1969 Chevrolet Camaro

Illustration for article titled 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

Welcome to Down On The Street, where we admire old vehicles found parked on the streets of the Island That Rust Forgot: Alameda, California. Can you believe, with all the first-generation Camaros built, that we're on the 327th Alameda DOTS car and we're seeing our very first one? Are they just too valuable to be allowed on the street? Or did they all go out in blazes of hoonic glory back in the day? If either is true, why do we see so many early Mustangs still on the street? Note: Yes, I was off by a year on this one, which is what sometimes happens with cars I assume I know well enough to allow me to skip the reference books. Apologies to all you first-gen Camaro fans outraged by my mistake.

Illustration for article titled 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

I found this car parked at a meter in front of Jim's Coffee House downtown. Realizing I didn't have time to run home and get my good camera, I decided to make do with the camera in my cellphone.

Illustration for article titled 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

The General made 230,799 Camaros for the '69 model year, compared to Ford's 299,824 Mustangs that year. A V8-equipped Camaro hardtop went for $2,727, versus $2,723 for a V8 Mustang hardtop. With both cars offering roughly similar performance (i.e., terrible handling and braking, decent acceleration), the choice for car buyers probably came down to style and/or brand preference.

Illustration for article titled 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

This one is a bit rough, but it's purple! Good to see a Camaro that's not afraid to venture away from car shows and cruise nights.


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Rob Emslie




Thanks guys. I now note that the license plate on that black one I Googled up says "SS RS 69" so that all makes sense.

BTW: I'll bet the little old lady who drives that purple people mover bought it new at the Oakland Chevy dealership in the turbulent summer of '68. She was in her early thirties at the time, and having just ended her relationship with a boyfriend because he was 'too square,' bought the car on a whim. The purple metalflake and black vinyl roof stood out against the other, more conservative sedans and wagons on the lot. Not caring much about it being a V8, it took her a while to get used to the power and sound of the throaty engine.

For a number of years, it became common to see the camaro driving around the east bay region; whether at a peace rally in Berkley, or an environmental protest in Palo Alto. She'd climb out of the Chevy, tall boots, long blond hair and red-tinted glasses, ready to take part in what ever political upheaval was popular at the time. As the years went by, many of her friends and acquaintances moved on, grew fat and complacent. She, however didn't change, didn't give in to the urge to go mainstream, become complacent.

Moving to Alameda was choice brought about by feeling ostracized, even in Berkley where the kids were now a-days more likely to be quiet Asians than rowdy radicals, it seemed she was now the one out of time. Still wearing her hair long and straight, although now flecked with streaks of white, she has never lamented her choices; letting her passion drive her, shunning the traditional life of family and suburban malaise.

Now, sitting in the coffee shop, sipping her cup of hot, black joe, she sees out the window that someone has taken an interest in the car. Not another huckster, she says to herself, I'm not selling her you bastard. This one looks different however, he has a few days-worth of beard, and his shirt, wrapping over an obviously well-fed beer gut, has an odd skull and cross bones design. Maybe she'll go out and talk to him. Maybe she'll find out what his interest is in the old car. And then he is gone. The moment has passed. She sits in the café, sipping her coffee slowly, and gazes out at the purple coupe. Another opportunity let slip by, another road less taken, and suddenly she is filled with regret. Her eyes water, the car becoming a wavering shape in her vision. Feeling stupid, she dabs at her eyes, quickly finishes her cup and gets up to leave.

Outside she scans the block for the man, but he is long gone. That's okay, she tells herself. Silly old girl. She feels better once she gets behind the wheel and fires up the big V8. Maybe she'll head over to that new Medical Marijuana clinic in Oakland, she heard there was going to be a protest there and they might need a little help. The tire yelp as she guns it from the curb, there's still life left in the both of them, and work yet unfinished.