Family Affair! - Camaro RS SS

By: Chris Beattie, Photography by: Chris Beattie

This unrestored three-owner/one family '67 RS SS Camaro is definitely driven - not hidden

Family Affair! - Camaro RS SS

defy any self-respecting modern ‘planet-saving’ EV owner not to be moved by the rumble and throb of a classic, dinosaur-fueled American V8 muscle car. That recently happened to me when a mint, and completely unrestored metallic blue ’67 350 Chevy Camaro RS/SS growled up next to me at the Kingscliff Beach Hotel on a sunny spring day. Even better, an attractive young blonde lady emerged from the driver’s side of the right-hand converted classic, followed by a more mature gent, occupying the passenger seat.

Being the conscientious contributor to this mag that I am, I sprang in to action and ventured forth to uncover the story behind the Camaro’s sudden and startling intrusion into my life.

While Sophia and her father-in-law Peter were in a bit of a hurry at the time, they kindly let slip that the car had been in the one family since it was purchased by Sam Carthew in 1976 from the original owner, who himself had bought it brand-new in Sydney, all those years ago. Sam’s Camaro, as the family calls it, had only recently been entrusted to the third generation of Carthew ‘custodians’, namely Sophia and her car tragic partner Mark. They live between Byron Bay and Ballina on the NSW north coast.


The family behind the Camaro 

Based on the family back-story, this car deserved the sort of special treatment only Unique Cars can deliver. But there was even more to come, as I discovered when I made the trek south a few weeks later to delve a little deeper into the story of one very unique and significant car – and the family who own and treasure it.

On a beautiful summer’s morning I caught up with Sophia, Mark and one-year-old Vera and was immediately intrigued by the story that unfolded, of a devoted and close family and their generations’ deep love of classic cars.

As Mark laid out all of the original paperwork that was kept in pristine condition, it turned out that the original owner was a mate of Mark’s granddad, Sam, who had bought the car new from Sydney performance car specialists Pye Motors of Parramatta in early 1968. The steering conversion had already been done and the car remained in the hands of its first owner for nine years, until Sam purchased it as a daily driver. To date, it has logged up nearly 170,000 kilometres, but is maintained in near-perfect nick.


A family heirloom.

"I don’t think the tappet covers have even been off," said a clearly proud Mark, as we popped the bonnet to reveal a virtually untouched 350 Chevy V8, although the original carby has since been swapped for a more performance-oriented Holley 780cfm unit. Otherwise, everything else is factory-stock. In fact, the only real mods to the car are the inclusion of multi-leaf Pontiac rear springs, a beefier anti-sway bar up front to stiffen-up the Camaro’s street manners and the era-correct Corvette wheels and hubcaps, although the originals remain in storage.


Powered by the 350ci small block.

Of the 64,842 SS Camaros (RS or Rally Sport options were offered as an upgrade), sold in 1967 (it was a massive hit for Chevy in its ‘pony car’ war with arch rival Ford’s Mustang), there were two main engine packages listed, one was the small block 220kW 350ci shown here, and the more muscular big block 396 (6.5lt) cubic engine, which was rated at either 242kW or 280kW, depending on the option box ticked. Reviewers of the day were mostly impressed by the power and torque of the 396, but tended to prefer the sweeter handling of the 350, due to less weight over the front wheels. In either case, front disc brakes helped to pull the whole lot up sufficiently well for the day.


Still running the original donk.

As I discovered when Mark took me for a pretty vigorous work-out in the Camaro, the engine pulls long and hard through the two-speed Powerglide transmission, and the handling and ride are surprisingly taut, given the car’s age and regular usage. There are absolutely no rattles or squeaks and everything felt very solid as though it had just rumbled out of the showroom. A "sweet ride", as Mark commented at the time.

Everywhere we went during our drive along the coast people stared admiringly and one enthusiastic Canadian lady tourist even came up and told us that the early Camaros were her "dream cars" as she complimented Mark on his family heirloom.


Dealer is long gone, but the Camaro rocks on.

The interior is absolutely mint and as Mark pointed out, the door trims and some other items are actually factory parts, while the original fitted items now remain safely (and wisely) stored away to preserve their original and pristine condition.

The story of commitment to a time when cars were cars and pedestrians were nervous goes further, as Mark spent some years living in Sweden – long enough to produce two daughters, Elsie 16 and Sadie 14.


What a fabulous workplace.

"The girls come out to Australia from Sweden every 6 to 12 months. The more time they spend in Sam’s Camaro, the greater that connection with their family’s history and the more questions they ask about Sam and the Camaro. I think it’s a real honour being able to pass on our family’s history and also our passion for fine engineering," explained Mark. "Sweden also has an incredibly strong American car culture so the girls are able to share their stories of being driven around in Australia in their family’s Camaro. And one day they’ll even get to drive it."


Interior is like new, or better.

Mark explained that, while his father is not necessarily a hardcore car guy, his mother was captured by the bug early on. "Mum used to pick me up from school in a very bright and loud Torana XU-1 and dad had a GTS HK 350 Monaro, so these timeless classic performance cars have been part of my whole life, really," he says. And he admits that he’s fortunate to have a partner, Sophia who also shares the passion.

Interestingly, Mark’s Uncle Paul is the other car tragic in the family, so much so that he has amassed quite a collection of exotica, both local and American, including an extremely rare, one-of-three, Phase IV GT-HO prototype race cars that were sidelined due to the ‘Supercar furore’ of the early ’70s (featured previously in UC and since sold for a record amount), a couple of other GT-HOs and an immaculate, award-winning 1967 GT500 Shelby Cobra, not to mention a 2005 GT40.

