car came in and was put up on the display rack. He drove past it for a while and just brought it home one day; it became a daily driver and all of my earliest car memories are of it.

There are many family stories of him and the car that were told. One from the early 70’s was that soon after he bought it he noticed that a highway patrol car would ‘hide’ and try to catch him speeding on his commute to work. He never did and began waving at the officer. The story ends that one day my dad stopped and gave him a take-out coffee when he was parked on the side of the road waiting to clock him. As I understand it, that’s the last time his radar gun was out when he drove past; they just waved after that.

Life happened and certain circumstances (not the least of which was Canadian winter driving) caused it to come into disrepair as cars do, and it was taken to a body shop to be restored in the late 70’s; those winters were hard on it. The replacement car was a grey something-or-other, and I recall not being pleased at all that I couldn’t roll down the back seat windows. The Camaro returned in 1982 restored and sparkling and was enjoyed for that whole summer. Dad and I drove it a lot – that original one-speaker radio constantly blasting what would eventually be known as “Classic Rock.” In fact, every time I hear “The Breakup Song” by Greg Kihn, it gives me pause as I am reminded of that summer, the Summer of ‘82.

Early the following winter, my Dad was very seriously hurt, nearly killed in fact, in an accident in his pickup truck because of black ice. The Camaro sat parked outside at the end of the driveway quietly but seriously deteriorating for the next 15 years waiting for its time again. It was always going to be mine. There were several times that Mum could’ve sold it as it was very popular fixture in the neighborhood. If we ever had a yard sale, or even if I was just outside mowing the lawn, there was usually someone that would ask the price on the ragtop in the driveway. Heck, we used to get letters in the mail that started “Dear Occupants, I’ve driven past your house and noticed the Camaro convertible in your driveway…” In fact, when people came to the door to ask if “that old car in the driveway” was for sale, Mum would invariably reply, “It’s my son’s,” and when they would ask to speak to him, she’d crack a slight smile and send out a preteen kid – me! That always ended the conversation. We would get notes left on it, a phone call or two, and one fellow, as I recall, tried for years to buy it, even offering running cars as trades. When I got older I would start it every once in a while and was very diligent about clearing the snow off of it each winter during my teen years and turning away everyone that would ask if it was for sale. Mum made sure that it was kept for me to one day enjoy as Dad had.

That day came in 1995 when I began a total restoration – it took two or so years, much longer that anyone could have possibly guessed, to return it its former self. Once I began the restoration, it always seemed that a new part needed repair and finally it turned into a total every-nut-bolt-and-inch restoration, don’t they always? It was completed only with the help of good childhood friends who knew the car as long as anyone. In 1997 I took my Dad for the first ride, and The Camaro was alive again.

As to how I got into the car hobby: I guess you could say I was born into it. I really don’t know where or when I picked up the hobby; it’s like it was always there. I didn’t realize until much later that everyone didn’t grow up with a cool car in the family (although parked and rusting away in my case) in the driveway, let alone a rare and popular muscle car. That car was the spark that lit my car fever fire I guess you could say. From there it just grew; from restoring my own at an early age, the research, the tracking down parts, the meeting of people along the way by following information and parts leads et cetera. I love talking about this car and its story, and seldom get tired of the questions at shows and cruises or thumbs-up and waves on the road.

Mum signed the title over to me one year for my birthday, while it was still a rusted wreck. In fact, when I decided I was ready to fix it, several shops declined to quote some rust repairs as it was so far gone. In fact, truthfully, had it not been what it was, or what it meant to me and my Mum, it likely wouldn’t have been saved by anyone.

As a child, I remember it being loud, and actually, I remember being stranded with Dad in it not far from home in front of the old Howard Johnson’s once. I remember the orange roof on the building, the same color as the car. When I was a kid, I always thought cars had their engines painted the same color as the outside of the car; it’s only by coincidence that “Chevy engine orange” was similar to “Hugger Orange” which was a Camaro-only (if in name only) color (that you either loved or hated). As we all know, these first Camaros were nicknamed “The Hugger” due to their handling traits, which were apparently impressive by the standards of the time (today, a drive through the Southern California mountains keeps you on your toes, believe me!) I also remember many people talking to us in that car, even back then. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that they must’ve been trying to buy it or just talk about it; this thing is, and seems to have always been, a conversation piece.

So, as I previously mentioned, I was brought home from the hospital as a newborn in this car. 42 years later, my wife, Susan, and I brought our newborn son, Anthony, home in the car as well, to bring the car’s history full circle. I've put more miles on it in the last 20+ years that in it's first 20+.

