Too often it's easy to say, "Oh, they've built a million of these things, one less won't hurt anything." Sure, you could be that blasé about it, why not? It's not like they aren't building them anymore; you could pick up a brand-new steel body if you wanted. Most any aftermarket company's catalog you pick up will have a gazillion parts for easy off-the-shelf, bolt-on customization for first-gen Camaros.
Why drive a rusty old bucket when you can have 10 layers of shiny glistening clearcoat? Well, project manager and general handyman Ray Walentiny of Richfield, Minnesota, is probably one of the more rare ones out there-he enjoys the rust. And frankly, who can blame him?
He's the proud second owner of an original 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28, right down to the original Rally Sport wheels and Firestone Race 200 tires, which he keeps only for special occasions. This rolling preservation of history has one twist: it's fuel injected. You see, the original owner, Ted Miller, bought the car new and quickly decided he hated the finicky carburetor system. He fitted the original, high-winding 302 with a mechanical fuel injection system from a '65 Corvette. It's been that way since 1971.
But don't think for a second that Miller was ready to hand over the keys to just anyone. Ray was commissioned by Miller to complete a roofing job for him when Ray saw the car tucked away in the garage. It took years before the offer to purchase the car came. Sometime later, before Miller retired, he had been offered a job in Hawaii and had to leave everything in Minnesota behind. Ray agreed to pay the appraised value of $12,000 for the car in 2001, which was a pittance compared to an appraisal done by the same appraiser at more than double that price a mere four years later.
Ray has decided to stay steadfast in keeping this car original. He has a light touch when cleaning the car. "Some of those underhood markings by the guys who built it can be really fragile," Ray says, while pointing to a few of the inscriptions on the firewall and lightly dusting off the fenders. Ray is also careful to take care of the original parts. He has a special pile at his home where he keeps the original springs, now sagged and ravaged by time. The car sports the obligatory Z/28 options, a M22 Muncie with a 12-bolt 3.31 rearend.
Ray currently doesn't plan to rebuild the car. He enjoys the odd stares and pleasant surprises by onlookers who give an approving nod and a smirk. It would certainly be odd to have a car this old and original without some obvious rust. And especially in this case, it provides a certain adornment and character that only the reddish-brown, creeping devil can impart.