The First Chevrolet Camaro N100001 – A Video Documentary
Watch A Video Documentary of The First Chevrolet Camaro N100001
Posted on YouTube By: lumberjack1713
Narrator: Built-in secret, Fisher body began work on the first Camaro on May 17, 1966.
The coach was delivered to Chevrolet by Fisher Body on May 21st. Where the final assembly then began on the first F car Under the Norwood pilot production car program.
N100001 is the very first build of the hand-built 49 car pilot assembly test program. Designated for the General
Motors Norwood assembly plant.
This first of the first was produced and configured with a 230 cubic inch engine, three-speed transmission, whitewall tires, push-button radio, front antenna, and deluxe seatbelts.
Interestingly it was also equipped with a 110-volt static lighting display to be used at General Motors sales conventions.
Built for the product launch with show paint required. It was lightly equipped to accommodate the opening days of the pilot build and also to appeal to the masses in pricing and safety features.01:09
When it was finished it was stored hidden until its inaugural uses as an assembly test mule and Chevrolet product line unveiling display car.
It was during its time in secret storage that Pete Estes held a dramatic 10 am, fourteen cities, network news conference, and officially released the name Camaro to the world.
Up until that moment, all pilot cars had been built without even knowing a name. The Camaro was received by the automotive press to much enthusiasm and was estimated to account for 12% of Chevrolet production in 1967.
The number 1 Camaro was used as an assembly test mule before being required by GM employee D Reeves at 6030 Cass Avenue in Detroit on August 1, 1966.
This was prior to the unveiling of the Camaro later that same month at the Sheraton Cadillac hotel. It was at this convention that Artie Ayres first saw the sports coupe, and used his influence inside the Camaro division to request and receive this first build from the product unveiling.
Full production of the Chevrolet Camaro line began on August 7, 1966, at the Norwood plant. It was the engineering knowledge and revisions from the information gleaned during the pilot program that made this a smooth transition.
Jim Syme pilot car coordinator was in charge of making these engineering revisions, based upon the feedback he was receiving from the multitude of vendors involved as well as the pilot program employees.
Jim Syme (pilot car coordinator): 65 is when the word came that we were going to be the ones to do the Camaro. So, they needed somebody to be the coordinator between the plant, and the engineer, and the central office. So, they decided that I would be the one to do that. That’s when I was transferred to the assembly research, up in Flint Michigan
Narrator: With a sales convention complete in Detroit. For the release of the 1967 Camaro to the
Chevrolet dealers of the world. Affectionately known as men of action.
The first Camaro was shipped to the Tech Center in Warren Michigan for a photoshoot that would include press release photos, and still photography. As well as color promotional videos to be used by General Motors.
it can be recognized in multiple photographic forms. Gracing the images with its signature 1967 vanity plates.
Curiously the car appears with and without the single small block letter emblem used on the deck lids and headers on the front fenders.
With no holes drilled for this build, it is thought that these badges were applied with a small amount of double-sided tape for the purposes of photos and then removed after the photoshoot.
Shortly after this shoot, press release photos were circulated across the country to newspapers around September 8, 1966. For the new Camaro rollout at local dealerships for the end of the month of September.
After its appearances at sales conventions in Detroit and Kansas City. In the last half of 1966, the first Camaro was shipped back to Flint Michigan, for removal of the specialized static display lighting by GM for reuse.
The car was then shipped to R.T Ayres high-performance Chevrolet in Yukon Oklahoma, in December of 1966. R.T Ayres recognizing the sales potential of having the first build in his inventory. Took delivery in December of 66.
He had become a prominent driving force in the Midwest selling and specializing in the high-performance models of the day. After relocating his family from Kentucky to Yukon Oklahoma in 1957.
Transitioning from nylon design, manufacture, and distribution for the aircraft industry. He quickly went into
partnership of his brother’s pre-existing car dealership, Yukon Pontiac, and began his ascent to the top.
Given his background in nylon, in late 1959 he convinced upper management at Pontiac to listen to his expertise in seatbelt manufacture. His ideas were ultimately implemented years later. And a lifelong friend in Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen was formed.
Knudsen with Pete Estes by his side for years became close friends with R.T Ayres. It was these relationships that drove Ayres to travel extensively and stay in constant touch with a quickly changing landscape.
