Author Topic: My story and why to not give up looking.  (Read 1215 times)

FRANKTHECRANK

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My story and why to not give up looking.
« on: January 24, 2024, 03:59:46 PM »
The "On the Hunt" thread got me thinking about when I was hunting for the original owner of my 1968 Camaro Z28, ex-Bob Johnson drag car that I have owned since 1981. Here is a reason to never give up, and a pretty amazing story why.

Like I have previously mentioned, I was hunting for the original owner of my Camaro, not searching for the car itself, but maybe how I found him would be of interest and you might be able to use this in your search.

I originally had an LEO, who was a friend of a friend, do an NICB report on my car to see where it was sold, and a dealership in NH was given to me. (this was before the NCRS was doing this) The NH dealer made sense, because I was in RI, and knew the car was traded in at Scuncio in 1972 by a man in the navy stationed in CT. (I got that much info from Bob Johnson, who took the trade in and then bought the car from Scuncio to turn it into a drag car)

After contacting the dealer that was now occupying the space the original dealer was, and finding out they didn't have any records from the old dealer, that search ended.

Fast forward to when the NCRS offered the reports. I sent in my $50, (which I now believe is $60) and low and behold, I got my report stating my Z28 was originally shipped to and sold out of a dealership in Tennessee. Yup, the first LEO gathered report was totally wrong.

I had somewhere to look now. I decided to run an ad in the Tennessee Craigslist under the "wanted" section looking for the original owner of a Le Mans Blue 68 Z28, bought new at Varnell Chevrolet Company, or anyone who remembers the dealership, the car, etc....

I continually renewed the ad and got lots of emails from people who read it, trying to help with advice like checking the DMV. Running the VIN on online VIN decoders, etc....all stuff I had tried already. Some did say they remember the dealer, an few thought the remembered seeing the car in the show room.

Then one day, after years of running the ad, a guy named Harold messaged me and said he still lives in the town, knew the dealer ship , and knows a local mechanic named Monk that used to work there doing new car prep, and said he will contact him. Sure enough, the guy remembered the car. It was originally ordered by a guy named Ernie who grew impatient for it to come in, so found another yellow Z28 at another dealership. When my car arrived, another man maned Larry bought it, and incidentally traded in a black 67 Camaro that this Monk gentlemen bought and still owns today.

Monk also knew Mrs. Varnell,...who was still living,..and knew the book keeper, and she told her when the dealership was sold, all the records were burned.

Harold kept giving me phone numbers, addresses, etc..of all parties involved, but before I could follow up on anything, he did,..lol.

Harold then found a woman named Sharon who ho had put together the local family history/ genealogy (Larry's family) If anyone can find our Larry, it will be her. She agreed to try to help. She said she thought she might know but would check to verify. She was excited when he told her about the 68 Camaro. She said she thought it was her husbands car since he owned one also but he had wrecked his and totaled it....obviously not my car.

Harold then tracked down Larry's brother, and confirmed Larry was in the Navy and was the owner of my Camaro,....and Harold began trying to contact Larry via two phone numbers but was getting no answer.

Harold got in touch with Larry, and he confirmed he was the original owner, and that's when Harold told me this,..."Incidentally, I am a retired criminal investigator so these things are hard to turn loose once you get involved."

I then finally got in touch with the original owner and he answered all the questions I had, and sent me, though email. the few photos he had from when he owned it.

Turns out when he bought it he was at home on leave from the Navel base in CT, did all the paperwork, payed for it, but had to go back to the base before the car was ready, so his wife drove it all the way from Tennessee to CT to him. Brand new Z28, 302, 4 speed,...what a woman.

I always wondered why the car had no stripes on it, and thought it was a stripe delete car because it had the "-" on the data tag representing "special paint", but turns out, he installed a cowl induction hood on it in 1970, and because of the sandy roads in CT beating up the lower sections of the car, he had the whole car painted minus the stripes. The special paint was the black Z28 stripes that were originally ordered on the car.

