Recently, the very first Chevrolet Camaro surfaced, sanctioned by General Motors as the first pilot car in the Camaro program. A Grenada Gold 1967 Camaro, hand-built in 1966 at GM’s Norwood Assembly Plant in Ohio. While we’re busy getting teary eyed over the nostalgia, Barrett-Jackson was in the process of reuniting the man who helped build the car that would begin the storied nameplate’s legacy.
On Thursday the first-of-its-kind 1967 Camaro that bears chassis number N100001 was reunited with 89 year old Herb Leitz, the plant manger of Norwood Assembly in 1967. Leitz oversaw the hand assembly of the first production Camaros, and was honored to be a part of the ceremony where he signed autographs and greeted Camaro fans.
The event was orchestrated by the current owner of the car, and the restorer who brought the car back to its former six-cylinder, stock glory.
Leitz recalls the hush-hush attitude around the car, as Chevrolet worked to catch up on the success that was the Ford Mustang and, although aged, spoke vividly about his memories at the Norwood plant.
“They (designers) had to bypass all the bosses to try to get it in,” Leitz said to Fox Sports. “Ford had come out with the Mustang, and they had already sold 420,000 of them. So they had a big lead. We had a lot of catching up to do.”
“They really did a hell of a job,” Leitz said. “We had great designers and great engineers on the project. When you figure Ed Cole, Pete Estes and John DeLorean, that’s some combination.”
The car was left and forgotten until 2009 when it was rediscovered, and had been through the hands of more than a few owners, including one owner who repurposed the car as a drag racer. Current owner Corey Larson restored the vehicle to its former glory, and has no plans to sell the vehicle, coming to appreciate the immense history behind it.
For Leitz, though, the reunion left him ecstatic to see a car that would begin a legacy in American pony cars.
“The stimulation that we got from the original announcement (of the new Camaro) was great, and now it’s coming all right back. I feel like I was just born again.”