It could be said that 1978 was one of those years that could have easily been forgotten. Disco was still in full swing, KC and the Sunshine Band could be heard blaring from just about any eight-track that was available. It was a year that saw Al Unser winning his third Indianapolis 500 and infamous serial killer David Berkowitz aka "Son of Sam" was sentenced to 365 years in prison. It was the year of the Lufthansa heist, in which six men robbed a cargo facility in New York, making off with almost $6 million in cash and jewels. It also had its share of births-Kurt Busch and Dan Weldon, to name two most notable motorsports names.
The late '70s weren't all that great for us car guys. It was fraught with rising gas prices and higher emission standards-both of which choked the life out of a fire-breathing dragon and put it on bed rest with a nasty case of bronchitis, wheezing, and sputtering so cautiously that it could barely ignite an already-burning Bic lighter. Indeed, these were dark and sad times for the performance-oriented car enthusiast.
A faint and glimmering light beckoned off in the distance of the vast wasteland that was the automotive landscape. You see, even during times of great strife, the Camaro was a beacon for what was and what could be. You could still get the tried-and-true classic 350ci engine, albeit a bit strangled for power. It still had the classic lines that flowed smoothly from front fascia to rear spoiler. It was front engine and rear-wheel drive. What more could you want from a sports car?
The new-year model for the 1978 Chevy Camaro ushered in a new front and rear bumper combination and an actual hood scoop, unlike the previous year that only sported a lame sticker. People flocked to dealerships to hoard the new Camaro. Selling a record 272,631 units, it outsold the Ford Mustang for the second year in a row.
None of that awesome newness was lost on Jeff Faffler of St. Paul, Minnesota. His 1978 Chevy Camaro Z28 stands as a monument to what made the '70s bearable and even a little bit exciting. Jeff's love affair with his ultra-hygienic '78 didn't start right away. When he was 16, he was bit by the Chevy bug by a very unassuming '72 four-door Impala. From that very first car, Jeff knew he would only have Chevys for the rest of his life.
Jeff was enamored with the late second-gen Camaros, specifically the '78-81 model body style. He was smitten by the new bumpers, front and rear, that included the soft, body-color urethane bumpers. It was a fresh take on the almost decade-old Camaro moniker that had clearly evolved from the previous model years.
By his senior year of high school, in 1985, Jeff set out on a quest to find his own sports car. He had already made the decision that it had to be a Camaro and it had to be a '78. It was then he found a car he was interested in buying. Jeff called upon a good friend, Bob Klinger, who was an automotive body man and painter by trade, to help him out. The car had a minor 64,000 miles on it and had been freshly painted. The previous owner had installed an aftermarket sunroof that remains to this day, and a trailer hitch that was dismissed.
Jeff remembers the exact day he picked it up-September 9, 1985. He is the third owner and will probably be the last. "I've never considered selling my Camaro because I like the car too much. Plus, I would just look again for something similar to buy anyway," Jeff says. He used the car as a daily driver and put almost 17,000 miles on it in the first three years after the purchase. Even accounting for the brutal Minnesota winters and having to store the vehicle, that is a considerable amount of miles.
Jeff has had a lot of great memories with the car. He fondly recalls towing a rented boat with a group of buddies piled into the car (what a sight that must have been, Jeff! Where's the picture for your buddies at Camaro Performers?).
By 1990, the stock 350 motor was tired and in need of replacement. Jeff balanced his options and went for a 350ci crate motor from Chevrolet. After the install, Jeff entered the car into his first car show. He wound up winning the Outstanding in Class trophy.
Jeff slowly added new parts and chrome as he saw fit and as the car needed. "When I had to replace my engine, it was a good opportunity to add some chrome!" He says. Jeff has always been captivated by the look and the shine of chrome. He was judicious when adding pieces, making sure to not overdo it. "I love chrome but you have to be careful because sometimes you can have too much. That's why I also have gloss black and some red in my engine compartment," he says.
Other improvements included replacing the TH350 tranny in place of a 700-R4 to make it a highway cruiser. Each year, Jeff disassembles one part of the car, completely blows it apart, paints it, and hangs it with care. This is probably why you won't find a single nut out of place or a solitary scratched piece. It's this kind of detail that keeps a car in top shape.
Jeff scoffs at those who call it a trailer queen because he knows cars are meant to be driven and wouldn't be caught dead in a cushy enclosed trailer.
Jeff celebrated his 25th car-versary of blissful Camaro ownership this year. You might catch him rolling with his buddies in the Northstar Camaro Club or you might just catch him standing next to his über rock-solid-sparkling Camaro. Either way, you know exactly what he'll be driving for the next 25 years!
Here's to you Jeff-keep the shiny side up!