A curious account of a Camaro that returned to its roots.
Everyone has heard stories of cats or dogs who travel miles and years to get home. But I have a story of a car – an automobile — which traveled years and miles to get home.
It’s a 1984 Z-28 T-Top Camaro which in 1988 had traveled 3 years and 29,000 miles to get back to its original home. And it’s a true story, not a fairytale.
Here’s the full tale: In 1984 my 71-year old father became a widower after 51 years of marriage. To cheer himself up he went shopping for a sports car after a lifetime of driving sedans as a sedate labor relations executive.
In 1985, he walked into the showroom of Partyka, Chevrolet in our hometown of Hamden, Connecticut, and fell instantly in love with a display model Z-28 with only 4000 demonstration miles on it. It had a reduced price because it was brown. Brown paint, brown interior.
Brown, brown, brown. It just so happens, brown is my father’s favorite color. Sedate brown: Exactly the dull color nobody wanted in a sports car.
I used to come home weekends 220 miles from my teaching job in White River Junction, Vermont, just to take the T-tops out of the roof of my father’s Camaro and drive that car around Hamden, showing off.
If that was his plan, to get himself paid attention to on a regular basis in old age by dangling a sports car in front of younger folk, it worked like a charm. In addition to me, half the cousins and nephews of the family wanted to drive that car.
Three years and twenty-five thousand miles later, my father intensified his clever strategy, either knowingly or unknowingly. He astonished me by giving that Z-28 to me.
IROC With a Corvette Engine
He bought a Camaro with a bigger engine for himself: a black and gold IROC Z-28 T-Top with a Corvette engine.
I told him, “Dad, that is the nicest gift I have ever received.” He said something sad but probably true: “You mean I finally did something you like?” Full disclosure: I was a bit of a self-centered son.
I drove that brown Camaro through years of snow and mud seasons from 1988 on. About 2002 with I00,000 miles on it, I decided to have that mud-brown brown sports car repainted at a body shop in White River Junction, Vermont. I chose Jasmin Motors and I chose Mango Tango bright orange, as the new color.
My father had died ten years before in 1992 at age 78 (He was still driving his black and gold IROC) so I didn’t feel guilty about turning his sedate brown gift into a flaming orange statement.
New, Vibrant Car Color
When Josh Jasmin handed me back the keys to my now gleaming orange rocket in 2002, he asked me an unexpected question. “Did you buy that car from Partyka Chevrolet in Hamden, Connecticut?”
How had he guessed I wondered? Partyka was 200 miles away from White River Junction.
I told him “My father bought it off Partyka’s showroom floor as a demonstration model in 1985 when it was 6 months old with 4000 miles on it.”
Then Josh floored me by revealing, “We used to own it.”
He added, we sold it to Partyka in early 1985. It had a tiny, tiny mismatch in the spoiler that was too expensive to be fixed, so we sold it brand new to a dealer.”
Then he showed me the tiny mismatch in the spoiler which I had lived with for 14 years since 1988 and had never even noticed, despite washing the car by hand dozens of times.
Josh said “That’s how I knew it was ours.”
Like a lost dog, that 1984 Camaro found its way back 220 miles to White River Junction in 1988 after traveling 29,000 miles and three years in Hamden with my father.
But it would be another 17 years and 71,000 miles after returning to its Vermont home before the Camaro would find its lost identity.
That tiny mismatched spoiler was like an Ancestry.com DNA match.
If I had not decided to give my Camaro a Mango Tango facelift, a family would never have been reunited with its long-lost child.
What are the chances of that happening in a nation of over 250 million registered vehicles?
Photos courtesy of Paul Keane.