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The One That Got Away - Thunder Road

Jim Campisano Jun 30, 2014
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What is it about classic Chevys that tugs at our heartstrings to the point they snap? We lust after them, we go into hock for them, work on them, and probably spend way too much time thinking about them.

I was working the Super Chevy Memphis car show recently, and on display was a truly beautiful SS350 ’69 Pace Car Camaro replica (photo above). This was a pristine, restored example, and it got me to thinking about the one I nearly owned back in 1990 or so. I was an associate editor on the late, great MuscleCars magazine in New Jersey when I got a call from an acquaintance. He’d gotten some girl he met pregnant, and needed to unload his SS350 Pace Car convertible—and soon.

My heart instantly began beating faster. For one of the few times in my automotive life, I was in the right place at the right time. His needed a serious restoration, as did many first-gen Camaros from the Garden State in that era, but it was complete, and the price was totally doable. Not that I had the cash, but I figured I could borrow it pretty quick. “I’ll take it,” was my response, “but I’ll need a couple of days to get you the money. See you this weekend.” The owner was relieved—he was getting his money, and the Pace Car was going to a good home (with someone he felt comfortable selling it to).

The editor of the magazine at the time was hot for me to buy the Camaro, too, thinking (correctly) there would be numerous tech stories we could generate from it for the readers. Me? It was a legit ’69 Pace Car convertible. Believe it or not, it’s the one ’69 Camaro I covet over all the others, including COPOs, Yenkos, etc. I’d have robbed a 7-Eleven to get the cash. Thankfully, my father said he’d front me the money, probably a good thing since I didn’t own a ski mask or a gun.

Then fate stepped in and kicked me in the head. The owner’s own father, himself a Chevy freak, bought the Pace car instead. I was crushed. Not that I needed another vehicle (I had two at the time), but when does the concept of actually needing one come into play when you’re discussing first-gen Pace Car ragtops? I always wondered about the fate of that particular Camaro. Did his dad finish it? Did he keep it and give it back to his son? Ultimately, he and I drifted apart, so I guess I’ll never know for sure. That was one that definitely got away.

I’ve never gotten over losing out on that deal. I can go months without thinking about it, but every time I see a Pace Car, my brain thinks about the one that should have been mine. One of my automotive fantasies is getting a new reproduction Camaro convertible body, then adding a full G-machine suspension to it, plus an LSX454 crate engine with fuel injection and automatic overdrive trans. Then I could build the Pace Car replica from hell, complete with orange houndstooth interior, white paint, and Indy graphics.

In reality, I could sell my two current classic Chevys and buy an original Pace Car convertible. If I did that, I’d keep it bone stock. Not sure why, but I think that’d be the way to go with a real one.

What was the one Chevy that got away from you that you still miss to this day? Shoot me an email at the address below.




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