Cherry: Keeping pace with a ’69 Camaro convertible |

Cherry: Keeping pace with a ’69 Camaro convertible

The first-generation Camaros are the most desired ones and 1969 was the last year they were made. When analyzing the investment quality of this Camaro, Auto Trader Classics wrote, “We chose the 1969 Indy 500 Pace Car replica as a sure bet.”
Submitted by Ron Cherry |

Back in 1975, Reg Clemens was driving to work and saw a ’69 Camaro convertible at a car lot that was then up by the Holiday Lodge. He told himself, “I want to own that car.”

Since he was a young man, not long out of high school and with no credit history, and his ’64 Impala SS wasn’t exactly an even swap, Reg enlisted his parents to co-sign for a loan. It was the first time he’d ever taken out a loan, but he wanted that car. By the end of the day, he said, “I owned a Camaro.”

While paying $1,800 back then might have seemed quite a load to take on, it was a cool car. It had the Z11 package, which included the Hugger Orange stripes down the hood and the deck with a spoiler.

It was only available if you ordered a Dover White convertible with the Super Sport/Rally Sport that included the custom orange interior, console gauges, factory tach, cowl induction hood, and rally wheels.

It was the factory replica of the 1969 Indy Pace Car. Since only 3,675 Pace Cars, including the Z11’s, were built, they are rare. Reg’s investment, like good ones, has grown in value over the years.

Although Reg’s Camaro had the base engine (for a Pace Car) of a 350 CID/ 300 HP, it had a Muncie M21 4-speed and drag-racer 4.11:1 gears in the rear end.

It also had power steering and power brakes with discs in the front. Not satisfied with his Camaro’s performance, Reg souped up the engine, installing gas-guzzling “improvements.”

“I was a young punk,” he said. “I put on two fours (four barrel carburetors) and it got lousy mileage. My wife had her car and I had my pickup. Even as cheap as gas was, I couldn’t afford to drive it.”

With a new family, being wise with money was important.

“I was driving truck and out of town a lot,” Reg said. “So I just put it away.”

In 1980, Reg parked it in the garage and there it sat until 2007. By then, the kids were raised and Reg had the time and money to put his Camaro back on the road. He did all the body work and painting himself, no mean feat.

He bought a new top and interior kit, with the installing of the interior being the only job he did not do himself. Being a gearhead, Reg had to modify the engine when he went through it.

He put in 11:1 pistons with Edelbrock aluminum heads and an Edelbrock Performer cam. He topped it off with a Holley 750 cfm carb and an Xcel electronic ignition. After overhauling the trans and the brake system, Reg’s Camaro was back on the road. Reg and wife Pam enjoy taking their Camaro to car events that are not too far away. With the low rear-end gears, driving long distances at high speeds are not fun. With gears as low as 4.11:1, the engine is highly revved and noisy (especially if running headers and loud mufflers).

“With the gear ratio (of the Camaro), we just don’t go that far. When I bought the Camaro, the speed limit was 55, so it wasn’t that bad,” he said.

However, they have taken their car to Hot August Nights in Reno and to Kool April Nites in Redding. They also turn up occasionally at Cars and Coffee in the Kmart shopping center on Saturday mornings. Their Pace Car is still keeping pace with local traffic.

Ron Cherry has published two books, a Morg Mahoney mystery titled “Christmas Cracker” and a noirish suspense titled “Foul Shot.” “It’s Bad Business,” the second in the Morg Mahoney series, will be available before Christmas. For more about his writing, go to

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User