Car Gazing: Restoring Our 1967 Camaro Convertible

There’s much joy to be had in reflecting on a car that’s been such a big part of your life. For Lynn Rentz and her late husband, Rod, that car was a classic 1967 Camaro convertible.

When I first met him, my husband Rod had been an admirer of vehicles, especially muscle cars of the ’60s—the cars of his youth. A wealth of information, he could name the year, make and model of almost any car, even if we saw it in passing on the opposite side of a four-lane highway. This was amazing to me, as I tended to identify cars based on their size and colour. Whenever we passed a local “Show ’N Shine,” we always stopped to have a look around. Finally, in the spring of 1997, the year he turned 50, Rod graduated from admirer to owner with the purchase of a 1967 Camaro convertible. When we first went to look at the car, it was sitting in the corner of a farmer’s Quonset hut, covered in dust, and had not been driven in years. But it fired right up and, in a matter of minutes, we decided to purchase it. The following day, we returned with a cheque and Rod proudly drove it home.

It was, of course, in need of some TLC. The first order of business was to replace the torn ragtop and front seats. Once that was done, we spent the summer cruising in our new toy. The reactions we got while driving that car were amazing—people were always honking, waving, or giving us a big thumbs-up. As winter approached, the car was relegated to the garage and Rod began searching for parts to complete the restoration. We made countless trips to David T’s Auto Center in northeast Edmonton; bought parts locally wherever we could find them, and purchased hard-to-find items from as far away as California and Georgia.

As the years passed, Rod spent many hours loosening old rusty bolts; cleaning and polishing, and replacing worn parts—being careful to never misplace so much as an original bolt. There were frustrations and occasional four-letter words, as knuckles were scraped or newly acquired parts didn’t fit as planned. At the end of a busy day, though, Rod liked to sit back with a cold, well-deserved beer and admire the latest improvement to the Camaro. “Car gazing,” he called it.

Once most mechanical issues had been addressed we began to take longer road trips—to Vancouver Island, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Montana. We’d pack an amazing amount of stuff into that little car, and then throw a set of golf clubs on top of the pile in the back seat to help hold down the load as we cruised with the top down. We soon bought a small tent trailer—a Kamperoo—that we hauled on more holidays.

In an old car that still had many original parts, some problems were to be expected. The most memorable one occurred in Glacier National Park, Montana. We had driven to the summit of Logan Pass, where we spent a beautiful day hiking. We decided to put the convertible top down for the descent and partway through the process, the original hydraulic motor that powered the top gave up the ghost, forcing us to drive down the mountainside with our roof conspicuously at half-mast. Nothing that a friendly neighbourhood mechanic couldn’t fix—and we managed to find one who did.

Sadly, Rod passed away in 2014. I still enjoy driving that 1967 Camaro convertible, although the trips are shorter and always bittersweet. I will soon pass the car along to Rod’s son and then he, too, will be able to experience the incomparable joy of the open road, of the sun and wind on his face and, hopefully, the pleasure of making improvements to a car that’s now passed 50, but still rarin’ to go.

Next, check out an impressive 1967 Mustang Coupe restoration.

Originally Published in Our Canada