Generally, these pages are devoted to showcase readers' Camaros-after all, they are what really make this hobby tick. But every now and again we find a car, and a reader, that really gets our attention and reminds us that there are other things more important than 1,000 hp engines and three-piece forged wheels. Such was the case with the '69 Camaro owned and built by Carmen Brancato.
As Carmen recalls, "I come from a military family, with my Dad and both grandfathers having served in the Marines, a sister serving as a nurse in the Army and being deployed this June to Afghanistan (presently stationed at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC), a brother-in-law presently deployed overseas in the Navy, and myself having served a short time in the Marines. In June 2009, I visited my sister while she was stationed at the burn unit in Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. During my stay, I was able to take a tour of the Center for the Intrepid, a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility located next to the hospital. As my sister and I toured the facility, we were able to meet some of these brave warriors who had sustained life-altering wounds. The looks on their faces were not one of self-pity, as many would feel, but of determination. It was truly a humbling experience that made me feel honored to have met them. Not all of them could return to battle to be with their fellow brothers and sisters, but if they had the chance, I know they would surely do so. I left the facility wanting to do whatever I could do to help these men and women continue to get the best possible rehabilitation and care they could receive. My cousin Joseph Brancato II was involved in work with charities, which prompted me to find a charity that supported our wounded troops. After some research, and a car show my sister and I attended, I was introduced to the Wounded Warrior Project." Carmen figured he could help raise awareness, and donations, through the use of his '69 Camaro.
Carmen sold his truck to start the project and worked with Arizona Designs in Maple Shade, New Jersey, to come up with a vinyl wrap with images of the various branches of our armed forces. "So far, all of the costs, from the $3,500 graphics, to the fuel, tolls, and maintenance have been covered by my own finances. It hasn't been easy for my family, but it is a small sacrifice compared to those being made by our troops and their families," remarks Carmen. The Camaro debuted on July 4th of 2009, and since then it has visited military bases, hospitals, and reserve centers all over the country. It's also been at NASCAR events and even a number of country music concerts. This year, Carmen trailered and drove the SS across the country to further promote the charity after being invited to display at the SEMA Show. In fact, he's put over 20,000 miles on the Camaro since July of 2009.
You can find out more about how Carmen and his Camaro are supporting our troops at www.warriorcamaro.org. There's also a huge list of companies, many of them advertisers in this magazine, supporting this very worthy cause. Also, be sure to visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org to find out how we can all do just a bit more for our fighting men and women.
Old, New, Borrowed, Blue
To bring good luck in the years to come, a new bride is supposed to have one of each of these on her wedding day. If that new bride were to have Roger Bartow's '72 Camaro, everything would be covered.
In 1980, when Roger Bartow was 17 years old, he saw an ad in the newspaper for a used '72 Camaro. That car in the ad became Roger's first car. He came home with a white exterior, blue vinyl interior Camaro equipped with a 165hp V-8. What more could a young man want?
Large glass panel T-tops, manufactured by the Fisher-Griffin Company as a dealer add-on, was one rather unique feature of this model. Roger's Camaro was one such equipped car. Other than that, this Camaro was rather plain Jane. After a bit of time, Roger decided to fix up the second-gen. Bad bodywork was repaired, a new engine installed, and fresh paint laid down. The Camaro served him well for 10 years until 1990 when some junk on the freeway ripped the undersides to shreds. The car limped home and sat parked for the next 16 years.
Roger joined the Army reserves when he turned 18. As 2006 rolled around, Roger was called to serve his country in Iraq. While he was deployed, his brother Ron came up with the idea to restore Roger's old Camaro as a "welcome home, thanks for serving our country" present. His parents agreed, and said they would pay for the parts needed. Ron borrowed the Camaro, and had it trailered two hours away to his house where the restoration would take place.
When Roger returned from Iraq, he noticed right away that his long-neglected car was not at the side of the house. His mother told him that it was placed in storage to comply with housing area rules. Roger accepted this without question. As the restoration continued, the car was becoming a faded memory for Roger. After being home for two years, Roger was once again called to active duty and left for Kuwait for a year. Roger came home just before Christmas in 2009; however the Camaro was still not quite finished. The day did finally come in July, which corresponded with Roger's birthday.
That Saturday, an unsuspecting Roger Bartow rode with his brother to the local car show. As they approached, Ron could see a large crowd of people in one area of the parking lot, along with several news cameras. The two brothers walked along the line of cars, stopping to view a couple along the way. Eventually they came to a gleaming blue Camaro with a large silver bow on top. Eyeballing the sign, Roger said with a hint of remembrance, "1972 Camaro." Turning toward his sister-in-law Beth, Roger continued, "I have one of those. Mine's not this nice."
At Ron's urging, Roger continued to read the sign in silence until noticing one key item; "Owner: Roger Bartow." At that point the once-silent crowd broke into applause and cheers as Roger fought back tears of joy. It had been 20 years since Roger sat in the driver seat of his Camaro. With a healthy rumble, the Ramjet engine sprang to life and once again the crowd was cheering for this veteran and his beautiful old, new, returned, blue Camaro.
As Ron told us, "I may have risked more than a few busted knuckles, and one gash over an eye from a wayward wrench, but that's really nothing compared to the risks my brother faced serving our country," says Ron of his four-year-long restoration gift. "Sometimes you do what you have to do, and sometimes you do what you like. I got to do both with this project."