Yes, Greg owned a muscle car. Pictured here is the first car he ever owned, a butternut yellow 1968 Camaro Super Sport 350. It had a black vinyl roof and a racing stripe around the hood. Greg came by this car because, for some reason, his father thought it was something his wife (Greg’s mother) would drive. But she didn’t really want it and gave it to Greg when he transferred to Ohio State in 1970 (although he had been driving it for a year or more before that).
This was the first car Greg had title to, but wasn’t the first car he drove. That was the soon-to-be-discontinued Chevrolet Corvair made infamous by Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed.” This rear-engine masterpiece was prone to “tuck under crashes” due to a faulty suspension design and lack of a front stabilizer bar. Fortunately, Greg survived the Corvair and lived to drive the Camaro. So Greg’s father essentially moved from a slow, mundane, dangerous car to a fast, glamorous, dangerous car for his wife and son. What did he drive? Mostly big Pontiacs of various kinds!
Greg speaking: I am not a muscle car kind of guy. That implied a certain kind of macho swagger that I really didn’t possess in 1968 (or at any time before or after). But, still, I loved that car. It was a joy to drive, and what guy in his late teens and early twenties wouldn’t want this car!
This was the car Greg drove when he picked Joan up for their first date on August 9, 1969 (see our post “Summer of Love”). Joan had not been in the car before because Greg didn’t drive it to work at the hospital. In fact, Greg bummed rides home from Joan’s mom Ruth most of the time (except when Joan got rides home from “Dave”— another orderly). Yes, Greg had competition.
Joan says she worried ahead of time about whether she was going to sit close to Greg in the car. Because her father always bought traditional sedans with bench seats, she thought this was a decision she was going to have to make (first date and all!). Well, that choice was taken out of her hands. The Camaro Super Sport had bucket seats and a center console with a gear shift. She had to keep her distance! Much, I am sure, to Greg’s chagrin.
Greg remembers a memorable trip in this car from Pittsburgh to Hilton Head Island in the summer of 1970. Most of Interstate 77 had yet to be built on the route south. Once the West Virginia Turnpike was over, it was US Highways most of the rest of the way to Hilton Head. It once took Greg 21 hours in that car to get to Hilton Head only to find that the drawbridge (yes, there used to be a drawbridge to the island) had been damaged by a boat. Three hours later (Greg took a nap in those bucket seats) he arrived at his mom’s—24 hours elapsed time.
Joan and Greg had this car when they were married, and it was the car they drove on their honeymoon (a hurried trip from Pittsburgh, again to Hilton Head) to spend a few days on the beach before Greg would start graduate school the second week of January 1972. We had that car another year or so before we got a Toyota Corona Mark IV that Greg’s father brought up from down South in Columbia. That was a good little car, but it was no Super Sport.
We aren’t sentimental about cars. But some of them are associated with memorable times and big events. Some of them served faithfully for years and years, like the 1986 Volvo we drove for over a decade. We drive a Prius now. But I still miss that butternut yellow Camaro!