So, he has a few credentials when it comes to cars of a muscular persuasion. It was Paul who inherited the car from Sam and he only recently handed it on to his nephew Mark. But Mark insists it doesn’t belong to him as it will forever be Sam’s Camaro, with his role purely as custodian, ensuring it stays safe for the future, while enjoying it in the meantime.


The fully-restored classic 1965 Caribbean Daytona, will soon be hitched onto the Camaro. 

But the story doesn’t stop there as eagle-eyed Chevy fans will note the factory-fitted chrome tow bar, which will shortly be drafted back in to work towing a fully-restored classic 1965 Caribbean Daytona 14ft Aussie-made fibreglass runabout ski boat/cruiser that Sam used to tow Peter and Paul skiing behind back in the day. Family sentimentality runs deep in these parts!

Apart from the family angle, what I really loved about compiling this yarn is the family’s love of cars has been passed down intact from Sam and while the car clearly bears the minor scratches and blemishes of years spent on the road, it has withstood the tests of time, like few modern vehicles would.


We just want to jump in and go for a run, too. 

"We regard ourselves merely custodians of the car and our job is to keep it running and in better condition than how it came to us," says Mark, as Sophia nods in agreement with little Vera giggling on her knee. "In our family, it will always been known as ‘Sam’s car’.

"For passionate enthusiasts, the ’67 RS/SS is a rare and  pivotal model from a monumental era in muscle car history," explains Mark. "And for Sam’s Camaro to be in such pristine and original condition exponentially elevates its historical significance. But for us, the Camaro is so much more than that. Each time we take it out, we are on a sentimental family journey where we get to keep alive memories from our past and at the same time create new memories for the generations of Carthews that will take our place. And of course, we make sure we have lots of fun while we’re doing it!"

Mark and Sophia may not claim to be saving the planet or be preserving polar bears, as they cruise their classic example of the American muscle era, but that doesn’t stop them getting smiles everywhere as they log up miles on a car full of great memories. This is one classic that will definitely be driven, not hidden. 



NUMBER BUILT: 220,906 (1967), 235,151 (1968), 233,799 (1969)

BODY: Integrated body/chassis two-door coupe & convertible

ENGINE: 3768 or 4093cc inline six-cylinder; 4942, 5354, 5733 or 6489cc V8 overhead valves & single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 220kW at 4800rpm, 515Nm at 3200rpm (350 4bbl)

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h: 7.6 seconds, 0-400 metres 15.5 seconds (350 auto)

TRANSMISSION: 3 or 4-speed manual, 2 or 3-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: Independent w/coil springs, wishbones, telescopic shock absorbers
& anti-roll bar (f); live axle with semi-elliptic springs & telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: Drum or disc (f) drum (r) with power assistance

TYRES: D70-14 crossply




Cars from snow-prone areas of the USA may have experienced significant rust, but recent imports and any that have spent decades in Australia shouldn’t be afflicted by corrosion. Sub-frame mounts and rear spring attachment points are critical. Rust also occurs in the floors, rear quarters, turret and front mudguards. USA suppliers have complete rear quarters at around AUD$550 and left or right side body framing for $1800. Check freight costs before ordering. Convertible hoods fade and tear but, coverings can be replaced with quality fabric and a glass rear window for USD$1000. Headlight covers as used on RS models are prone to failure, with faulty limit switches, bad earths, or the cover itself being blamed. The 1968-69 covers with vacuum operation are more reliable.


The vast majority of early Camaros in our market will be V8 powered and only one of those V8s is difficult to find. Properly serviced, a 327/350 small block or 396 big block will run beyond 300,000 kilometres before needing a rebuild. Neglected engines will overheat, so budget $1500 for a cooling system overhaul. Oil leaks are common but rarely severe. Replacing the 302 V8 in a Z/28 will diminish the car’s value, so check the cost to rebuild the original motor. Two-speed Powerglide automatics are strong and simple, but may have been replaced by the later and cheaper T350 or T400 three-speed. Four-speed manual cars are scarce in Australia; rebuilt Muncie gearboxes available ex USA for $3500.


The first Camaros came with a radical and unsuccessful ‘monoleaf’ single-leaf rear suspension. Problems included axle hop and springs snapping, prompting adoption of multi-leaves from 1968. Later springs and staggered shock-absorber mountings can be adapted, but the work must be done by a suspension specialist. Front suspensions suffer sagging springs and disintegrating rubber bushings, which can usually be sourced locally from Chev specialists. Cars in our market are unlikely to retain standard drum brakes and any that do are candidates for conversion to front discs. Conversion kits range from $1500 to around $2500. A soggy pedal points to booster or wheel-cylinder problems, but new parts are available. 


Early Camaro seats are plain, flat and not especially comfortable. Add to that 50 years of use and any seat that hasn’t been restored may need attention. New foam and covers are available from North America, but consult a local trimmer before spending big money on freight charges. Seat backs are flimsy, so check they aren’t twisted and the locking mechanisms do lock. Window winder mechanisms can bind through lack of use. Electrical issues should be simple because these were low-cost cars without the powered accessories (windows, seat adjusters, aerials and air-conditioning) that cause problems, in more prestigious USA models. Check the convertible top doesn’t creak or shudder when being operated.  

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