Back in the days when cars could be ordered to the buyer’s specifications, a young college graduate in Iowa ordered a new 1968 Chevrolet Camaro convertible. The 21-year-old woman took delivery of her sassy Matador Red car on July 30, 1968 in Sioux City.
The happy owner set out in her Camaro in search of a teaching position in central California where she drove her Camaro for almost a decade before taking it out of daily service.
The original 327-cubic-inch V-8 engine proved to be a lemon. It was replaced by a rock solid 350-cubic-inch V-8. Another decade passed and when the owner’s two daughters approached driving age the car was revived and the three-speed manual transmission was replaced with an automatic transmission.
When the Camaro was 37 years old, in 2005, it was sold to a second owner who refurbished the convertible, replaced many of the well-worn parts, and resprayed it in the original color. Also added were power brakes and power steering, options that were available when the car was new.
By 2008, the Camaro was back in pristine condition with a new white convertible top and was offered for sale. That is when Mark Eitelgeorge learned of the car. Since 1980, he had longed for a first-generation Chevrolet Camaro.
As a teenager Eitelgeorge had worked three part-time jobs to save money for his first car. Back then he located a used Camaro for $1,000. The price was right, so early one afternoon he went to see the car. It looked great but he wanted his grandfather to give the car a once over. By the time his grandfather was available later that afternoon the car had been sold. Eitelgeorge never forgot the disappointment he felt when he missed out on that first car.
The 1968 Camaro was located nearby so Eitelgeorge, accompanied by his wife, Jeannie, he went to investigate. “I didn’t want a project car,” he says. At first glance, he remembers, “She fell in love with it.” He did too. The automatic transmission had been removed and the original floor-mounted Saginaw manual transmission was replaced.
Eitelgeorge and his wife put the top down and took the 15-foot, 4.6-inch-long car for a test drive. “It drives as smooth as any new car,” Eitelgeorge says. He purchased the car in May 2008. His perseverance had paid off.
Records show that Chevrolet manufactured 16,927 convertibles like Eitelgeorge’s. He explains that his 3,295-pound Camaro is the standard, base model. It is not an RS or a SS upscale version. The base price when new was $3,148.55.
Nestled in the dashboard is the original AM radio with the traditional five pre-selected push buttons. “The look is perfect,” Eitelgeorge enthuses.
“The exact number of miles on the car is unknown,” the third owner says, “but it is estimated to be about 100,000 miles.” The speedometer can register speeds up to 120 mph. Eitelgeorge is confident that his Camaro can easily surpass 100 mph should the need ever arise.
With a four-barrel carburetor replacing the original two-barrel model, Eitelgeorge reports fuel economy of about 13 miles per gallon. “You don’t buy a car like this with economy in mind,” he explains. “This car is fun, fast and loud,” he says.
Refueling can be a challenge with the new anti-siphon nozzle pumps, the owner says. Driving in modern day traffic without a right side mirror, the owner says, “Takes some adjustment.”
Eitelgeorge has contacted the original owner and she still has the original wheels, which he soon plans to install. It’s another step toward originality that this 1968 Camaro convertible deserves. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates, Inc., 2011