The first ever Chevrolet Camaro prototype, VIN # 100001, has returned to its spiritual home of Detroit, and will be sitting on the side of Woodward Avenue for the next few days. Here’s the car’s incredible story.
The car started life at a dealership in Oklahoma, where the goal was to lure customers into the showroom with the snazzy new prototype.
After a few years, the dealer sold the car to a friend, who owned it for a bit, and then got rid of it. The car, the Free Press says, had a few owners throughout the years, and was eventually stripped of its carpet, seats and many other original parts to save weight, as the car had being used for drag racing.
Fast forward to 2010, and the pilot car wound up on an online messaging board, for sale by an owner who had come upon hard times, losing his job and house.
That’s when 13 year-old Logan Lawson from Hutchison, Kansas spotted the Camaro, noting its strange VIN number. He and his dad Corey, a guy with solid automotive acumen (he had judged car shows and sold old Shelby Mustangs), went and had a look.
Corey saw that the car’s panels, welds and a bunch of the parts had been made by hand, and that the vehicle’s sheetmetal didn’t have holes for nameplates. Suspicious that this might be the first Camaro, he and his son purchased the thing.
Logan, through extensive research, eventually learned for sure that his car was indeed the first ever Camaro. He learned that, because the car—which hadn’t yet been named the Camaro— was used to test parts fitment and the assembly method, and to appeal to the masses with a low askign price, it was very basic: fitted with the standard inline-six and very few options.
In a quest to bring the car back to its original shape, Logan tracked down a warehouse filled with the car’s original parts, which had been stripped by previous owners who had used the car for racing. He and his dad bought everything in the warehouse, picked out the original handmade parts, and reinstalling them to bring the vehicle back into original shape.
Logan’s obsession with early Camaros led him to create www.pilotcarregistry.com, a site with lots of information on all 52 early Camaro prototype vehicles (that’s his video above). Eventually, GM Product development chief Mark Reuss heard about Logan, and even wrote the kid a letter of recommendation for Cal Poly, where he studies software engineering.
If you want to see the first ever Camaro, stop by the intersection of Woodward and Maple in Birmingham, Michigan from now until Saturday, the day of the Woodward Dream Cruise, where the Historic Vehicle Association has placed the car in a lighted glass box.