He traveled over the CT - RI line to Scuncio Chevrolet in 1972 and traded the car in for a Chevelle SS and that's where Bob Johnson, high performance manager and salesman, took ownership of it. He owned, raced and or sponsored the car until 1977, then it was raced by the next owner from 77 though 81,..1981 was when I bought it.

Getting a few pics of the car and talking to him, (he was a real motor head back then) finally filled in those 4 years of history before Bob Johnson owned and raced it.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2024, 05:40:17 PM by FRANKTHECRANK »

maroman

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2024, 04:47:22 PM »
That story would mean nothing to 98% of the people but is golden here. Good for you!!
Doug  '67 RS/SS 396 auto I know the car since new

FRANKTHECRANK

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2024, 04:52:26 PM »
That story would mean nothing to 98% of the people but is golden here. Good for you!!

Yup, you have to either be a car guy first off, someone who has has a classic car a long time, someone who has owned classics, someone who wishes they could find a car they used to own,...or is just plain intrigued by automotive history in general.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2024, 06:43:15 PM by FRANKTHECRANK »

R68GTO

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2024, 11:31:25 PM »
Great story, congrats on filling in the gaps!
1969 427 COPO Camaro Lemans Blue/Black, M22 4 speed, 15,500 original miles

MO

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2024, 05:25:50 AM »
Great story of persistence paying off.

FRANKTHECRANK

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2024, 12:52:49 PM »
Great story, congrats on filling in the gaps!
Great story of persistence paying off.

Thanks guys. One thing I forgot to mention is that I have had the car for 43 years, but have only actively been searching for the original owner for about the last 15 years of that, and 7 or 8 years ago, I found him. So it took about the same 7 years or so to track him down.

SMKZ28

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2024, 02:48:20 PM »
Fantastic story!  Congrats on filling in the holes of your cars history.
Scott
I don't have a 1st Gen but I have 1971 Z28 RS 4-spd, 1997 Z28 Z4C 6-spd, 2000 SS Convertible, 2010 RS 6-spd

OrignlZ

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2024, 01:30:08 AM »
This a great story and something I love about the car community. This is very motivating for me to keep grinding on this hunt, even if it takes years it's something worth pursuing. Figure if I bang on enough doors (figuratively of course) someone is bound to answer.
On the hunt - 1969 VN built Z-28
VIN # 124379L512990

396 SS/RS

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2024, 03:05:39 AM »
Great story. I bought my '68 from the original owner so know it's history. The first owner bought it for his only child who had for a while and eventually committed suicide while going to medical school. He kept it pristine for sentimental reasons until 1986 when he finally sold it to me after I badgered him for 3 years to sell it to me.
Good Judgment Comes From Experience, Some Experience Comes From Bad Judgment.

68camaroz28

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2024, 11:34:18 AM »
Now that was a good one, yet very involved for sure. Mine was so easy, just looked up white pages of name on Phillips 66 charge slip that was under seat carpet dated 1972 and found Eddie, and he was the original owner. What made that even better he had kept the original BOS and other paperwork from the car and gave it to me.
But Frank, again, what a story!
Chick
68 Z/28 NOR 01B Orig motor/trans/rear
69 Z/28 NOR 07A Orig Block & GM Cross-ram/carbs
69 L34 Rest. Nova Father/Son Car
69 L78 Surv Nova Purch 4/69 31K miles
67 L89 Corv Tribute
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R 68Z build- http://www.camaros.net/forums/showthread.php?t=182584

FRANKTHECRANK

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2024, 12:40:16 PM »
This a great story and something I love about the car community. This is very motivating for me to keep grinding on this hunt, even if it takes years it's something worth pursuing. Figure if I bang on enough doors (figuratively of course) someone is bound to answer.
Fantastic story!  Congrats on filling in the holes of your cars history.
Great story. I bought my '68 from the original owner so know it's history. The first owner bought it for his only child who had for a while and eventually committed suicide while going to medical school. He kept it pristine for sentimental reasons until 1986 when he finally sold it to me after I badgered him for 3 years to sell it to me.
Now that was a good one, yet very involved for sure. Mine was so easy, just looked up white pages of name on Phillips 66 charge slip that was under seat carpet dated 1972 and found Eddie, and he was the original owner. What made that even better he had kept the original BOS and other paperwork from the car and gave it to me.
But Frank, again, what a story!

