In the real world, Scott Settlemire is a midlevel, fifty-nine-year-old General Motors lifer who manages auto shows.
But on the Internet, in the recesses where Camaro enthusiasts dwell, Settlemire is known as Fbodfather, a near-mythical figure. Members of forums like CamaroZ28.com and Camaro5.com dissect his posts for morsels of divine wisdom. At live meets, people grab photos with him and beg him to sign their Camaros.
“I try to discourage the hood — it’s defacing the car,” he says.
Settlemire’s road to fame began when he was a product manager for the Camaro in the late 1990s. This was by no means a cherry assignment; the car had been slated for the scrap heap, and there was little money for advertising. What Settlemire could do was excite enthusiasts on the web.
“I simply started talking to these people,” he says.
That was before corporate America, least of all the stuffed shirts at GM, discovered the value of online engagement.
“I never talked about it at work. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness,” he recalls.
The end of F-body Camaro (and Pontiac Firebird) production, with no replacement, sparked a crisis for fans, Settlemire included. “It was like losing a child,” he says.
With no car to sell, Settlemire had little official reason to chat. But he stayed online and became a beacon of hope for enthusiasts, dropping product hints, seeking their input, and imploring them to “keep the faith.”
“You don’t want to ignore these people. We wanted them back.”
Settlemire’s faith has been rewarded. He was at the New York auto show last spring with about fifty enthusiasts when the track-focused Camaro Z/28 debuted. Nowadays, there are plenty of people at GM and elsewhere who want to achieve the level of enthusiast interaction that he maintains nearly every day.
“They desire it, but I don’t think most know how to do it. Because let me tell you something, you’d better damn well be genuine.”