By Robert Breakiron Clermont, FL
This 1981 Camaro is in it for the long haul!
In 1981 I was going through a mid-life crisis. I decided to buy a new car to raise my spirits and my outlook on life. Back In the early sixties, during my high school years, my first car had been a ’62 Biscayne. And since all my subsequent cars had been Chevys, I stayed with Chevy. My mid-life crisis car would be a Citrus Metallic Orange 1981 Camaro coupe with the 3.8 V6, 3-speed gear box and Rally Wheels. I took delivery on Friday 13, February 1981. The car was purchased at Marsden Chevrolet in Towson, MD. When I drove it to work the following Monday, my coworkers laughed, calling it the “Great Pumpkin on wheels”.
My Camaro proved to be a strong, reliable means of transportation as an everyday car for eighteen years. It has plowed through 15 miles of 24 plus inches of snow on unplowed roads, seen wind chills of -50 degrees, baked in 122F sun, endured tropical and dust storms– always getting me to my destination. The car has traveled I-95 from Baltimore to Orlando, and I-10 from Orlando to Phoenix, AZ. During the eighteen years of being an everyday car, it has been on some famous roads– from Daytona Beach and parts of Route 66 from Winslow to Kingman, AZ.
In 1998, I decided to buy my first Chevy pickup truck and trade the Camaro in after many years of everyday driving. The salesman changed my mind about trading when he told me that the Camaro would no longer be produced after 2002. At that point, I decided to keep the car and start restoring it. The engine had been rebuilt in 1994 at 215,000 miles when it would not pass an emissions test due to a leaking valve. In 1999, a new paint job returned the Camaro to the original Citrus Metallic Orange hue.
After 27 years as an daily driver and many years in Arizona, the installation of new seat covers, foam, carpeting, headliner, door panels and refinishing the interior vinyl trim restored it to better than new.
On February 13, 2011 while enroute to an all-Chevy car show at the Chapman Chevrolet dealership in Tempe, AZ, the Camaro turned over 250,000 miles at the intersection of Baseline Rd. and the 101 freeway– one mile from the dealership. Exactly 30 years after the day I took delivery in Towson, MD.
Other than the normal door dings, stone chips, etc., the body has never had any damage from an accident or been changed in any way. One of the best things I did when the car was new was have it rust proofed. To this day there is no body rust.
During the restoration process, I sent Chevrolet Motor Division an email asking how many Camaros were painted this color and had this engine and transmission configuration. To my surprise, a couple of weeks later I received a package with more information than I expected on the Camaro– including a copy of the factory 1981 specification book. It was interesting to find out that the factory had failed to install some items such as the under hood insulation, the vinyl floor mat in the trunk, the spare tire and jack decal in the trunk and the caution decal on the fan shroud. The car is still about 40% original at this time.
The build sheet was found stuffed between the foam and springs in the back of the back seat. When I had the car appraised in 2008, the build sheet revealed that the Camaro was scheduled for production on September 7, 1980 and was built the week of October 5, 1980 at the Norwood, Ohio assembly plant. It was number 478 off the production line. This explains why parts stores don’t sell me the right stuff when I order parts for a 1981 Camaro– the car was built with left over parts from the 1980 model year.
Believe it or not, I still have the following documents: build sheet, dealer bill of sell (type written and Camaro misspelled), GMAC financing document (handwritten, 16.8% interest rate!), owner’s manual, warranty papers, spare tire brochure and temporary 30 day registration.
The Camaro has been in numerous car shows, primarily in Arizona. I relocated to Central Florida in October 2013, and since then, the car has won several awards.
Well, I guess it is time to return to the process of removing 25 years of Arizona dust from vents and other hiding places.
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By Robert Breakiron Clermont, FL