Thanks guys, it was quite a turn of events, going from decades of dead ends, to a sudden landslide of info that got me to the original owner. I have recently tried contacting the owner again through email for a few more pics he said he had, but he said they were dark. I told him any pictures would be appreciated and I reminded him if he gets a chance, I'd love to see them. But, like an attempt a few years ago, this email went unanswered. Hoping all is well with him.

rsms

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2024, 06:36:42 PM »
That's a much-needed cool story and very similar to mine although mine hasn't had the happy ending yet.  Back when I bought my 68Z in 1985, you could run a "body file" thru the DMV and even at my young high school age I knew to do this.  I had the original owner's name but could never get a current address or ph#.  I knew the car was originally from Mac Mulkin Chevy, I knew who the 3rd owner was (more on the original owner later).  I was able to track down the 3rd owner, but he would never answer the phone or even the door when I made the trip to his house.  I later found out he was very sick and had passed away during the time frame I was attempting to contact him one day when his son answered the phone.  The son had many memories of the car when he was very young and told me his dad towed it down from NY with a blown engine (the original which I received with the car).  As a child he would sit in the car and pretend to drive it behind his house.  He only had memories to share.  I learned the 2nd owner drag raced it in the early to mid 70's till it dropped a valve and parked it.  Unfortunately, the 2nd owner's name and address on the body file paperwork was not definitive due to bad microfiche copies thru out the years and left me many possible variations of both.  As of today, I still have not had any luck with him.  The worse part of my journey is with the original owner, I know his name and have a his facebook profile although it's not used, I've attempted to contact him countless times with every way imaginable except either myself or someone else knocking on his door.  He absolutely has not responded.  I've reached out to numerous relatives and had no luck until one day his son reached out to me.  I was thrilled after a couple conversations with him.  I learned he was actually driven home from the hospital in the car, what his dad did for a living, that his mom at the same time drove a 67 Chevelle SS (sounds like an awesome car family) and that the mother and father had divorced, he spoke with his mother, and she still had several pictures from when it was new and many stories she would share.  He also agreed to try and get his father to reach out to me.  I told him how appreciative I was and that I would love to speak to either or both of them thru any way they felt comfortable with including with me flying to the Northeast to do so in person over dinner.  We left off with him saying he would be in touch but since that conversation he has not responded back to me.  I get it that some people are just not "people persons" per say but at the same time I don't get that they wouldn't like to help preserve the part of history they were involved in. I believe anyone who bought a 67 or very early 68 Z28 did so because they knew how special the program was and would definitely be a big gearhead.  I really like the idea of using craigslist that you mentioned, I think I'm going to try that and hope for a car guy friend of this obvious car guy owner would help in my quest.  It is frustrating to be so close but just not being able to get there and I have really slowed in my persistence, but your story has made me want to (and I will) keep up the fight, thanks for sharing

FRANKTHECRANK

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Re: My story and why to not give up looking.
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2024, 01:42:13 PM »

Awesome story, and it is similar to mine. I would continue contacting the son, seeing you have had a good conversation with him already, and try a different angle. Maybe just say, "Seeing I have not heard back from your father or mother for that matter, perhaps they don't feel comfortable meeting with me, or even discussing the car with me so,...is there any other way you could at least email me copies of the photos they have of the car." Maybe that wil break the ice so to speak, while reminding them that they haven't gotten back to you yet.


Also, MacMulkin Chevrolet is still in business in New Hampshire. Have you ever reached out to them to see if they have any archived records?