The First-Gen Camaro That Unified The Generations

Zach Straits was adopted at birth and thought he might never know his birth mother, but after years of searching, one eventful trip in 2006, to Los Angles, changed everything. Zach was born in the LA region, so he hoped that area would provide a piece of information that would lead him to his birth mother. A search at the local Mormon library provided a lead. Zach was able to find his birth record, and, more importantly, the maiden name of his birth mother, and a brother named Greg. He also learned of a younger sister, also given up for adoption.

After a search on an internet site, Zach found a few phone numbers that were no longer in service, so he elected to travel to the last address listed for his brother. At the address, Zach met a woman that had purchased the house from his mother, Darlene, but she did not know Darlene’s or Greg’s current whereabouts. Zach was instructed to wait in the doorway as the woman stepped away for a moment. When she returned, she handed Zach a piece of paper with a phone number and no additional information.

Zach's grandmother, Betty, ordered the 1967 Camaro SS/RS from Courtesy Chevrolet in Los Angeles, California. Jenny was the name Betty gave the Camaro.

Zach thanked the woman for the information, and as he walked away, he called the number. The phone rang, and it was answered by a man. Zach took a chance and asked if this was Greg, and the man said it was. Zach proceeded to ask a few questions about his birth mother, and Greg provided substantiating information. Armed with this new knowledge, Zach informed Greg that he believed they were related…actually, brothers. For a moment, Greg left the phone to speak with Darlene, with whom he lived, and when Greg returned to the phone, he addressed Zach as his brother. Zach could not believe he had found his birth mother, and she was still alive. Darlene wanted to meet Zach as soon as possible, so the next morning Zach made the trek to Kingman, Arizona, to meet the mother and brother he never knew.

The Camaro was stored in Kingman, Arizona, for two decades. It was under a tarp with RV tire covers over the wheels. Zach acquired the Camaro from his brother, Greg, in 2012, and the Camaro has toured the circuit making the rounds at large events, and has been displayed at several museums as a barn find.

Upon meeting Darlene and Greg, Zach shared photos from his laptop, and his mother asked, “Why is there a car in every photo?” Throughout his entire life, Zach has been involved in the restoration business, and has participated in many different types of auto racing, so he simply replied, “Yes, I’m a car nut.” His mother began to tell him about his grandmother, Betty, the original “Little Old Lady from Pasadena.” In 1967, Betty wanted something fast and comfortable, so she sold her 1959 Ford wagon and special ordered a 1967 Camaro. Betty chose the Super Sport and Rally Sport options, and to meet her need for speed, she ordered a 295-horse 350 with a Powerglide transmission.

At the time of the purchase, Betty lived in Los Angeles, so air conditioning was checked on the order sheet. Because it was a California car, the smog equipment was included. To meet her comfort requirements, power steering and a Deluxe interior with a bench seat and automatic selector on the steering column were ordered. Betty named the Camaro Jenny, and ran the wheels off it, accumulating 137,000-miles. Throughout the Betty-owned years, the car was well-maintained and remained unmodified. She kept all of the documentation about the Camaro, which included a pair of speeding tickets. When Betty passed, Darlene and Greg drove the Camaro until 1992, when it was parked, set on blocks, and covered.

Most of the dirt the Camaro collected over the years of storage has remained. The 350 actually runs after Zach figured out the spark plug wires had been moved one terminal forward on the distributor cap. The brakes on the other hand do not work at all, so the park brake is the only means for stopping. The last photo is Zach and his wife posing with Jenny. Zach will soon restore the Camaro back to how it looked in 1967.

Since the chance meeting in 2006, Zach found his adopted sister, Suzy, in Oregon, and the three siblings spent as much time as they could with their mother. In 2008, Zach’s mother passed, and the Camaro languished in Kingman until Greg and Zach struck a deal. In 2012, the Camaro was moved to Zach’s home in Virginia. For several years, the Camaro toured the circuit making the rounds at the large events and has been on display at several museums as a barn find, but now a restoration is planned. Because neither Zach nor Greg have children, the restored Camaro will stay in the family and will be forwarded to Suzy’s kids, thus unifying a fourth generation to this remarkable Camaro named Jenny.

About the author

Christopher Holley

Chris Holley has been a freelance writer since 2014. Chris has been a college professor since 1998; he currently instructs the second-year automotive electrical/electronics and HVAC classes at Pennsylvania College of Technology. In addition, he also teaches the chassis dyno classes where he and the students perform dozens of modifications and hundreds of runs per semester on various vehicles. Chris’ passions run deep for the Mopar products. When Chris is not working, he has several Dodges that he either races at the drag strip, cruises to car shows, or tests on a chassis dyno. Chris is a multi-time track champion at the local drag strips in the central Pennsylvania area.
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