Ron Cherry: Old Yeller, a busted rod
There are people with a troubled past, a life of crime and running from the law.
There are cars with such a past as well, although they can honestly claim to be forced into that life. Such a car was Larry Stowe’s ‘69 Camaro R/S, or Rally Sport.
The previous owner had used it to pick up “product” landed in small planes on Nevada dry lakes.
“He’d drive away at 100 MPH,” Larry said. “All the stainless on the car and the tires were sand-blasted from it.”
However, the car’s owner’s life of crime came to an end when he was arrested and convicted.
The car pleaded not guilty and was released to the owner’s wife. She’d stored the car at a friend’s 1991 and was thinking about selling it. That’s where Larry came in.
Larry had bought his first Camaro at 17 years old. Although he no longer owned that car, he had made a business of parting out Camaros and owned a few that he drove at the time.
“I saw the car parked under a cover near my house,” he said. “I stopped and asked, ‘What year is that Camaro?’ The guy said, ‘It’s a ‘67.’ I looked it over and said, ‘No, it’s a ‘69.’ The owner was in jail and it might be for sale. I told the guy I didn’t have the cash, but would buy it on payments. The owner’s wife went for it. Everything on it fell into my life perfectly. Or, should I say, affordably.”
The car was painted in Daytona Yellow, with the rare, optional Endura bumper.
Inside, it had a black and white hounds-tooth interior. It supposedly had a 383 stroker (350 cubic inch block with a 400 engine crank to give 383 cubic inch) with Turbo 350 auto trans.
For a rearend, it had a 10-bolt posi with disc brakes. Front suspension was stock, with power steering and factory power disc brakes.
It was fortunate that Larry got a good deal, because he was soon putting money into his Camaro, which he named Old Yeller.
“The engine kept overheating,” Larry said. “I tore it down and found it was a 377 cubic inch with a sleeved block. It was junk. The only things I could save were the 2.02 heads and the Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold.”
Ernie at Riebe’s Machine Shop found a good ‘69 327 cubic inch block with 2-bolt mains that he said he could convert to a 4-bolt main 350 cubic inch.
“Just rebuilding is repetitious,” Larry said. “This is going to be out of the norm. It’s going to be cool.”
When he finished, it was bored out to be a 355 cubic inch with Keith Black pistons and a torquer cam.
On top, Larry used a Demon 650 cfm carb and MSD electronic ignition.
For free breathing, Larry opted for a Borl a header and exhaust system with its Million Mile warranty. He doubts that he will see it expire.
Although the trans did not need rebuilding, he had a shift kit installed. With 3.08:1 gears in the rear, it’s got long legs.
“Nobody loses me,” he said. “They may get me out of the hole, but they never lose me.”
Although he left the suspension stock, he did change to urethane bushings.
Next came the paint. The engine compartment had issues, so Larry repainted it first. But he wasn’t satisfied with the yellow on his Camaro.
“It wasn’t bright and shiny enough for me,” Larry said.
After changing the hood to a cowl-intake one, adding spoilers front and rear and doing somebody work, he had Old Yeller painted ‘76 Corvette Bright Yellow by Dave Tripp of Tripp’s Auto Body.
It’s the last car he painted before retiring. Although the Camaro is not a real Z/28, the fenders were drilled for the emblems and they came with the car, so he put them on.
“Back then it was no big deal,” he said, regarding having incorrect badging. He also put on a set of factory rally wheels.
The new paint made the interior look drab, so Larry had the late Dale Woods redo it in a black and yellow hounds-tooth. The previous owner had awkwardly mounted a tach on the steering column, but Larry wanted to keep a stock look, so he pulled it off and mounted one in the glove box with a Pioneer AM/FM/CD.
“My wife’s usually in the car with me, so we leave the glove box open when we drive,” he said.
While Larry’s Camaro looks great, he said, “I want to drive this car,not just show it. I still drive it a lot, but they’re harder to put together now.”
He now owns six of them, down from the thirteen he once owned, but Old Yeller is a favorite. It can sometimes be seen at Cars and Coffee, which meets at the Kmart parking lot off McKnight on Saturday mornings from 8 til 10.
As an example that crime doesn’t pay, the previous owner’s wife took the money from the sale of the car and left him.
While Old Yeller is still a wild and crazy car, it no longer makes runs on Nevada dry lakes. It was scared straight.
Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series,are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out soon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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