This is one of those stories we've heard a number of times before, but for some reason it never gets old, and it's hard to ignore. You know the one: A guy sells his beloved 1969 Chevy Camaro SS due to some life-changing situation only to get it back some thirty years later. Jimmy Cole's SS is just like that, but only different.
Jimmy's dad, Jim, purchased the car new in 1969, and according to the bill of sale, pops wasn't new to the muscle car world-far from it. Two cars are listed as trade-ins for the one Camaro-a '66 GTO and a '66 Malibu. Amazingly enough, though, that compilation of muscle only fetched $2,920.55 against the sticker price of $4,396.65 for one performance-optioned F-body.
The two-car trade did offer Jim the luxury of not digging nearly as deep into his pockets to acquire the new hot rod. And a hot rod it was. It seems the young Mr. Cole wasn't about to settle for just a standard V-8 Camaro. Nope, he was all about performance, so in went an extra $311.75 for the SS package. Scanning the invoice further revealed his true quest for additional horsepower. This meant parting with a hefty $316 for the L78 375hp T/Jet 396 engine, while another $56.90 went into the Positraction axle. If you're going to bring in that kind of horsepower, a "peg-leg" just won't cut it. He then tossed in another $15.80 for the chambered dual exhaust. Another big-ticket item was the Turbo 400 trans. That set him back another $290.40, while the Spec. Ducted Hood tacked on $79.00 to the tab. It's only money, right? Still not done, Jim felt the interior could use a little added flair that would reflect the handling and performance goodies, so he laid down another $94.80 for the special instrumentation gauge package. And not that performance took a back seat to some creature comforts, but another $61.10 was laid out for an AM radio and another $94.80 for the power steering upgrade. Now that's money well spent, right there. All in all, the special-ordered upgrades totaled up to $1,535.30. Add on the $5.25 for the one-percent local tax fee and another $4.00 for the clerk and notary fee and Jim was rolling in muscle car heaven.
Returned To Sender
Jim enjoyed the Camaro until 1974 when he sold it to his brother who happened to work for Pigeon Forge Fire Department. For several years it was used as the First Responder vehicle. Needless to say, it was always the first vehicle on the scene.
According to Jimmy, "another uncle bought it in 1977 and kept it a short time before selling it to 'someone out of town.'"
Sometime in 1981 Jim was flipping through the local paper's classified ads when he noticed a Cortez Silver '69 up for sale that looked similar to his. After much prodding by Jimmy, Jim caved in and called the phone number listed on the ad to see if the car was still for sale. It was, so the two Cole's headed over to investigate if it was in fact Jim's original car. To the surprise of the father and son, all the original paperwork was there and in great shape. Confirming it was Jim's Camaro, they had no choice but to purchase the car. "It even had the original paint!" Jimmy exclaimed.
Excited to have the car back in their hands, the idea then was to have it restored and to give the vintage sheetmetal a fresh dousing of silver pigment. Sounds like a simple plan, right? Not so fast.
For the next 27 years, the car would see three different body shops. "Talk about 'paint jail,' all these guys did was provide storage, which was actually not a bad thing since it kept the mileage down. As it sits now, it only has 53k actual miles on it," said Jimmy.
In 2008, a chance meeting led Jimmy to Chris Nash, owner of Precision Rod & Custom in Sevierville, Tennessee. Jimmy paid a visit to Nash's shop and was impressed with the quality of work the Precision crew turned out. Feeling confident with a paint and body shop this time, Jimmy brought the car over so Nash could turn his team loose on the weathered Camaro. Within one year's time, his dad's Camaro had received a full concourse restoration. "The guys over at Precision Rod & Custom don't mess around, and they do top-quality work. Dave, Conrbred, Victor, and the rest of the staff were great to work with. I can't thank them enough for getting the car done so quickly," said Jimmy.
Wayne's Auto Trim in Morristown, Tennessee, brought the stock GM interior back to life including the fresh vinyl seat covers and GM black loop carpet. Nothing out of line, and no custom nuances here, as it's what this restoration was all about.
With the car restored back to the way it was when new, Jimmy now has fond memories of riding in the back seat with his younger brother. "We used to wave 'good-bye' from the back window when Dad would blow the doors off other cars on the street," reminisces Jimmy. "Although I lost my younger brother in 1970, having this car restored back to original condition takes me back to those great times."
It's hard to believe the 27-year nightmare is finally over," said Jimmy. "This car is a blast to drive and I love showing it. But what's really important is having the car back in the family. And no, this car is NOT for sale."