1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 - RPO Z28

Derek Trulson’s time out of time

Ro McGonegal Feb 1, 2012 0 Comment(s)
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That sticky, stuffy utterance “numbers matching” makes me cringe. It seems as odious and undeniable as a challenge. No changing anything for upgrade or improvement. Finding hard-to-find parts that are bound to be included because they are all part of the numbers-matching craziness, details no mortal (or masochist) should be forced to contemplate. But that’s just me, not the NM disciple.

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The dichotomy naturally begins with money… and questions. Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to spend it on making all the car’s systems as complete as possible? Or wouldn’t it be righteous and maybe wise to religiously restore a car to its original brilliance? Obviously, it depends on the car in question. You need something that’s coveted, exalted even, to remain in stasis forever, the perfect model, the perfect form. Can you drive it without feeling guilty? Can you drive the ever-loving balls off it without feeling criminal? You admit to all this? You must be Derek Trulson.

Derek, the fast-car habitué has groomed a stable that required early work in Corvette Land. He’s had three big-block ’67s, a Fuelie ’62, a rare bit ’63 Z06 (199 built), a ’57 Fuelie, and a ’68 Shelby GT 500. So why a Camaro now? When did that impulse become as undeniable as a fetish?

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It all began with familiar I-was-a-kid-and-my-friend’s-father-had-a-hot-car-in-the-garage-and-we’d-all-had-some-beers story. It was the quirky ’80s. Derek was 17, a bad age for testosterone and devoid of common sense. The night air closed around the assembled in the garage, their eyes bright, hearts thumping, then someone raised the curtain. “That’s when I saw my first cross-ram DZ302. It was striking how cool the engine looked with two four-barrels staring you in the face… it got a whole lot better when we fired up the car. It sounded amazing… the chambered exhaust! [Beer now enlightens] When it was revved up to 8,000 it had an amazing sound! I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of all my buddies. We were like ‘Wow, this thing is nuts!’

“The big question was who had balls to take the car for a ride? Soon enough, the guy whose father owned it backed it out of the garage. I’ll never forget. Black with white rally stripes and houndstooth interior. Probably had a 4.56 gear because the car took off down the road as if it had a big-block in it. He packed Second gear, a power-shift that slammed the rear at about 7,000, throwing the car sideways with both tires smoking. That was the night I told myself that someday I would own a Z/28 with a cross-ram.”

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In November 2005, Derek bought a 1969 Cortez Silver Z/28. “I flew to Michigan to see it. Plain Jane. Real car with original drivetrain. I thought it was great. I fell in love with the silver and the black stripes. In hindsight, I bought a dog. I thought it was a solid car that needed little work. Instead, it silently screamed for a full restoration. I was told that a complete re-do would run 12 months and $70,000. Well, 66 months, $250,000, and three shops later I got my car back.”

In an endeavor as ambitious as this you must know the players key to the mission, be conversant if not downright insinuating, and be available whenever you’re needed. The top row of Derek’s hard-core recondos included Ken Lucas of Lucas Restorations in Phoenix, Maryland; Lonny Gordon of East Coast Muscle Cars in Craley, Pennsylvania; Wayne Guinn (Guinn’s Engineering, since purchased by Rick’s First Gen); Larry Christenson (ex-Camaro Plus owner, Arvada, Colorado); and Al Tischler, Derek’s engine man. Unlike most car features, this one could honestly consume the length of a book, the detail, the parts, and the parts chasing is that intriguing, elaborate, and complete.

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