What Ever Happened to the First Camaro?

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The first Camaro came out in 1967, received nationwide acclaim, and became an instant classic that continues to help define the Chevrolet brand. A first-year Camaro is an undeniable collector’s item, and one of the most sought-after “barn finds” in the world.

But what about the very first Camaro? As in, Camaro No. 1. The first one off the assembly line.

That car is known as Camaro N100001 and, after a long, strange trip, it has been restored to its original glory.

A Display Model

The N100001 began its life without even a name as a pre-production display model with a handful of little quirks. For one thing, it was built in secret, by hand, and delivered to Chevrolet without badging, but with a funky static lighting display to help show it off at sales conventions. It started off as a test mule, until Chevrolet called a dramatic press conference and revealed it had a brand-new pony car, and that pony car was called “Camaro.”

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For reasons that now seem a little short-sighted, Chevrolet decided to go ahead and sell the Camaro N100001 as if it were any other car. It wound up at R.T. Ayers Chevrolet in Yukon, Okla. Ayers used it as a sales gimmick, and kept it on the showroom floor until 1969, when it was sold for $2,550 (the full sticker price) to a single woman named Linda Johnson.

In 1975, she told it to another dealer, which flipped it a few months later for, once again, the full sticker price of $2,550. Civilian owner No. 2 was a guy named Alvis Harper, who shared the car with his son, Sam, from 1976 until Sam died in 1982.

A Drag Car

It was at this point that the car began its descent in earnest. The guy who bought it from Harper knew what he had, and decided to campaign it as a drag car, stripping it down, running quarter miles in it and kind of passing it around the state of Oklahoma for most of the 80s. By the time it got put away for long-term storage, its historical significance had been lost.

For 20 years, it sat, garaged, as a shot-out old drag car like so many other shot-out old drag cars. The guy who bought it in 2009 paid — you guessed it — $2,500 for it and thought he’d pull it out of racing retirement. But then the insurance company asked for the VIN, and he looked at it — 12377N100001 — and thought all those 1s and 0s might indicate something significant.

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The current owners bought it in 2010 and spent the next four years verifying the car’s authenticity and restoring it to its original state. Given that it had been stripped and turned into a drag car more than once, this process stood a good chance of being a physical impossibility. But as luck would have it, the guy who tubbed it out the first time (a) kept all the original parts and (b) was still alive.

A Living Legacy

Today, the first Camaro lives its life the way it began, as a showpiece and display car, a living, breathing, running connection to the origins of one of the most iconic brands in American history.

If you’d like to get in on this great history, Finnegan is the place to go. We have a great inventory of Camaros and are sure to have the color and performance package that suits your tastes and lifestyle.

Learn more:

History of the Z/28.

The new Camaro.


(c) 2013 Finnegan Auto Blog