LET'S TALK: Chevrolet retires my dream car

I couldn't help but feel a pang of regret reading about General Motors' March announcement that it was discontinuing the Chevrolet Camaro.

"From rubber-scented street races to the grassroots drag strips and tracks of America, the Chevrolet Camaro never shied from a fight," writes Lawrence Ulrich in a New York Times news feature about the car's retirement. "But General Motors' stalwart muscle car, first rushed to showrooms in 1966 to take on Ford's phenomenally popular Mustang, could not outrun the onslaught of sport utility vehicles and the industry's sprint to electrification."


I spent years wanting not just a Camaro, but a red one. I even dreamed I owned one.

Maaaan, those Camaros ... especially those vroom-vroomy-looking Z-28s. No matter what body changes it went through over the years, the double-doored Camaro was the eye-grabbing sports mobile with all the curves and angles in the right places (case in point: that chevron-shaped front grill). The car that silently proclaimed its driver as the owner of the road, whether that owner was doing 25 or 95. And don't let it have a spoiler in the back!

Alas, during my young-adult years, I lacked the money and good-enough credit to purchase and drive any presentable, state-of-the-art vehicle, let alone a shiny Camaro. My mother and stepfather drove older, careworn cars that they let me borrow on occasion. My first car, which I got in 1981, was the kelly-green '73 Ford Maverick my brother and then-sister-in-law gifted me with. It, my carousel of passengers and I saw some good times with that car before it went through several wrecks and finally pretty much committed suicide. I vaguely remember a neighbor giving me a few bucks for what was left of it.

Then came the black, 1970- something Chrysler Cordoba ... yep, the luxury car that the late actor Ricardo Montalban touted in commercials, mentioning its "rich Corinthian leather" seats. This car lacked the leather, but it did have the looks. Alas, everything under the hood was pretty much wack. The windshield wipers quit working in the rain. Unfortunately I'd bought the car from one of those used-car places whose officials must have looooved to see me coming. I eventually gave that car back to the company; my already shaky credit took a big hit as that went down as a repossession; and yeah, I had to pay a deficiency of about $125.

Chrysler and I had quite the time, actually. For a brief time I drove an ancient New Yorker that was about the size of a small yacht. (Hmmm, and didn't that thing's windshield wipers quit on me too?)

Car ownership got a bit more stable when I married my first husband and we bought a year-old, ex-rental Geo Prizm. The used Buick we bought later went with him in the divorce; I eventually traded in the Geo for my first-ever brand-new car. It was red! It was cute! It was a two-door Chevy! Well, a Cavalier, not a Camaro. But it did look kinda sporty.

At one point, I'd decided I wanted a Mercedes. Actually prayed for one. I may have even sung-prayed that famous old Janis Joplin hit:

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends

So, oh, Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

He didn't do it and it's probably just as well.

At any rate, I forgot about the Camaro for a while; apparently Chevy did too. "After a long Camaro hiatus, a retro-tinged 2010 comeback model, along with an equally nostalgic Mustang and Challenger, kicked off a new golden age of muscle cars that had enough power, handling and safety to shame any '60s forebear," Ulrich writes.

And when I saw the "Transformers" movie featuring Bumblebee, the yellow autobot who transformed from that revamped, suh-weet 21st-century Camaro, I resumed slobbering over the car for a while.

But with age had come at least some pragmatism. The Chevy Cavalier was followed by two more ex-rental cars: A light blue Kia Spectra and the current gray Kia Optima. (I never got sport-utility-vehicle fever. I suspect that many of those who turned to SUVs did so because they were tired of their cars being dwarfed by the SUVs beside which they'd parked ... and which prevented them from being able to see who the heck was coming when they got ready to back out of the space.)

Now they're discontinuing the Camaro, and the doggone thing is back on my mind. It's like having a high-school crush that you just know was out of your league, but you long for anyway ... and then after graduation, years pass and you (sorta) forget about the person ... then you run into that person again during your class reunion and the pangs hit all over again.

"GM announced ... that it would retire the Camaro in January, when a final 2024 model rolls off a Michigan assembly line," Ulrich writes. I wonder whether that last Camaro will, perchance, be red.

Oh Lord, won't you buy me ... never mind.

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