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Turbo Charged 1978 Chevy Comaro - New york's "Donnie G"

Back In The Day

By Doug Marion, Photography by Courtesy Of Donnie G

Every now and then you hear stories about a guy that somehow no one can ever forget. Ladies and gentlemen, meet "Donnie G"-otherwise known as Donald Giambalvo of Dix Hills, New York. He graduated high school in 1973. That same summer, he needed a car. His sister's best friend was about to get married, so her green 1969, 307, four-speed Camaro could be had for $950. Sold!

After three years of faithful service to Donnie G, he decided to make it an extension of himself. Out came the little 307 and in went a 396 big-block with a Turbo 400 automatic transmission with a 2,500 rpm stall-speed torque converter. A 12-bolt rear end with 4.56:1 gears replaced the original 10-bolt. Bright green was not a popular color, so he painted the car in black lacquer. Centerline wheels and huge gummies gave the Camaro a performance stance.

The restrictive exhaust system was nixed in favor of a Hooker header and side pipes system. Lastly, he installed a huge domed hood. In 1976, all of these mods combined cost $2,600, which was a bunch of dough at the time. The '69 was now very quick. Donnie G made a name for himself over the next few years.

By then the men in blue had also noticed his black beast, and he began getting tickets-but not for street racing or speeding. Try altered exhaust. Tires outside of the wheel wells. Hood scoop obstruction of vision. Lastly, squealing of the tires. On that one, he wasn't going over 10 mph, but he was making a lot of noise. His New York driver's license points now totaled six. You were allowed seven before being given walking papers, so he did a smart thing and put the Camaro in storage. His license would "clean up" in only three to five years. No biggie, Donnie G thought.

Suddenly, "other priorities" took up all of Donnie G's time. He got a good job on Wall Street. Then he bought a house. The Camaro went from storage to his new garage, where it sat idle for 12 more years. He got married in 1981 and with wife, Patricia, started a family in 1984. Then Donnie G's happy clan moved to another house in 1992. The Camaro sat there for another 16 years.

Finally, his kids had grown up and moved out. One day when he and Patricia were discussing a needed kitchen re-do, she looked at him and said, "Why don't you re-do your Camaro, instead?" After he picked himself up off the floor, she assured him that it was the right thing to do. Donnie had a disability that affected his legs and back, so she knew it was time to get his beloved Camaro back on the road, future tickets be damned.

After shopping around for recommendations, he finally selected S/P Classics to do a total restoration. The engine was replaced with a ZZ502 big-block GM crate motor. It would take three pages to cover the entire work done, but you get the drill.

Today, when Donnie G drives his potent 1969 Camaro, he definitely feels like he is in his early 20s again. So, when you see a gray-haired guy in a black 1969 Camaro in your rearview mirror and he has a grin from ear to ear, that's ol' Donnie G. And yes, he still owes his beloved wife, Patricia, a new kitchen. But they love cruisin' in their killer '69 Camaro.

By Doug Marion
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