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This 1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Has Just 8,500 Miles

Nearly 50 years old, this Z/28's originality is astounding.

Drew HardinWriterRichard PrincePhotographer

This 1970 Camaro Z/28 has less than 8,600 miles showing on the odometer. As remarkable as that is, consider that the car's original owner had it for nearly 30 years and racked up just 3,000 of them.

Now, a 1970 Z/28 is a driver's car. It's no one-trick drag-strip pony. With a tractable, torquey small-block V-8 backed in this case by a four-speed manual transmission, a sport suspension, front disc brakes, and Positraction in the differential, it was meant to go places quickly and hug curves doing it. Heck, it was Chevrolet's Trans-Am race car! And yet New Orleans resident Clyde Reeves Jr. spent the better part of his ownership—which spanned from July 1970 to August 1998—largely admiring the car rather than driving it.

"Clyde was in his 50s, an engineer by trade and a pilot," says Jeff Polly, the Camaro's third and current owner. "He kept it in his garage and admired the mechanical workings of the car. The guy I bought it from, Rodney Snow, knew Clyde, and he said he saw him drive it once, to a wedding. That's the only time he saw it out of Clyde's garage."

>With just 8,500 miles on the clock, Jeff Polly's Z/28 "drives like a new car," he says. "Well, it has a few creaks and rattles. But overall the engine, transmission, and suspension drive like a car that wasn't used or abused. "

Jeff says Rodney "never drove the car either," and he sold it to Jeff in 2012. Instead, Rodney "wanted to make the car look brand new." Not that there was much wrong with it. After all, it was barely broken in and had been parked inside its whole life. But 30 years will see pieces deteriorate no matter how little they're used, so Rodney addressed things, Jeff says, "like replacing seals and hoses, and keeping the brakes in working order. He did an outstanding job maintaining the car."

Rodney also had the car repainted its original Forest Green in 1999 by Danny at JP's Auto Body in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. Danny "did a beautiful job," says Jeff, and the 20-year-old finish still shines like new.

Rodney's efforts at preserving the Camaro ensured that it's still around today, in like-new condition, for the second-generation Camaro's 50th anniversary. Yet he's also responsible for very existence on a whole other level. The fact that he owned the car in 2005 saved it from drowning when Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans. (Rodney was on higher ground in nearby Harvey.) Jeff found out that the car's original selling dealership, Stephens Chevrolet in New Orleans, also flooded during the storm, eliminating any chance of finding the car's original sales paperwork.

The SCCA changed its Trans-Am engine displacement rules for 1970, allowing manufacturers to use de-stroked versions of larger V-8s rather than those limited to 305 cubic inches. That opened the window for Chevrolet to use the 360-hp, 350-ci LT-1 in street versions of the Z/28.

That query was part of a larger research quest Jeff undertook after he bought the Camaro. Though he was told "everything was original" on the car, he wanted to learn more. He poked around the Internet and found the Nasty Z/28 forum, where he could learn about second-generation Camaros, ask questions, and post info about what turned out to be, in fact, a largely original car.

The sheetmetal is all factory, including the tall rear spoiler, a homologation part for Trans-Am racing manufactured by A.O. Smith and installed by Chevrolet. It carried a COPO number (9796), and although it was the only COPO option for 1970, it qualifies this Camaro as a COPO car. A Z/28 of this vintage is already rare, as just 8,733 were made in the strike-afflicted 1970 model year. But since A.O. Smith needed to produce just 500 of those spoilers to qualify it for racing, a tall-spoiler Z is rarer still. This Z/28 was also equipped with the RPO Z22 Rally Sport package, which included the split front bumper, round parking lights, urethane nose piece, extra exterior bright trim, hidden windshield wipers, and RS emblem on the steering-wheel center.

The driveline is original, too, from the LT-1 V-8 to the Muncie M20 four-speed and the 12-bolt rear end. Jeff wanted to update some of Rodney's work so that the underhood parts would be "as correct as possible: the right hose clamps, correct markings on the hoses, that sort of thing," he says. "For those parts that are difficult to find as originals, or that you don't want as originals, like hoses and spark-plug wires, I bought reproduction parts so the car would be drivable. To me, it's a driver, not a 'show car.' " To that end, one of the original tires still rides in the trunk, and the like-new condition of the interior reflects the car's low mileage and careful storage over the years. While the mounting donuts had deteriorated and needed replacing, the rest of the Camaro's full exhaust system—down to its chrome exhaust tips—is factory equipment. They aren't even tarnished.

The LT-1 retains many of its original components, including the block, heads, radiator, and carburetor, which was restored by Holley.

He did preserve and reuse key engine components. The original Holley 780-cfm carburetor went to Holley's restoration shop for a rebuild, and even the original alternator is back on the car, courtesy of alternator guru Jim McCune. "It's amazing what people notice," recalls Jeff. "A guy [McCune] who saw a photo of my car on the Nasty Z/28 forum asked me where the original alternator was. He spotted in that photo that the alternator wasn't original! When I told him I had the original in a box in my basement, he offered to rebuild it for nothing so he could get his hands on a virgin, original 1970 Z/28 alternator that had never been touched."

Jeff was a little hesitant to ship what he had just learned was a valuable alternator from New York to Colorado to "a guy" he had never met. But others on the forum vouched for the quality of McCune's work, so Jeff took the leap of faith, "and it came back brand new. He even took pictures of it during the rebuild. He was the nicest guy. " The Z/28's first two owners would likely be horrified to learn that Jeff has put more than 5,000 miles on the car, nearly double how far those two men drove it in 42 years. "When I first got the car, I never drove it, because of the low mileage," Jeff recalls. "But I want to enjoy the car. I could be dead tomorrow. What good will it do me to have a 3,000-mile car? I want to show it, talk to people about it, and not leave it sitting in garage."

Jeff has taken it to car shows and won a few awards, but he prefers the "impromptu" car gatherings that regularly pop up at restaurants and parking lots around his Long Island home. "I'm never going to sell this car. I'll keep taking it to meets until they bury me in it."

1970 Camaro Z/28 RS at a Glance
Owned by: Jeff Polly
Restored by: Unrestored (repainted in 1999)
Engine: 350ci/360hp LT-1 V-8
Transmission: Muncie M20 4-speed manual
Rearend: 12-bolt with 3.73 gears and Positraction
Exterior color: Forest Green with white stripes
Interior: Black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 15x7 five-spoke gray steel
Tires: F60-15 front, L60-15 rear Goodyear Polyglas GT
Special parts: COPO 9796 tall rear spoiler