It was because of his relationship with the inner circle that Artie bought the local Chevrolet dealership in 1962. He was aware of the management changes underway and the refocus of the product lines away from Pontiac to Chevrolet.
It was no coincidence that Ayres immediately closed the Pontiac dealership and turned his focus to Chevrolet exclusively.
R.T Ayers Jr. recalls the evening that his father bought the Chevrolet dealership in Prompto fashion. At the UConn roundup club in the summer of 1962. Saying dad was listening to Mr. Barish vent about the trials and tribulations of running the store. Mr. Barish drink in hand voiced that if he could sell the store and retire he would. My dad removed his checkbook from his pocket and wrote a $5000 escrow check on the spot.
The family’s relationship with top brass continued for years with R.T Ayers Jr. sharing correspondence additionally with Bunkie Knudsen.
With delivery of the first Camaro in December of 1966, Mr. Ayers used it as a sales tool and it remained on the showroom floor for two years and five months.
Recalling the presence of the glory years R.T Ayers Jr. said dad always had the coolest stuff. “I drove a 435 horsepower Corvette as a demo to high school. Scared the hell out of me”. it was during this time during
the muscle car craze that Mr. Ayers and his family gained so much acclaim locally.
They were active in philanthropic endeavors and never met a stranger. The dealership was located on historic route 66.
Camaro number one was sold to the first owner Linda Johnston of Oklahoma City two and a half years later on April 5, 1969. Paying full sticker of two thousand five hundred fifty dollars at delivery with no liens. It is clear that she knew the allure of the car.
It is thought that there was a family connection between her and her father and the Ayres family because the two families are buried within 200 feet of one another. In the same obscure cemetery outside of Yukon Oklahoma.
Miss Johnston enjoyed the car until December 5, 1975, when the car was sold to a dealer in Frederick Oklahoma. Linda never married, was never blessed with children lived her entire life with her parents, in the same home, and is buried with both of her parents at Resurrection Cemetery.
JS Auto-supply of Frederick Oklahoma took just under three months to sell the car. Again for full sticker the purchase price to the second owner being the same amount that was paid for the car new.
It is clear again that both parties knew the significance of the VIN number seven years later when delivery was taken. The used-car dealership was owned by Jerry Strickland and Mr. Hatfield until it dissolved years later.
The second owner, Elvis Harper purchased the car locally on February 28 1976 for his son Sam. Understanding the uniqueness of the car they enjoyed the car together until the untimely death of Sam on August 31, 1982.
Elvis distraught over the loss of his young son sold the Camaro within weeks of his son’s death. With the loss of his only son in his early 30s, the sight of the car was more than he could bear. Elvis passed On January 13, 1998, he was survived by his wife Sue and daughter Cathy the two still reside in Frederick Oklahoma and owned the Tanglewood motel together.
Al Tipkey of Oklahoma City then purchased the car from the grieving Mr. Harper in early February of 1982. Al an avid race car aficionado began disassembly of the car immediately understanding the novelty of campaigning the first Camaro. He completed the disassembly carefully and saved the parts removed in his garage.
Al inscribed his name in the original frame when the race trim was added and complete. The car was seen locally and is recognized in pictures at drag strips, in NHRA at Amarillo Green Valley, and Oklahoma City.
The car was driven and owned by multiple participants, and it is thought that the historical significance of the initial build was lost to the owners in the late 1980s when it was put into long-term storage.
Jobin Simms of Norman Oklahoma purchased the car and its unknown provenance and significance on February 21, 2009. With the intention to race the car with his two sons locally.
Interestingly the car was purchased again for approximately the same initial sale price of the car approximately $2,500. He discovered the possible significance of the build when the VIN number was requested by his local home insurance agency.
A frenzy of research and study began that proved more than the owner could navigate. Prior to the original pilot documentation discovered during the research and writing of the book Echoes of Norwood by Phil Boras.
Jobin worn down by the economic collapse of 2008-2009 decided to offer the car for sale and use the proceeds to change careers. The current owners of the first Camaro saw the car advertised and dropped everything to personally view the car that day.
