Josh Adkins can trace his family’s love of muscle cars back at least two generations, to his grandpa Bill. You see, his grandad owned a gas station back in the mid-’50s; a place that soon became the popular hot rodder’s hangout in their hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. Bill became immersed in the burgeoning street car scene, and also belonged to the local “Quarter Milers” car club.
Bill had a bevy of Fords and related products that he owned and raced in the locales. But after the arrival of his son, Terry, Bill sold the garage and became a salesman for a local GM dealership. For side money, he would often follow leads on cars and purchase needy rides to resell for a quick buck. Terry remembers these trips quite well, the twosome hitting up local car lots and want ads for flip-able cars and hot rods. And when Terry turned 15, well, he was ready to possibly keep one of those purchases for his own personal ride.
Young Terry definitely had his father’s passion for hot rods and muscle rides, and wanted something of the ilk for his very own first car. So he enlisted his uncle James McClellan for assistance in finding a good one to keep. James had a body shop that he ran with Terry’s grandfather. They were always finding cars to spruce up and resell. They scouted several cars in the area for young Terry until that fateful day; the day the first Camaro showed up at the garage.
Uncle James had picked up a nice, usable ’69 Camaro locally. It needed some general work and paint, but Terry was just smitten with the pony car the minute he laid eyes on it. The young hot rodder approached his uncle about purchasing the car to make it his own. His uncle was very open to doing that, and let Terry have the car for what he paid for it. The youngster was ecstatic; he was now the owner of a sweet ‘69 Camaro.
The only problem was that Terry was only 15, not old enough to drive yet. So he spent the next year working on the Camaro, getting it road ready, and even doing some esthetic work on the car. The 350-powered ride got a new skin of its original Dover White and a nice set of Cragar wheels at the corners to add to the visuals of the car. With its stunning blue interior and clean paint, the potent pony ride was now a sight to behold.
When he turned 16, Terry got the car on the road. It immediately attracted attention, both from typical onlookers and also from potential “next owners;” guys who wouldn’t mind grabbing the title on this beauty. One day a car pulled up alongside the Camaro while Terry and Bill were standing beside it. A man asked if the car was for sale. Bill prodded his son to say yes, telling the youngster he’d find him another Camaro if it sold. They priced the car for the potential buyer and the offer was immediately accepted.
Terry made a small profit on the ride, which suited him just fine. That was, until the Camaro passed him one day out on the street. Terry was so overcome with seller’s remorse that he tracked down the new owner and told him he wanted to buy the Camaro back. He told Terry that he had no interest in selling the car back to him, even for a profit. The youngster was sickened by this, and kept telling himself he should never have sold the car. Bill, on the other hand, had a sunnier outlook on the matter. He told Terry he’d find him a better one … and he held himself to his word.
Terry had a few cars pass through his stable after the Camaro, a couple of Mustangs graced the driveway, but it wasn’t what he wanted. Next, a Chevelle was a driver for some time, and although it was an improvement in his eyes it still wasn’t a Camaro. With each car that came and went, Terry made a small profit on each sale. Soon he had a nice stash of cash on hand for when that prize muscle car would show up. Then it happened, that fateful day when Terry’s father was waiting for him when he got off the bus.
Bill drove Terry to a large, privately owned garage in town. Terry remembers it was chock full of cars, with a tiny bit of light shining in. But like a beacon, one car in the back stood out immediately. It was silver with black stripes and it looked like something he would want to own. Slowly they made their way to the car; it was a Z/28, and Terry was instantly back in F-body love! A four-speed between the buckets made it all the much nicer.
They immediately made an offer and closed the deal on the car. It was taken back to their home garage where it was cleaned up and appointed with some of the things that Terry wanted. A set of Appliance mags went on right away, along with a Hush Thrush muffler setup. Once appointed properly, the car was taken out for its maiden voyage. Terry immediately fell in love with the high revving small-block, thrashing it with kid gloves out on the street. It was pure magic.
Terry’s dad knew how much the youngster loved his Camaro, and also had the foresight to help him keep it nice. They always had beater cars around just in case they felt the Z/28 shouldn’t be taken out. He continued to drive the car through his high school years. When Terry graduated, he went right to work at a transmission shop, and a few years later opened his own right there in Huntington.
Over the years, he bought a good daily driver from that GM dealership his dad worked at, and soon put the Z/28 up on stands and stored it for safekeeping. More cars came and went, marriage and life, and then son Josh came into the family. Once they bought a new house, the Camaro was trailered to the homestead where it was tucked away. Out of sight but never out of mind.
There were always toys around while Josh grew; a Baja boat with a big-block Chevy, a KZ1000 drag bike, and his dad’s prized lifted truck. When Terry decided he wanted to follow his dream and buy a spacious farm with acreage, well, some of the toys were put on the selling block. The boat went, as well as the bike and truck, and well, Terry knew he needed to sell the Camaro for the down payment on the farm. They trailered the car to the Charlotte Auto Fair for a big show and put a for sale sign on the car.
People and possible new owners immediately gathered around the car, carrying brief cases of cash handcuffed to their wrists. Offers started flying in and Terry soon got sick to his stomach, remembering the feeling of letting go of his first Camaro. This time he just couldn’t pull the trigger; he gathered up the trailer, loaded the car back up and headed back home to West Virginia with the family in tow. It’s at that moment he told 5-year-old Josh that this particular Camaro would be his car one day, and it would never leave the family.
The car sat for many years, though it was never in disarray. But Terry and now-grown Josh decided the 41k original mile car needed to be brought back to its former glory. Not just refreshed, but showroom new. They looked around for someone who shared their vision and found it in Charles Wynn; proprietor of Wynn’s Restorations in Crockett, Virginia. The car was left in his able hands. It was torn down and every part was labeled.
When it came to the paint and bodywork, they looked high and low for the crew that would lay down the PPG Global Cortez Silver paint and Tuxedo Black stripes. Charles suggested John Johnson’s Custom Classics and Restorations in McLeansville, North Carolina. The Adkins’ visited the shop and checked out their handiwork and were impressed with the level of craftsmanship. Soon, the project was coming together at every level.
No stone was left unturned to bring this ride back to its original glory. The crew went to extremes making sure all the original date codes and parts matched up to the car. After what seemed like a life-long quest, the Z/28 was finished. The DZ302-motivated car, backed by an M21 close-ratio four-speed, and pushing its original 3.73-geared Positraction 12-bolt rear was now ready to run. It also sports some nice original options, including the X33 trim package, Deluxe Comfort Weave interior (with rosewood accents), and center console.
At its first show, the Camaro Nationals in Maryland, Josh was approached by a man that said his Z/28 was the best of the bunch and he wanted to buy it. Josh told him no dollar amount would take this car from his family’s hands. The car has gone on to garner accolades and trophies wherever it goes. It even got the Mountaineer Award; which is Best of Show from the largest indoor car show from their home state of West Virginia. It’s also been certified Gold by the American Camaro Association. Special thanks go out to Josh’s wife, Mindy, for putting up with all the things that go with a nut-and-bolt restoration, and of course to dad Terry, mom Jackie, and brother Hunter for their help, support, and for giving him the opportunity to own such a rare ride. Josh’s goal is to enjoy it for the years to come and one day pass it on to his son Gage, born in August 2017. That’s some birthday present kid!
Photography by Scotty Lachenauer