Hot rodding brings out the inner machismo in all of us, or does it? From afar, all the grunting, chest-pounding, one-upmanship, and general Neanderthal emulation seems to confirm this assessment. However, the hobby has a way of bringing out man’s inner femininity as well. Going back and forth on whether to go turbo or blower, vacillating between a five- or a six-speed manual, and hanging on to stagnant project cars just because of emotional attachment very much resembles overgeneralized, stereotypical female behavior. Paul Stegall of Florence, Mississippi, channeled his inner female at an early age. As a 14-year-old kid in 1986, he found the ’67 Camaro of his dreams, took it on a testdrive with his dad, and was ready to fork over the money. That’s when the seller suddenly decided to get in touch with his feminine side by changing his mind and refusing to sell the car. Determined to buy the car, Paul worked the owner for months hoping to change his mind back. His efforts eventually paid off, and now he has an LS3-powered, T-56-shifted, four-linked car of his dreams and 28 years worth of memories to go along with it.
As the son of a responsible family man who drove sensible family cars, Paul didn’t grow up around project cars. Even so, his old man managed to pass the car bug down. So when Paul was almost old enough to drive, his dad was more than willing to tackle a father-and-son project car with his boy, and for Paul it had to be a first-gen Camaro. “The elementary school I went to in the early-’80s was right next to a high school, and a lot of the kids there drove first-gen Camaros. Ever since then, I always wanted a ’67 Camaro with hideaway headlights,” he explains. “My dad called me from work one day and said he found a Camaro for sale in the newspaper for $2,500. I hopped on my bike to check it out, and sitting in the driveway was a red ’67 RS with Cragar S/S wheels. It was love at first sight! My dad and I took it for a drive the next day, and I still remember the smell of the interior and the sound of the hopped-up 350 when the motor fired up. It was the best ride of my life.”
That excitement soon turned to disappointment, but Paul didn’t let that ruin his dreams. “When we came back from our testdrive, the car owner had a funny look on his face and said ‘I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I can sell it.’ I was devastated, and I must have ridden my bike by his house a thousand times over the next couple of months,” Paul recalls. “Whenever I saw the car owner outside, I asked if he had changed his mind. Finally, he called up my dad one day and said he needed some money. We hurried over there and bought the car before he had a chance to change his mind again. The car had a 350 small-block, a TH400 transmission, and a decent paintjob.”
Fast cars and teenage drivers often lead to crunched sheetmetal, and after a close encounter with a light pole, the Camaro needed a new front end. Relying on resourcefulness rather than a fat checkbook, the father-and-son duo decided to fix it themselves. “During my junior year of high school, my dad and I took a body repair class at night to get the car ready to paint. A fireman who worked with my dad sprayed it candy apple red,” says Paul. “We didn’t have a shop to work in, so we spent a lot of days at the fire station replacing the interior and trim. Those were some great times with my dad. I worked at a car wash all through high school, and every dollar I made went into the car. We swapped out the rearend, rebuilt the trans, installed a high-stall converter and a bigger cam, and it was ready to tear up the streets.”
After high school, Paul started bracket racing and promptly blew up the motor. A fresh 400 small-block replaced the old 350, and the Camaro evolved into a race car. Although it ran blistering 10.70-second e.t.’s at the track, Paul and his wife were starting to raise their kids so racing didn’t seem as important anymore. “My daughter loved sitting in the car and riding with me in the pits as I warmed the car up, but she always cried when she had to get out before I made a pass. She just didn’t understand, so in 2008 I decided to build the Camaro as a car we could enjoy together as a family,” Paul explains. “I ran into Jamie Bush, a cruising buddy from my high school days, at a local show. He just finished building a ’55 Chevy for an NBA player and the car blew me away. I told him I was getting ready to tear my car down to get it roadworthy again, and the rest is history.”