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282 E Wolf Run, Mukwonago, WI 53149
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The First Camaro given a spot on the National Historic Vehicle Register
This is the stuff of legend that car
people love! Hemmings Daily is
reporting that the first Camaro ever
built is alive and well, now living a
relaxed fully restored life. Yes, it was
the first Camaro built with VIN’
N100001 but it wasn’t built in the
traditional way most people would
Camaro #1 was one of 52 cars built (and in some cases re-built
to test installation of different options) as an experimental
production run at GM’s Norwood and Los Angeles assembly
plants to assure quality control.
The first of those cars, according to Camaro pilot car researcher
Corey Lawson, was a Granada Gold coupe intended to show the
Camaro in a fairly base state, with just the 230-cu.in. six-
cylinder, a three-on-the-tree manual transmission, pushbutton
AM radio, and manual windows. The only options installed were the whitewall tires, wheel
covers, and the deluxe seat belts, along with a special 110-volt interior lighting system for the
car’s eventual use as a show car. After Fisher body sent over the shell from Detroit, the Norwood
pilot line assembled the car on May 21 and then locked it up for a couple months.
It next saw daylight in late August, as
part of the “Men of Action” dealer
introduction event in Detroit, from which
Chevrolet sent the car to the GM Tech
Center in Warren, where Jam Handy
shot still photographs and video of the
car for use in the press releases that
would formally announce the Camaro
Over the next few months, according to
Lawson’s research, N100001 traveled to
sales conventions in Detroit and Kansas
City, but its ultimate destination would be Yukon, Oklahoma – specifically the showroom floor at
R.T. Ayers High Performance Chevrolet. Ayers, who first saw the coupe at the dealer introduction
event, pulled plenty of strings to get it and subsequently used the drawing power of the first-
ever Camaro to lure customers into his dealership for more than two years.
One of those customers, Linda Johnston of Oklahoma City, became the Camaro’s first official
owner in April 1969 after paying full price – $2,550 – for the then-three-year-old car. Over the
next three decades, the Camaro remained in Oklahoma, passing through a number of owners,
most of whom recognized the importance of the car’s serial number. By the 1980s it became a
drag car, and then by the late 1990s it became simply another project car.
That is, until Lawson bought it. His research turned up not only some of the Camaro’s original
parts, which were removed when it was converted to a drag car, but also plenty of
documentation on the car’s previous owners and on its build process, the latter with the
assistance of “Echoes of Norwood” author Phil Borris and the GM Heritage Center.
A full restoration using only original GM
parts whenever possible lasted almost
two years and wrapped up in May 2014.
The Camaro has since then been
reunited with Norwood plant manager
Herb Leitz, who oversaw the pilot cars’
production, and taken part in the
introduction of the sixth-generation
Camaro in Detroit.
This summer, it’ll return once again to
Detroit as part of the 50th anniversary
celebration of the start of Camaro
production, which will coincide with the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. It will not, however,
make the trek up and down Woodward itself, however; the Historic Vehicle Association has
arranged to display it in the same glass cube that housed the previous two National Historic
Vehicle Register inductees – President Reagan’s Jeep CJ-6 and President Taft’s White steamer –
on the National Mall last month.
Selection to the register involves a
complete documentation of the vehicle,
including a fully referenced narrative of
the vehicle’s provenance and full
photography, which will then be placed
in the Library of Congress. No
restrictions are placed on subsequent
use or sale of the vehicle.