An email from Alamo resident Mike Querio told me of his wife, Jan Seller-Querio, and her 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. He teased me with a short history and a couple of photos of the car, and I wanted to see her car for myself.
"I bought the car in 1980," she said, "with 15,000 miles on it. I knew I wanted a blue Z28." She saw an ad in the paper (hopefully this one) and bought the car from a private party for about $5,500 (about $16,725 in today's dollars).
She was 22 at the time, and it was her first car. And, while not a high performance person, "I wanted a quicker car," she said.
This is the second generation of Camaros from Chevrolet that were produced from 1970 through 1981 model years. Often referred to as a "pony" car, it was a direct competitor to the Ford Mustang. For model year 1979, Chevrolet built 282,582 Camaros; about 30 percent were the performance model, Z28.
However, according to the website ehow.com, the 1979 Camaro was much less of a performance car than earlier models. The early second generation Camaros had a 396 c.i. V8 engine available rated up to 360 HP, while the 1979 model's most powerful engine was a 350 c.i. V8 engine rated at 175 HP. And, in California, it was only available with an automatic transmission due to emission standards.
There was no convertible Camaro model, only a two-door coupe. Three trim levels, the RS (standard), the Z28 (performance) and the new Berlinetta (luxury) model were offered for 1979. To compensate for no convertible, Camaro offered the T-Top, which Seller-Querio's car has. The T-Top is two removable tinted glass panels over the driver and passenger seats that can be removed and stored in specially designed cases in the trunk.
Seller-Querio drove this Camaro for many years as her daily driver. In 1998, her son started driving it to high school where he learned the Z28 was capable of doing "donuts" in the school parking lot but broke the rear sway bar. The downhill spiral continued as the family quit driving the car and left it outside in the elements. Then it got vandalized. The insurance company totaled the car and gave it a "salvage" title because repainting the car would cost more than the car was worth, but Seller, before she became Seller-Querio, retained possession.
For about nine years, this Camaro Z28 had to face mother nature alone, ending up in a lonely RV storage lot. But, just because it wasn't used, didn't mean it wasn't loved. After all, it was her first car and we all have a soft spot for our first car.
Few, if any, know that better than Mike Querio. He is a certified "car nut" and had his first car, a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1, restored. Some "I do" words were exchanged and Querio decided his new wife was going to have the car of her dreams -- again.
Querio contacted Ken Mann in Oregon who had restored his Mustang. "He does everything from minor restoration to complete concours d'elegance restorations," Querio said. "He's a one-man shop primarily specializing in Ford. He farms out the paint and body work but does everything else himself."
The goal was to keep the car as original as possible but not to make it a "trailer queen," one that gets hauled around to car shows. It's a show car, but a show car that gets driven and is officially classified as a "Concours Driven" car.
"The first thing Mann did was to buy some Chevrolet shop manuals," Querio said. "He completely disassembled the car, photographed everything meticulously so that he could put it back together. He even recorded the original finish for each part so he could replace all the small parts just as Chevrolet built them in 1979."
Disassembly means not only did the doors, for example, come off, but everything inside the doors was taken apart and refinished.
"The engine is original as is the entire drivetrain," Querio said. "All the glass is original including the T-Top." The Bright Blue exterior finish and Oyster interior was the original factory color combination.
After four years, Querio and his wife got the Camaro back in December from restorer Ken Mann. She entered it in its first show a month ago with favorable results.
Before the restoration started, Querio expected to spend about $20,000, the estimated current market value of the car, to complete the restoration. But when the job was completed, the investment had mushroomed to more than $40,000.
But Querio is philosophical. First, his wife is happy (priceless) and second, he takes comfort from "Sports Car Market" writer, Keith Martin, who said, "when it comes to collector cars, you can never pay too much, but occasionally you can buy too soon."
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.