Generally we keep the text of our Readers’ Rides section on the short side so we can showcase at least four Camaros. For the May 2012 issue we made an exception so we could share this very special story of a true Camaro and performance enthusiast. The story of Matt Krueger and his long battle with cancer at such a young age is a true reminder as to just how fragile and unfair life can sometimes be. — Nick Licata - Editor
Matthew Krueger in a word is … amazing. Matt was diagnosed with stage-four cancer at age 19 in October 2008. Since then he has undergone four surgeries, two of which were over 10 hours long, and procedures numbering in the teens. He has had four different kinds of chemotherapy. He has received radiation two different times. He has also undergone a number of other “minor” procedures in between everything else. Through the ups and downs in the roller coaster we call life, one thing has stayed true with Matt: He is an unstoppable man.
When Matt first learned he had cancer his first words were, “What? There’s more I want to do yet.” Since that moment he has not stopped working towards what he wants. He touches the lives of everyone he comes into contact with. People are inspired by his drive and determination. One of the main things that keeps Matt going is the fact that he is a car guy.
Matt knew he wanted a Camaro from the very first time he rode in his uncle’s ’79 Z28. Finally, after saving up and deciding he had the maturity to handle the power, he got his very own Camaro in the spring of 2008. It was a ’99 Metallic Blue Z28 six-speed. We drove six hours to see the car. In Matt’s mind this was something he needed to do–to get this car before he settled down and we got married.
After modifying the car’s appearance with halo headlights, tinted windows, and blacked-out Corvette wheels, the car was finally ready to appear in our wedding on October 30, 2010. That Metallic Blue became the wedding color. Not able to find a miniature Camaro, he tracked down a pink Barbie Corvette, color-matched and painted it the color of his Camaro for the ring bearer and flower girl to appear in during the grand march. Needless to say, Matt’s blue Camaro became the theme of the wedding with bridesmaid’s dresses and car cake to match.
Once the Camaro’s exterior was done to his liking, it was time to do some performance mods. Matt came to know the gentlemen at West Bend Dyno after they had tuned his truck. He trusted them and excitedly shared all of the things he would like to see done to the car and they helped make it happen.
Since the Camaro has become a part of our lives, Matt has also enjoyed taking his car to Great Lakes Dragway as well as autocrossing it at Miller Park. That Camaro has also raced around the track at Lowes Motor Speedway reaching speeds of 135 mph. This was another unforgettable experience and great example of the generosity Matt inspires.
An ambitious young hot rodder who needed some assistance dialing in his freshly built small-block Chevy stumbled into West Bend Dyno Tuning. Matt Krueger had just dropped a freshly built 350 into his ’95 K1500 4x4. After bolting on every performance part that can be mailed to his doorstep, Matt realized his recipe of parts would need some caressing before rumbling to the local cruise night. That request would require some items not included in his toolbox.
I specifically remember Matt because he had similar traits and qualities that I had at his age. I hot rodded everything I could get my hands on and I worked for our family owned excavating business. Ironically, Matt also worked for an excavating company owned by his soon-to-be father-in-law and appeared to have the same gearhead tunnel vision as myself.
Matt was proud of his fiancé as well and showed me a picture of her that he had resting on the console of his truck. Matt again reminded me of myself when we barely finished his truck project and he already had another project brewing (a Metallic Blue ’99 LS1 Z28 Camaro).
Matt would call and pick my brain as to what the best combination of parts would be to bring his LS1 to life. With my advice, combined with his ideas, he gradually began to build an arsenal of parts for his Z28. One particular order Matt had made was a set of long-tube headers along with some O2 extensions. Somehow the O2 extensions were misplaced in the order and Matt had called to let me know. I called the warehouse and they said they would drop-ship a set to Matt right away. Strangely, about a year had gone by without hearing from Matt. When I finally heard back, he called to tell me that he still didn’t receive the O2 extensions and apologized that it took him so long to call due to the fact he was battling cancer. Matt then ordered a set of CNC-ported heads and a roller cam that I had recommended. I ordered the parts and made sure he had a set of O2 sensors as well. When Matt came in to pick up his parts I was stopped in my tracks when I saw his condition. It was difficult to take, but one thing stood clear: Matt’s love for cars went very deep! Matt was very thin and barely had the strength to stand up straight, but he still had it in him to drive an hour to pick up the parts to complete his project. A few months went by, and the week of Christmas 2011 Matt asked his father to drive him to come see us. Matt’s condition had worsened greatly and it was inevitable what the outcome was going to be. Matt would no longer be able to finish the project himself and came to us to finish it for him before he gives in to his seemingly endless battle with cancer. It took everything I had to not let the tears in my eyes show.
We are now in the process of installing the Wegner CNC-ported 243 heads, COMP cam, pushrods, SLP oil pump and timing chain, Spec clutch, poly motor mounts, and PaceSetter long-tubes with off-road Y-pipe. We also gave Casey Wegner at Wegner Motorsports a call and he gave us a screaming deal on a set of personalized, custom CNC billet valve covers for Matt.
Good luck, Matt. Our hearts go out to you! -Brad Riekkoff West Bend Dyno Tuning