If not for his dad’s Camaro, Ash Rouse might not even be here. Twenty-seven years ago, his dad was driving a ’68 Camaro Rally Sport appearance package/Super Sport performance package a little too fast and rolled it over on a tight turn.
It ended up in the front lawn of the house where Ash’s future mother lived and that’s how he met her. You might say it was love at first wreck. Although that Camaro was later stolen, his dad still is a Camaro enthusiast, having had about a half dozen over the years and currently owning a 1967 model.
Having been around Camaros all his life, Ash became an enthusiast himself.
Since the first-generation Camaros he likes have gone up in value over the years, Ash decided that it was more affordable to go for ones needing a bit of work rather than the restored ones. The first one he bought was a 1968 Camaro that lost in a disagreement with a tree. No, his father wasn’t driving it. However, the accident was so severe Ash has found the car needs all the body sheet metal except for the roof, the doors and the trunk floor. Even the firewall will need to be replaced. Although he has accumulated most of the body panels, he is two years down the road (figuratively) and still sees a long stretch ahead before it is done. However, he says it will be “like a brand new car when it’s done, “not a restoration, but a resurrection.”
Then, about a year and a half ago, he came upon another Camaro opportunity that was not as demanding. It was a ’68 Camaro that had been parked since 1994. Many of its parts, like headlights, taillights and such, were in boxes. The 327 CID engine was in the car but was missing parts. The Turbo 350 auto trans was bolted to the engine, but had no shifting cable. There was no driveshaft going to the 10-bolt rearend. The worst part was the wiring. Although the previous owner had done the wiring under the hood, he had done so incorrectly. From the dash back, the wiring was missing. And some of the installed wiring was, Ash says, “weird stuff.” For instance, a ’50s-style taillight was mounted under the dash and hooked up. Why, Ash has no idea. The tires and wheels were so wide the car could not make a turn without them rubbing the fenders.
On the plus side, it had an original SS hood and gas cap, although he doubts it was original. As is often the tale, the price was right, and Ash bought it.
Once he got it home, Ash and his dad set to work to get it on the road as quickly as possible. They finished putting the engine together, as well as overhauled the carburetor. The wiring, he says, “was a nightmare figuring it all out.” But they did. Mostly. There are still a few bugs, but it is working well enough to safely drive. He swapped the tires with his wrecked Camaro and his “new” Camaro was back on the road. There is still much to do, like repairing rust problems, replacing the rear fenders that had been “shaved” to handle wider tires and replacing the rusty front fenders. Eventually he hopes to drop in a modern LS engine, but that will be a while. It is a work in progress, like many classic cars so often are.
Ash’s long-term goal is to have both of his Camaros on the road, one as an SS model and the other as an RS, possibly even running them on the track. In the meantime, Ash can enjoy driving a Camaro, just like his dad has done for many years. However, Ash has no plans to roll his onto anyone’s front lawn.
For more about Ron Cherry, go to www.rlcherry.com. For information about the Roamin Angels Car Club, go to www.roaminangels.com, call 432-8449, write to Roamin Angels, P.O. Box 1616, Grass Valley, CA 95945, or just stop by IHOP on Taylorville Road Friday at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast.