Recently, I purchased a beautiful blue 1969 Camaro Z/28. A car I never thought I would own in my early 20’s. At the time I was like most Gearheads; always looking to buy, but never having the money. One day, my family and I visited a vintage car dealership just to get an eye full of all the dream cars I couldn’t afford. Although painful, it was still fun to window shop for Mustangs, GTO’s, Bel Airs, etc. After seeing all the overly priced cars we were preparing to leave and as I walked out the building this Camaro stopped me dead in my tracks with a sense of love at first sight. It was exactly how I wanted a 69 Camaro to be, blue with white rally stripes, mag chrome wheels, jacked up rear-end, and of course a Hurst 4-speed bolted to a hot engine. Naturally, I had to speak to the owner and get a closer view, and Mr. Rodney Goodhill was the man behind the wheel.
The Goodhill family told us the story behind the car, rescued from a barn, brought back to life by Mr. Rod and having the car be a part of the Goodhill family for nearly 20 years. Nothing adds more value to a car than the story behind it and their story made the little blue Camaro seem priceless. The Camaro haunted my dreams so much that 2 weeks later I was signing papers for a loan in order to buy it. Now, Mr. Rod restored the car from ground up, on his own, so the car was built to his own personal taste and detail. What amazed me was that everything he had done to the car was what I dreamed of doing to a first gen Camaro. I saw a lot of me in Mr. Rod, like looking in a mirror 30 years in the future; we were both Gearheads with similar tastes and personality. Driving the car home was an adventure since I had never driven a car that was such an attention getter, the Camaro is a rolling celebrity.
Now the reason why Mr. Rod was selling his beloved muscle car was because he was battling cancer and wanted to use the money to buy his wife a new car. Tragically, I learned the other day that Mr. Rod lost his battle and passed away on June 15th. His wife, Mrs. Goodhill, mentioned that he was happy that his car was going to be in good hands which gave him peace of mind in that aspect. Her words got me thinking which leads me to the second part of this article.
Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things a person will go through in their lifetime, and it does not matter what your beliefs are when it comes to the afterlife because in the end we all feel the same way. When Gearheads exit the highway of life to the big scenic route in the sky, they leave behind friends and family, of course, but they also leave behind their cars as orphans hoping that someone will care for them the same way they did. Unfortunately, not every car gets to find a good home and will end up sitting in a garage or barn for decades or gets sold to a wheeler dealer, but some cars do find good caretakers. I like to think I will be a good caretaker for Mr. Rod’s Camaro.
The car itself may be mine, but the Camaro will always be his. When a person builds a car, either for a client or personal project, they are putting themselves into that car in the form of blood, sweat and tears (and swearing in some cases). A Gearhead that has built their car will take far better care of it than someone who merely purchased it, because they know the hell they went through in order to get it finished. It’s why you always seen people, in their newly brought sports cars, wrapped around a tree or light post in the most idiotic fashions. They have no idea what the engineers and designers went through to get that new Ferrari 458 off the assembly plant, so it come to no surprise when Todd McMoneybags decides to show off with it and spins out into someone’s back yard.
When a Gearhead passes away there is a certain mystic that goes along with the cars they leave behind. It would be hard not to imagine that they are with you riding shotgun whenever you take their car out for a drive, or feel their presence when the car stares back at you when opening the garage. The idea could come from watching movies like Herbie the Love Bug or Stephen King’s Christine, but even so it keep us close to our loved ones knowing that a part of them is still alive in the form of a car. I know that now every time I drive the Camaro I will be extra careful because I know that Mr. Rod is watching over his car making sure I do not ride the clutch or grind any gears.
Cars like these truly only have one owner, the rest are merely caretakers that will pass on the keys to the next one when they can no longer drive them. I hope the next caretaker will be my own children who I will make damn sure can take excellent care of Mr. Rod’s Camaro. These are not just cars, they are someone’s work, art, family, legacy, memory, soul. Mr. Rod was a friend and a fellow Gearhead, I feel it was an honor that he let me be the caretaker for his car, so I will treat it as if I built it myself. He will be missed, but never forgotten