When I came around the corner of SE 10th & Stevens scanning for cars during the recent Portland Transmission Spring Classic, I did a massive double take.
I was sure I had just seen a face-lifted second-gen Camaro, but something didn’t quite add up. The gears spun as I turned towards the car again, trying to make sense of the quick glimpse I’d just had of the car. It was red, possibly a T-top version, and in great shape. Yet something was clearly amiss…
A half-second later when I laid eyes on the car again it all came together quite quickly. It was indeed a great-looking Camaro, only it was in the wrong place. Almost another entire Camaro-worth of height has been added to this ’79, and I first spotted it over the top of another car.
We quickly tracked down the owner, Neal, and asked for clarification of what exactly it was we were looking at. He told us that his son Casey originally bought the car for $250 and the frame of a Chevy Blazer for another $50. There was a 3/4 ton Chevy pickup involved, too, which set him back another $700. Basically, Neal says his son’s idea was to build something cool without a huge budget.
What happened next is relatively self-explanatory, and involves a carbureted big block Chevy 454ci V8.
Neal told us that eventually Casey wanted to get rid of the car, so he ended up taking it off his son’s hands. From there it was dad who cleaned everything up and, although the car sees trails, dunes, and plenty of off-road activity, Neal’s done a good job of keeping everything in ship-shape condition since he restored it.
I’ve actually run into an alarming number of old muscle cars built to this style up here in the Pacific Northwest in the last few weeks, and it isn’t a coincidence. Oregon is home to an off-road rally called The Gambler 500, where cars of all kinds — the cheaper the better — are encouraged to drive to a remote location using as few paved roads as possible.
While I would wager that this is likely one of the nicer examples that might show up, I’ll be doing my best to make it out to Gambler Town the week after my N24 trip. That is, unless the jet lag, the rain, and whatever else Germany has to offer kills me.
Trevor Yale Ryan