As to what makes this car special: It’s actually a rare-ish model and fully documented (and also a Canadian delivered car) but nothing compares with the family history. It’s like it is part of the family really. Heck, even each of the cats I had while growing up would sleep on the convertible top: the black fabric would apparently warm up nicely in the sun and make an inviting hammock. We also had to walk around that car in the driveway every day for 15 years to get to the back door, and the tire indents in the pavement on my Mother’s driveway are still there!

Truthfully, each drive in the car brings something memorable; either a new memory or a smile of a past memory recalled. I have a new stereo in the glove box and when that Greg Kihn song comes on, I turn it up and I’m eleven years old again riding shotgun with my Dad.

I used to attend more of the local SoCal weekly cruise nights, but after our our daughter arrived and we became a family of four, the cruise nights have tailed off. I still get to about five or six of the big weekend shows and swap meets. I have a regular space at the Pomona swap meet and always hit each Long Beach swap meet that I can.

I’ve been to the Hotrod Reunion, the LA Musclecar Nationals while it was here, the Father’s Day, LA Roadsters show and recently had it in the Musclecar Room at this years GNRS - Mum even made a guest appearance and held court as original owner for a little bit. I’m also usually at the Orange County Cruise, the Labor Day “Cruise for the Cure”, sometimes the Del Mar GoodGuys meet and used to go to each OC Barrett Jackson show & auction before that left Southern California. Sometimes, I just have to raise the hood to *start* my own car show! (At least, I like to think so.)

I don’t enter it in the judged part of shows because I drive it more than I polish it, but it did win something when I took it to the Ontario Camaro Nationals that first year back home in Southwestern Ontario, Canada where I, and the car, are from. I also drove it to the Super Chevy Sunday at Norwalk, OH that year. I did the US Camaro Nationals at the Warren tech center that first year too. And I drove it to the Pure Stock Musclecar drags (when it was still a relatively new event) that year, but that wasn't a great trip - but that's another story.

I swapped the engine and transmission when I brought it down here to CA. I pulled the original 396 (number matching / born with L35 325 hp) and original TH400 automatic transmission for a rebuilt hydraulic lifter 454 .060 over and a new Tremec 5 speed, obviously I have kept all original pieces. I’ve always wanted to convert this car to a manual since I restored it and have tried to keep it looking stock.

Sometimes I just like to look at the car. As we all know here, it’s hard for most 'regular people' to understand that this car really is like family to me. I get offers to buy it all the time and most people dismiss my refusals and mutter something disparaging.

But they don’t get it: this car *is* family.


Steve Shauger 05-10-2018 03:04 AM

Anthony, thanks for sharing the fascinating history on your family's Camaro. I'm sure it was an emotional journey for you and that came through. Kudos to your family and to you for keeping her all these years and keeping the tradition going.

I thoroughly enjoyed the article....

Bruce thanks for all you do for our site!:beers:

AnthonyS 05-10-2018 03:06 AM

Thanks Bruce!

Thanks Steve, yes, it was - hope to add many more memories to the story too!

And coincidentally, this is my 396th post here!


Xplantdad 05-10-2018 03:09 AM

I have to give continued shout outs to Jody-who adjusts setting in the background to make things easier!

Thank you Anthony for sharing!!:headbang:

X66 714 05-10-2018 03:53 AM

Nice car Anthony. I was going to ask you about it when you posted the moldings which I got today. It's nice to see a first generation Camaro WITHOUT spoilers & a Special Ducted hood......Joe

AnthonyS 05-10-2018 04:34 AM


Originally Posted by X66 714 (Post 1400445)
Nice car Anthony. I was going to ask you about it when you posted the moldings which I got today. It's nice to see a first generation Camaro WITHOUT spoilers & a Special Ducted hood......Joe

Thanks Joe. I actually took that tube to the post office hanging out the back with the top down...

carnut4life 05-10-2018 04:51 AM

Beautiful car Anthony, and an even better story, congratulations!

AnthonyS 05-10-2018 05:30 AM


Originally Posted by carnut4life (Post 1400451)
Beautiful car Anthony, and an even better story, congratulations!

Thank you!

markinnaples 05-10-2018 01:11 PM

Beautiful Camaro, and a great story. Congrats on keeping it after all those years.

AnthonyS 05-10-2018 04:45 PM


Originally Posted by markinnaples (Post 1400477)
Beautiful Camaro, and a great story. Congrats on keeping it after all those years.

Thank you.

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