Note: Back when I originally wrote this in early 2013, it generated beaucoup comments. Not your average faux-SS Camaro, ha ha! Enjoy. And know that you can now share this throughout the web without giving the Cantankerous Coot clicks. *Dr. Evil laughter* -TK
The annual car show every September in Geneseo, IL, home of my Packard-restoring buddy, Dave Mitchell, is one of the best of the year. Even cars that are rarely seen usually show up, including an ex-service station Corvair Rampside, a Sunbeam Alpine roadster with factory hardtop, a simply fantastic 1960 Chevrolet Nomad station wagon, various excellent Studebakers and this original-condition, one-family-owned (at the time) 1970 Camaro.
The ‘70.5 Camaro (so called because the uber-recognizable 1969 Camaro continued well into MY ’70 as an ‘early 1970’ model), was a surprising twist to Chevy’s ponycar. Gone was the three-box 1967-69 styling, replaced with Bill Mitchell’s interpretation of classic Italian lines-Ferrari in particular. It was a decade before I came on the scene, and 20 before I really started identifying cool old cars, but I think it is safe to say no one was expecting such a sleek, sexy design. It was especially beautiful with the RS split bumper, as shown above.
But guess what happens to every damn surviving Camaro, Mustang, Barracuda and Challenger? You guessed it: Folks with fat wallets have to take every freaking one of them and paint them red, stuff a big honking engine in them, and then add all the items that were probably limited to less than 10% of production when new: rally wheels, spoilers, stripes, Hurst shifter, power windows, sport mirrors, AM/FM/8-track, traction bars (or are those passé these days?) and the like. Or resto mod them, or add damfool Foose wheels. Etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.
You know the drill: Make it match the car they wanted when they were twelve and the cars were new. For some, even that isn’t enough, and entire drivelines from new cars, rubber-band tires on 18″ or 20″ wheels, ugly fiberglass dashes replacing the factory instrument panel, and everything else under the sun is added. Oh, and don’t forget the ill-fitting, Chinese made SS emblems! Ha ha ha.
That’s all fine and good (or not), but I appreciate an original car much more. Individual Mustangs and Camaros, when new, were quite different from car to car; you were unlikely to see two that were exactly the same. For example, my dad’s first car was a straight-six powered 1965 Mustang convertible, Poppy Red with white stripes, white interior and top. It was sharp, it was sporty–and it was slow! It had been his dad’s secretary’s car, and my grandfather rightfully assumed that he couldn’t get into too much trouble with it. As Dad told me, it was all show and no go, but that’s largely how it came off the line new-though Dad did add the white GT-style rocker panel stripes.
Thus it goes with the majority of pony cars today, and so I initially passed over this Camaro, assuming incorrectly via my peripheral vision that it was a mid-life crisis upgraded hot rod. As it turned out I was 100% wrong. On my way back, I actually looked at it and noticed the baby moon hubcaps: “Oh, that’s cool.” Then I saw they were factory hubcaps, and, holy crap. It had the standard six cylinder engine. Inside was an all-business black interior with the standard vinyl buckets, no console and a column-mounted two-speed Powerglide automatic.
Who would order such a car? Well, as I learned, the original owner was a lady who just wanted a sporty car, but one with no frills–and indeed, this car is quite frill-free, with its standard 155-hp six, Strato-Bucket seats, carpeting and Astro Ventilation.
The meager options on this car include a tinted windshield, AM radio and whitewall tires: no console, no A/C, no power windows and no sport mirrors. In other words, none of the stuff that sets Camaro guys’ hearts beating faster! No boy-racer horse hockey–and for that reason, I loved this car.
Even in basic form, like this one, the ‘70.5 Camaro’s lines are still lovely. Those slim chrome bumpers, the grille standing proud of the headlight bezels, that quartet of round taillamps–all lovely. And so different from the usual ’70 to ’73 Camaros usually seen at cruise ins and car shows every summer.
If it still looks good without any optional plumage to enhance its basic form, it’s a worthy vehicle, at least aesthetically. When you apply that standard to the 1970.5 Camaro and its corporate sibling, the equally sharp Pontiac Firebird, it still shines.
The man displaying this car back in September 2012 was the original owner’s nephew, and he was old enough to remember when she brought it home. It was purchased at Cambridge Motors, in Cambridge, IL, a small town about a half-hour from the Quad Cities.
This car is an amazing time capsule, with original paint and engine, and only 59K miles. I did not begrudge him too much for asking ten grand. After all, where else will you find a car like this one? And it was rust free, needed nothing, and was ready to rock and roll. The price also ought to dissuade idiots from ripping the car apart, painting it bright yellow, shoehorning in a 502 big block and adding stripes and pretentious aftermarket wheels. If you’re going to mod a car, please do it to a basket case, not an unrestored original. Thank you.
I can see the appeal of a car like this. This car, with its six-cylinder engine, Powerglide and hub caps, is equipped like a plain-Jane Nova, but in a swoopy Bill Mitchell-designed Italian dress. Kind of like the attractive lady librarian with the sensible shoes, unpretentious clothes and tortoiseshell glasses. Even all those things can’t hide her inner beauty. So it is with this ’70 Camaro.
For an original car, it was in fine shape. Naturally, there were a couple of minor bumps and bruises, but that did not detract from what a nice car it was. And all the cool details of these Camaros are still evident, like that veed grille, fastback roofline and smooth flanks.
It even still had the original trunk mat, which the owner’s nephew told me was very hard to find NOS these days. Could there be another ‘70.5 Camaro in existence that is still equipped like this one? Perhaps so, but my guess is that most surviving Camaros originally equipped with the six are now Z-28 “tribute” fakety-fake fakes.
It’s kind of like all the original Slant Six or 318 V8 powered Barracudas and Gran Coupes that are now, of course, “tribute” Hemi ‘cudas. I’d like to take a “tribute” Hemi ‘cuda, paint it mint green with a white vinyl top and give it whitewalls, the “salt shaker” deluxe full wheel covers and a 318 V8! Muhahahahaha!
And why not? That’s probably how it started life.
There may come a time when no one remembers that not all pony cars and mid-size sporty cars were muscle cars–not by a long shot. I know we’re already halfway there; on a recent TV show, someone mentioned a Ford Maverick as a muscle car. They appeared to be serious.
I see I’ve digressed again. Never mind! In any case, Camaros with the six were rare even when new. Out of 117,604 1970.5 Camaros produced, only 12,566 had the Turbo-Thrift Six. How many can be left?
Not many, that’s for sure. At the time, I sincerely hoped that the next owner of this car would keep it as it is. That seemed to be borne out, as the pictures of the car with new blackwall tires were taken in September 2013, a year after I initially sighted this time capsule. Sadly, however, I haven’t seen it since.