Featured: I Ditched My Family Reunion to Drive A '67 Camaro

I Ditched My Family Reunion to Drive A ’67 Camaro

By Kevin Kisling
April 5, 2013

Burned into my memory is the first time I heard the F-word. It happened on a summer vacation, while I was spending time with my uncle and aunt. My older cousin was driving into town and asked if I’d like to accompany him. Of course I wanted to go.

He opened the garage door, and there sat the car I’d seen only in my cousin’s senior portraits, a red 1967 Camaro. I hopped into the front seat with its red, matching vinyl interior. I was hardly strong enough to close the thick door. I eagerly buckled the lap belt.

Stomping the heavy clutch, my cousin turned the key, and the engine stalled.

Then he said it, or muttered it, or yelled it. I’m not sure exactly which, since the shock of him actually saying it has distorted the memory forever. “Don’t tell your parents I said that,” he said as he pulled out the key.

“I won’t.”

The trip into town was canceled, and car stayed in that garage until my cousin moved away. It then began its life of being towed behind a U-Haul back and forth across the country from one school to another and one job to another, until it stopped starting for good. The ’67 Camaro ended up back in my uncle’s garage.

The memory of the car itself faded until one summer I again saw the car in the back in that garage, covered in dust and dirt. It still wasn’t running—there was no time to spend fixing it up. Years passed, and my uncle mentioned he was finally getting it restored, but another year passed, and the Camaro still wasn’t ready. And another. I soon again forgot the Camaro.

Some time later, I traveled to attend a family reunion, and my uncle brought the Camaro over after dinner. He had gotten it back just a few days beforehand, and it was finally done. Eagerly, I asked if I could see it, and if he’d drive it over before the reunion the next day. He said yes.

The following morning from indoors, I could hear my uncle pulling up in the car. I went outside and there it was. My brother and I jumped in, while the rest of our family piled into other cars. My uncle walked over and handed me the key.

As I turned the key in the ignition, the Camaro started right up. No swearing was required, thank God. On the road the car felt out of control with loose steering, mushy drum brakes all around, and the general feeling of chaos in motion. It felt as if the car needed to be herded down the road. Cruising around the same town and streets it had driven along so many years ago felt great. We soon made our way to the outskirts of town. That afternoon we quickly burned through half a tank of gas blasting down old farm roads, taking turns to see how far we could push the car. Above 70 MPH on the highway, the Camaro settled down and felt relaxed and natural. It felt like the car was at home when we really pushed it, as if it was making up for lost time spent sitting unused in a garage. On the road was where the Camaro truly belonged. It had come a long way from a high school kid’s unreliable hot rod to a dependable classic car, and I’m thankful for the memories I made with the car on both occasions.

Needless to say, my brother and I never showed up to the reunion; we were too busy getting in touch with a different part of history.

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Petrolicious thanks Kevin Kisling for submitting this story. If you have any car stories you’d like to share please write us at info@petrolicious.com.  

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Burt Munro
Burt Munro
10 years ago

I’d rather go to a root canal than drive one of those slop buckets.

Jim Bair
Jim Bair
11 years ago

Great story! There must be a lot of us who had early “car experiences” with a late 60’s Camaro. Mine was when my older sister picked up a ’68 SS 350 for the princely sum of $1,800. A black beauty with a white nose stripe, 4-Speed, and black interior with black & white houndstooth seat inserts. Learned how to drive a stick in that car. At low speeds it felt like driving a truck. At higher speeds it could snap your neck back after her boyfriend installed some “improved” parts under the hood. My sister nicknamed it “Margaret” after a Cheech and Chong comedy bit (“Oh Margaret, look…..”) and that’s how we always referred to it. I can still smell the pine tree air freshener that hung from the radio tuning knob.

Zippy Gordon
Zippy Gordon
11 years ago

Awesome story! I can smell the vinyl!

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