Bringing a ‘67 Camaro Back
Melvin Murry had to do a lot of convincing before he could persuade his father to part with his 1967 Chevy Camaro. The shop owner of Murry’s Autobody in Peoria, Ill., had his eye on the old drag racing car for years before his dad finally handed over the keys in 2005. There was one condition to the gift, however: Murry had to promise that he would never sell it. “That’s the only way he would give it to me,” he laughs.
Right away, Murry began restoring the Camaro, which his father had bought for $3,500 in 1968. He spent the following two years on the project, investing $20,000 and 8,000 hours in the car. Now, the fully restored vehicle is worth an estimated $75,000 to $80,000 and has racked up a slew of awards, including Best Chevy, Best Old School and Best Engine at the 2007 Chicago DUB car show.
“A basket case” is how Murry describes the Camaro’s initial condition. It sported a lot of rust and holes, which made the beginning stages of the restoration difficult. “There was nothing there,” he says. “The first thing we did was remove the race motor and media blast it.” Next: new quarter panels, new truck panes, a new floorboard, new fenders and a new hood.
Fortunately, finding parts was no problem. “Those first-generation Camaros—they’re popular,” he says. Putting in the drivetrain was the toughest part.
Four hours a day, seven days a week, Murry worked on the restoration, making the car his own. He customized the interior, which includes four bucket seats, a custom console, a Sony stereo system, air ride, all new gauges and a 454 Big Block Chevy engine with a cold-air intake.
Sticking with It
Murry admits there were moments he wanted to walk away. “You get frustrated,” he says, “when things aren’t going together right.” He found it helped to organize the restoration in stages, focusing on individual tasks until each was complete. But it took more than that to get the job done. “My father was the inspiration to finish the car,” he says. That devotion sustained him during the tough times.
When it was time for the Camaro’s paint job, Murry chose a custom House of Colors candy apple red. He found the perfect hue by spraying test panel after test panel, not stopping until he found a shade he really loved.
Life is Love
The best part of the project, Murry says, was showing the finished product to his parents, especially his father. “Seeing the smile on his face [was] priceless. He hadn’t heard the car run in 25 years. That right there was joy enough for me.”
Having crafted something out of virtually nothing was a thrill for Murry, too. “That car looked like a piece of [Swiss] cheese before,” he says.
Other people took notice of the gleaming Camaro, too. “A guy offered me $80,000 for it,” Murry says—but he made good on his promise to his father and refused the sale.
The car has been to three DUB car shows and won nine trophies. “[People are] amazed by it because the wheels are so big,” Murry says. “It doesn’t look like the next guy’s Camaro. The exhaust system comes off the quarter panels of the car.”
While Murry digs the awards and the car’s notoriety, his motivations were more pure: He just wanted to do something special for his dad. “Life is love,” Murry says. “If you don’t love nothin’, you’re not livin.”