Understanding and recognizing the historic nature of the find the car was purchased on October 26, 2010. With very little reassurance to historic documentation. The car was authenticated by these owners because of the existence of unrecognized patterns of assembly, lack of Fisher Body stampings, and the
existence of the unmolested VIN tag and trim tag. relying completely on their own
Relying completely on their own local research they embarked on a four-year-long historical study and restoration process. It was during an exhaustive search history that span multiple states, that an unlikely acquaintance was made with Kent Van Hoek at the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Responding to a personal plea for original documentation that spanned almost 50 years. Kent research the archives of Oklahoma titles for the historic billed. It was at that time that the local provenance of the car was found to have existed within the state of Oklahoma its entire life. Outside of its original build, test, and display.
With the presence of the historical evidence, the new owners began the arduous process of locating and interviewing all the prior owners and historic nature of its past. Leaving no stones unturned and doing
everything in person. All history of the car was documented.
With General Motors shipping receipt’s research provided by the NCRS. The original dealer was located, although recently deceased his son was able to verify the early history of the provenance.
The first owner and her family were found to be deceased as was the second owner and his son. Speaking to survived family members and piecing of the original documents at every moment, it was during this process
that the original parts removed for the race car build were recovered.
It was a chance encounter at the local auto parts store while doing research on the deceased Elvis Harper that led to the race car builder Al Tipkey. AL suffering from advanced Parkinson’s agreed to sell the contents of his garage in its entirety only.
A trailer load of multiple built takeoffs then was procured and the restoration started. Mr. Tipkey passed away peacefully soon thereafter.
Current Car Owner: The race car builder bought the car in February of 1982 and immediately started the disassembly of the car. He saved the parts and the car went and was campaigned. We have pictures of the
the car being campaign in straight-line drag.
It was campaigned until the late 80s and that’s when it was put into storage. At that point that’s where we feel like the knowledge of the historical significance behind the car was lost. The race car builder knew the historical significance which is why he saved the parts from the pilot program when they were removed. We were able to find him before he passed and we were able to pick up all those parts
Narrator: While at Norwood the first Camaro was used as a chassis side assembly test mule. As one would expect with the first F car produced. Its first and original 230 cubic inch engine three-speed transmission one
of the very last items installed in the car, came right out of the standard assembly stock for that time. With a
motor build date of August 3rd, 1966.
The date on the original motor was quite a mystery. As the pilot data book for this car indicated a preference ship date as August 1st.
Philip Borris (Author Echoes of Norwood): In the case of Camaro VIN number one that car was scheduled to be up in Flint Michigan for a sales convention at a certain point, and up in Detroit for sales activities, which would have fallen around the 1st of August.
That was obviously delayed for a period of time because when we were able to access the build documents for the car. The shipper documents for the car we’re able to determine that the car had a ship date of August the 10th.
Now, this is not entirely unusual, now a shipper document defines when the car is technically complete from a production standpoint. In other words, you can build on the car right up until the day before the shipper documents are issued. The car is technically not complete but when the shipper document is released and the car is scheduled for a shipper that means the car is technically production complete.
So this number one car was worked on and tested right up until a few days before it was released for shipment and as a result, it got an engine that’s very very close to its ship date. That was one of the more intriguing parts of the research. As having all those pieces the puzzle come together, you know the car had a due
date of the sales convention of the first of August, but yet the ship date was actually the 10th of August.
The engine was built and assembled right in between that short period of time. Which makes sense, I mean
if you’re going to build a car, you’re going to grab an engine right off the assembly line and say okay this is the engine that’s supposed to go in this. Okay, let’s put this engine in this car.
Narrator: The restoration process began in late 2012 and finished in May of 2014. Recognizing the monumental gravity of the historic build, no expense was spared. With the goal being the use of only original
This was achieved with the exception of one reproduction seat cover and a carpet set. Great length and great expense was tasked to save the original sheet metal and parts to the initial pilot billed.
Recognition is given to Dave Hanna of Sterling Classics for his time and expertise in the restoration process.
Within weeks of the completion of the restoration and with all ownership history procured. The owners reached out to the GM Heritage Center for help uncovering any early factory documentation.
With a personal touch of Chris Dotini, an introduction to Phil Boris ensued. Phil and Jim Syme were able to provide early factory documentation of the build, as well as information thought to be lost previously.
The car was invited to a local UAW retirees convention and everyone met personally for the first time. Ceremoniously the car was unveiled to GM Norwood employees yet again for the second time as the now restored build came full circle.
Returning to greet the people who built it originally so many years ago.