February 29, 2024

Linkage Mag

Geared for the Automotive Life

Finding GM Gold

Last weekend, Vanderbrink Auctions hosted a sale of GM gold in the middle of rural Idaho. The Roy Langlitz Estate Collection was filled with Corvettes, Chevelles, El Caminos and the like — and his thing was apparently big blocks and 4-speeds, so most were well-equipped, and most were in some state of mid-restoration, all of which ceased when he passed away. Just about every car had a pallet of parts off to the side as part of the deal. DIY muscle and a clock run out.

Linkage contributor Jay Harden and I batted this sale around a lot in the weeks leading up to it — and in fact, we nearly made the six-hour drive out there, as Jay’s got a ’69 Chevelle and I’ve always wanted a ’70 SS. But I know that auction magic tends to draw a crowd, and so does a good ’70 Chevelle SS 454 project, even sans build sheet. The “cheap” cars we were watching — the $3,500-bid needs-everything specials that sat stagnant on Proxibid for days prior to the sale — ended up going for mid $20k numbers on the day. Pallet included, documentation missing. 

No projects there for me. That’s too much to spend on something I’m only casually hunting.

The additional parts on hand were just as expensive. No parts for Jay, either. All the local muscle car dealers had trekked out there to duke it out — and it showed.

“It’s crazy…” says Jay when I call him to talk about the results on Saturday. “… but I think muscle is just going to get more expensive from here. You’ve got to jump when the right thing comes along. I keep finding the right thing at the wrong time, I don’t act and then I regret it later.” 

“There is no wrong time,” he says.

Those words were heavy. I didn’t realize it, but a perfect storm had just gathered.

Later that day, my dad calls. As is typical when car stuff is involved, he doesn’t even say hi when I pick up.

“Have you looked at Craigslist?” he asks.

Nope.

“You need to. Search ’68 Camaro.”

So I do, and up pops a listing for a somewhat rough ’68. Asking price: Too cheap. Must be a scam, I think.

But before I think too deeply about all the new scams I’ve been reading about lately, my wife gives me an eye roll of approval.  Do I need another project? No. Is one about to appear in my life? She seems to think so.

I’m a GM guy, and she knows that guys like me can’t really turn away from a good project — even when they make no sense.

So I call and get some basics: The seller is named Mike, and he tells me that this is stalled project, in need of help and now with no home, as his storage space is running out. He points out several other calls have come in on the car. Most of the interest has come from guys who are too far away to get there soon.

On their way back from Idaho, I think to myself.

“I’ll be there tomorrow morning if that works for you,” I tell him.

Twelve hours later, Dad and I are looking at a ’68 Camaro that’s been sitting in an enclosed trailer since 2009. It’s rough and in need of some body magic — it’s cheap for a reason — but there’s a bunch of expensive work already done and it has a good title. It’s been dipped and has professionally installed replacement floors, a new cowl panel and more. It’s a disc brake car, and out back, someone’s fitted a 9-inch Ford axle. 

I slide under and look at the perfect floors from underneath. I can’t see them from inside — a new reproduction Cowl Induction hood and new complete reproduction trunk floor section are covering them up.

It needs some stuff still — roof problems and trunk rust mostly. Nothing some effort and a few tools can’t solve.

All that was good enough, but what really sold me was everything else. New rear quarters. New front fenders. Doors, glass, heater vents, seats, headliner, spoilers, taillights, steering column and wheel, etc. It’s basically a complete car in boxes and in E-coat.

“Does all of this stuff go with it?” I ask.

“I need it all gone,” he says. “I had it at a shop but it was getting too expensive to sort out, so I stopped the work and left it in here. Now I’ve lost my other storage space, so I need to use this trailer. The Camaro has to go.”

I step back, size it up, and figure Dad and I can handle all the work that it needs, at least so far as getting the metal sorted out. And heck, the parts are all here already.

Sold.

$2,800 later and my father is loading exploded Camaro pieces into my truck, calling out what spare parts he still has from his own just-finished ’68 Camaro, and I call my wife.

“Hi honey. Guess what…”

As we drive the parts and pieces home, I come up with a plan: Fix all the sheet metal and make it a Camaro-shaped roller, and then just store it for a bit. Maybe sell it.

The truth is that I wasn’t really ready for another project and I don’t really know what I’m planning to do with it — but what Jay said the day before resonated enough to make me jump on it: Act or you’ll regret it.

It’s no ’70 Chevelle, but it’s still the right car — something I can hone some skills on casually and make marginally better even if I don’t finish the whole thing myself. I’ve built enough stuff to now know that I’m more into the process than the product these days, if only ever so slightly.

And anytime is the right time if the asking price isn’t too dear. 

I don’t have much history on this car, but I’ve been piecing together what I can find from what’s left over. The trim tag and VIN prove it was a V8 car, although I don’t yet know which one. It had a black houndstooth bucket interior, and there are some SS parts in the boxes, even though there’s no way to tell if they’re original to the car. 

The original color? Corvette Bronze. Like the color of a shiny new penny.

Not exactly GM gold, but hey, close enough.

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