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After More Than Two Decades, He’s Reunited With Same 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 He Owned in 1970s

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 10/20/2017 Hot Rod Network Staff
03-shauger-camaro-fronttop.JPG After More Than Two Decades, He’s Reunited With Same 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 He Owned in 1970s

Calling Steve Shauger just a car guy would be like calling George Patton just a general. In a nutshell, Steve's a card-carrying, multiply certified, full-blown car nut to the nth degree. If there was an accreditation test to receive a degree in autophilia, Steve would ace it and score an advanced doctorate in muscle car virtuosity while he was at it. Yeah, he's definitely into the hobby big time.

While Steve can say he feels an "umbrella of love" for the entire universe of the muscle car genre, there is one model that really hits home with this guy: GM's original ponycar, the Chevy Camaro. (You may recall three of Steve's Camaros appearing on the cover of our Jan. 2016 issue and in the accompanying story.)

Related Link: Looking for a new Camaro? Research Chevy's latest models on MSN Autos

Steve's Camaro attraction began in 1967, while he was on his way to elementary school. He could hear "it" rumbling through the backroads of suburban Philadelphia. That sound—the tone of the exhaust, the lope and rhythm of the solid-lifter camshaft, the revelry of the Chevy small-block—was a hypnotic siren's call. What he was hearing that day was his friend's older brother thrashing his new Z-28 Camaro. That was all it took; Steve was hooked.

Donohue would die in 1975 preparing for the Austrian Grand Prix. "The loss of Mark had an effect on me, and from then on my goal was to find a car identical to the one Mark drove into the Sun Oil facility," says Steve.

008-shauger-1969-chevrolet-camaro-z28-sidebar-micarelli-1972.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 008-shauger-1969-chevrolet-camaro-z28-sidebar-micarelli-1972.jpg Seek and You Shall Find

It would take three years, but Steve did find the car he knew he needed. In the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin was a listing for a Camaro that hit almost every mark, and was just a stone's throw away in Franklinville, New Jersey. When he first saw the Z/28 RS, he could tell it pretty much had everything he had hoped for, plus a few things he hadn't planned on.

"I wondered to myself, what were those hideous turn indicators doing on the fenders? Next I looked inside and really liked the houndstooth interior, but not the eight-track box mounted on the console lid."

Today, Steve recognizes that those two options, the code U46 "Vigilite" Light Monitoring System and code U57 Stereo Tape System, are "rare and collectible and quite fashionable," he says. But back then they meant nothing to him.

He drove the car home that day, back over the Commodore Barry Bridge and into Pennsylvania. He was approaching his hometown when he got a little overzealous. "On Route 252, my excitement got the best of me and I ran through the gears. Just at that moment my luck ran out, because I was immediately pulled over and ticketed for several violations: no inspection, registration and excessive noise."

Steve found out years later that the police officer "was a Camaro lover who owned a Fathom Green 1969 Z/28, but that didn't prevent him from giving me the tickets."

011-shauger-1969-chevrolet-camaro-z28-sidebar-driveway-1983.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 011-shauger-1969-chevrolet-camaro-z28-sidebar-driveway-1983.jpg Cleanup

Things slowed down when Steve got a job transfer out to Long Island, as he could only work on the car on weekends, but the Camaro went back together without incident. That is, until it was finished. On its first day out of the garage, his mom accidently plowed into the driver-side fender with her Chevy Monza. Steve bit his tongue, told his mom it was OK, and saw to it the damage was repaired.

Steve met Diane, his future wife, in 1982, and they were married in the summer of 1983. Needing cash to start their life together, Steve put the Camaro up for sale, posting an ad in Super Chevy magazine. He had several calls, but a deal was struck with a Larry Beard out of Crockett, Texas.

Steve was very fond of his Z/28, and he never could stop thinking about it. In 1986, he called Larry to check on the status of the car, only to find out that it had been sold. Larry only remembered that the new owner was in Tyler, Texas. Luckily, Steve kept his old Pennsylvania registrations in his wallet. Going through the Texas DMV he located the car, which was owned by a man named Mark Stuteville. For the next 24 years he would call Mark two to three times a year hoping he would part with the car. "Basically the conversations were always the same," Steve says. "He would ask 'How much is that old car worth now?' and nothing more."

001-shauger-1969-chevrolet-camaro-z28-front-three-quarter-alt-1.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 001-shauger-1969-chevrolet-camaro-z28-front-three-quarter-alt-1.jpg Reunited

Finally, in 2009, Mark called with the news that he was ready to sell. Unfortunately, Steve's mom passed away the day after, which made this all so bittersweet. "I suspect she had a hand in making this happen," says Steve.

Three weeks later he was on a plane headed to Texas to check out his beloved Camaro. It hadn't run since 1994, but still possessed its original drivetrain and some of the mods done in the 1970s.

After a month of negotiations, a deal was struck and the Great Pumpkin (Steve's wife's nickname for the Z) was on its way home. "Since taking possession, I replaced worn carpet and other interior materials. Next I pulled the drivetrain for a rebuild and detailed the engine compartment. The car is back together and still retains many of its day-two components," Steve says.

Now home in Steve's garage, the Z/28 is not going anywhere. He's enjoying the heck out of it. "Needless to say, I am reliving my youth, and I have had a blast doing so. Yes, like taking my wife of 34 years out on dates."

Congratulations, Steve, on your unwavering love of your favorite ride.

31-shauger-camaro-engine.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 31-shauger-camaro-engine.jpg At a Glance

1969 Camaro Z/28 RS

Owned by: Steve Shauger

Restored by: Owner

Engine: 1969 302ci/290hp DZ302 V-8

Transmission: Muncie M21 4-speed manual

Rearend: 12-bolt with 3.73 gears

Interior: Black vinyl and gray houndstooth bucket seat

Wheels: 15x7 Torq-Thrust

Tires: P225/70R15 BFGoodrich Radial T/A

Special parts: Light Monitoring System, Stereo Tape System, traction bars

23-shauger-camaro-rear.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 23-shauger-camaro-rear.jpg The Rest of the Story

Once the Z/28 was back in Steve Shauger's hands in 2010, he made a determined effort to trace its complete history. He scoured the DMV records in several states, obtained the Camaro's assembly and shipping records from the NCRS, and traced the history of the original selling dealership. He poured over online newspaper listings to find the original ad he responded to in 1980, and even cold-called the phone number from the ad, despite the long odds that the original seller would still be at that number 40 years later.

But he was. Except the area code had changed. Once that was figured out, Steve contacted the man he bought the Camaro from, Paul Micarelli. To say Paul was excited to hear from Steve would be an understatement. All the pieces fell into place.

Jay Chevrolet in Haddonfield, New Jersey, originally sold the car to a good friend of Paul's, Bill Miller. Bill and Paul, in fact, went to the dealership together to order the optioned-up Camaro, and Paul drove Bill to the lot when the car arrived.

Impending fatherhood pushed Bill into selling the Camaro—to Paul—in 1971, for $2,100. Paul used it as daily transportation, modifying it along the way with a new cam, traction bars, and a gear swap from the stock 3.73s to 4.88s. When that proved too steep for the street car, they were changed out to 4.10s.

In 1980 Paul put the Camaro up for sale, and that's when Steve entered the picture. Since reconnecting, Steve and Paul have become close friends. Paul provided Steve some photos of the car during its first years, as well as the Camaro's original Protect-O-Plate. —Drew Hardin

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