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We Visited Chevy Camaro No. 1 and it's in Very Good Hands

The Drive logoThe Drive 7/12/2017 Eric Brandt

© Eric Brandt

While wandering line after line of Camaros and Firebirds at the Iola Car Show in central Wisconsin, I had never been less interested in rows of classic American pony cars. In any other setting, they would have been awe-inspiring to see, but there was only one F-Body I was looking for.

I found an information desk and by the time I got there, someone else was already there asking the question that was on my mind; “Where is the first Camaro?”

Finally, I found it by the winner’s circle next to the transparent trailer it arrived in which was surprisingly attached to a Toyota Tundra. It was Camaro N100001, the first Camaro ever built and a member of the National Historic Vehicle Register. It was appropriately behind velvet ropes and it didn’t attract nearly as much fanfare as I expected.

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Why was this car allowed outside of a museum? This Camaro is in private hands. Corey and Logan Lawson told the story of how this priceless piece of automotive history was acquired by a 13-year-old kid from Kansas and his English teacher grandmother.

In 2009, young Logan Lawson saw the car advertised and went with his dad Corey to Oklahoma City to look at it. Corey knew a thing or two about classic cars and saw enough signs to be convinced it truly was the very first F-Body. At this time, there was little official documentation confirming that this was the first Camaro. All they had to go on was local research and the stamp that read “N100001”. Since this was right around the time of the financial crisis, Logan’s grandma was convinced by Corey that this car was a better investment for Logan’s college fund than the stock market. He ended up being right and grandma funded the purchase.

The new owners of this mysterious Camaro tracked down the surviving previous owners asking questions about the car until finally, they got to the dealership that originally sold the car when it was new. They got information there that allowed them to track down the original parts that were removed from when it was built into a race car decades earlier. This was when the two-year restoration to its original specifications was able to begin.

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Under the hood lies the original 230 ci inline-six engine with a three-speed automatic transmission. Other than a seat cover and a carpet set, every single piece of this Camaro is an original GM part.

After the restoration was complete and all ownership history was procured, the Lawsons reached out to the GM Heritage Center for help gathering further factory documentation and other information on their car. Camaro number one went full circle to be unveiled yet again at the Norwood assembly plant where the car was originally built in 1966.

This summer, Camaro N100001 is on tour for the fiftieth anniversary of the Chevy Camaro. The Lawsons think that’s a better way to display it than at a museum since this allows more people to travel less distance to see the historic car. It also means they still get to keep it in their collection and do whatever they want with it, which is a lot more fun than having it sit in a museum. “We’re trying to bring the history back to everyone who enjoys it,” Logan Lawson told the crowd at Iola.

For the whole story on this historic Camaro, check out the 18-minute documentary about it below created by Pilot Car Registry.

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