Matt Murphy • Atlanta, GA
Story by Ray Lee Photos by Pete Sommers
1969 Camaro SS. We always cherish special times in our lives forever. If we ever get the chance to relive those times it is, like the commercial says, priceless. Such is the case with this old warrior, an exactly restored drag racing Camaro from 1969 and the guys who had built and raced it.
Without ever touching a city street, this 1969 Camaro went straight from Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids, Michigan into drag racer Dick Arons’ shop in Detroit. There it was transformed into a dedicated NHRA Super Stock/E class drag racing car and run successfully for the 1969 NHRA season throughout the USA and Canada. By December 1969, with its year in the limelight over, this Camaro went into private ownership.
Fast-forward to 2003. Berger Chevrolet gets featured in a magazine article about their new special edition Camaros. This old Camaro drag racer has been languishing in a garage since 1986. The same owner from 1969 still has the car, reads the article and enquires from Berger if they might like to buy it back. This information is relayed to Matt Murphy, who already owns 1967, 1968 and 1970 Camaros and had been looking for a 1969.
He retrieves the car from St. Petersburg, Florida for restoration. Traveling 1,320-foot increments at a time throughout its life, it has just 209 original miles on the odometer. Matt selected Supercar Workshop in Pennsylvania to do the work because they knew of the car and its history.
After learning the first-year history of the car, Matt found that Dick Arons still operated out of the same shop. He trailered the Camaro to Detroit for a reunion with its original master. Dick was excited to see his old super stock Camaro again and agreed to build a new 427ci engine for it.
Besides Dick Arons, the name Gordy Foust was painted on the door as one of the drivers. In a classic “small world” coincidence, one of Matt’s friends knew him, prompting another reunion. Living only a half-hour away from Matt, Gordy brought over many newspaper articles and photos he still had of the car. With all the historic documentation, the restoration could be accurate down to the last detail.
The restoration process took two years. Having the two original racers reunited with their Camaro after three-plus decades inspired Matt and the Supercar guys to do an “over-the-top” restoration. Matt says he wanted to make sure Dick and Gordy would be proud to attend car shows with him and the Camaro to talk about the good ole days. They were finally all together again at the 2006 York US30 Musclecar Show in York, Pennsylvania. The sight of the restored Camaro and its original drivers reminiscing with old friends made the restoration indeed, priceless.
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Matt Murphy • Atlanta, GA