From Basket Case to Brilliance ~ The Amazing Rebirth of a 1971 Camaro Z28!

Posted on 5-19-2022

By Darrel Burnett, Executive Director of The Automobile Gallery & Event Center

Jumping headlong into a major automotive restoration project is the equivalent of playing the lead in a real-life teen horror movie. Anybody with a droplet of common sense knows better than to go near that ominous pothole of a project, but we just can’t help ourselves. Your own conscience is screaming at you not to do it.

And, of course, we do it anyway. Because…We convince ourselves that this time will be different! 

Having lived the horrors of ground up restorations myself, I watched in complete admiration and awe as I observed our restoration expert, Bruce Van Straten, take a carcass and turn it into a Camaro. And, not just any Camaro mind you, a rare, numbers-matching, 1971 Z28 Camaro. Only 4,862 were ever produced and far fewer survive today.

Witnessing this Placer Gold Z28 dressed in formal attire on display at The Automobile Gallery & Event Center, it’s inconceivable that this spectacular specimen arrived in totes and buckets with its glorious past far behind it and just a shell to show for it.

This two-year deep dive into the abyss wasn’t a restoration; it was a resuscitation!

To know Bruce Van Straten’s background, the patience required for he and master painter Rick Gipp to turn a lost cause into a piece of art would lead one to assume that patience is one trait that wouldn’t be part of Bruce’s personality.

His life is all about speed, not painstaking perfection, or so it would seem.

As Bruce says with a smile, “I lost my license twice in high school in the first 6 months, so I figured I better start going to the racetrack!” He went there and never left. For the past five decades Bruce has been a fixture at racetracks across the Midwest often covering a ¼ mile in 7.40 seconds at a speed of 180 mph in dragsters he built himself.

I personally hope Bruce Van Straten never retires because talents like his and friends like him come along once in a lifetime. For that reason, The Automobile Gallery & Event Center has made sure that Bruce will be “hanging around” for a very long time. When you come to see our gorgeous 1971 Z28, which you really owe it yourself to do, you’ll see Bruce’s name on the dragster mounted above our Main Gallery overlooking all that beauty he has helped create throughout his fabulous career with us!