A 1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS comes home

1969 Chevrolet Camaro

The now-restored 1969 Camaro RS/SS, back in the Kern family.


In 1969, as my dad, Mike Kern, was finishing up his tour in Vietnam, he ordered a 1969 RS/SS Camaro from the local dealership in his hometown of Olney, Illinois. He ordered the car the way he wanted it, with the 300-hp 350 V-8, a four-speed manual transmission, no power steering, no spoilers, a color matched Endura front bumper and a Positraction rear end with 3.55 gears. The car was waiting for him when he got home.


1969 Camaro RS SS

My dad’s Camaro, circa 1970.


He went to work for AMF in Olney, Illinois, and there he met my mom. They dated, and were married in 1971, and the Camaro was their only car. I was born in 1974, and was brought home from the hospital in the Camaro. It remained our family car until 1976, when rising gas prices forced its sale. It was sold to a friend of my dad’s, who kept it for a couple of years before selling it himself. That’s where we lost track of it.


1969 Camaro RS SS

My mom and dad with the car in the early 1970s.


Fast forward to 2012 when the friend of my dad’s who bought the Camaro came to work at my company. One day, he brought in an envelope with all of the original documents relating to the car, including the letters written by my dad to the dealership spec’ing out the car while he was in Vietnam. Of course, included in the info was the VIN.


1969 Camaro RS SS

My mom and me with the car, prior to its 1976 sale.


Armed with this info, I started the search for the car, not with the intention of buying it, but just to find out what happened to it. I tracked it to Keokuk, Iowa. I called the DMV and told the lady my story. She agreed to send the owner a letter with my information and permission to contact me if he desired.


1969 Camaro RS SS

Picking the car up in 2012. My dad, David Dye (who sold us the car), and Kelly Grogan (David’s girlfriend). They became great friends, and we keep in touch with them regularly.


A few days later, the Camaro’s owner called me and I told him the story. He knew I was for real as the Protect-O-Plate was still in the glovebox with my dad’s name on it. After a long talk, he mentioned that while he intended to keep the car, he might be interested in selling it back to the original family if we wanted it. After some discussion with my dad, we decided to purchase the car, and a deal was struck. We drove five hours to Keokuk and loaded the Camaro on a trailer to bring it home.


1969 Camaro RS SS

Teardown begins.


The car had aged reasonably well. It was all original, with the exception of the radio and a rear spoiler. It had 78,000 miles and ran, but not well. The body was pretty good, with some rust in the rockers, quarters and trunk floor. The interior was very good and, again, all original. It even wore its original rally wheels.


1969 Camaro RS SS

My son, Michael Kern, helping with the Camaro’s restoration.


Our plans are to restore it to the way it looked when purchased. It will not be a trailer queen, but it will be a car for our family to enjoy riding in for years to come.


1969 Camaro RS SS

Reinstalling the car’s original 350, rebuilt by Weber Racing Engines in Olney, Illinois.


We’ve spent the last year doing things that are at our skill level. We’ve had the engine rebuilt pretty much stock, but with a roller cam and headers. We’ve scraped and painted the underside, welded in a new trunk floor, installed a new gas tank and fuel lines, replaced the body mounts, and numerous other things I can’t remember.


1969 Camaro RS SS

Painting the car at Expert Collision Center in Newton, Ilinois. My dad says that it’s better than when it was new.


After spending the winter at the body shop, it is now back with a fresh coat of Le Mans Blue paint and the correct white hockey stripe. It looks exactly like it did in ’69, right down to the 14-inch rally wheels. We are in the process of putting the interior back in, and she’ll be ready to go!


1969 Camaro RS SS

Our home town of Olney, Illinois, has a population of about 9,000 people, and as you can see, a lot of local area businesses have helped us get it back into shape. We’ve made a lot of friends in the process and have a had a lot of fun as well.


1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

1969 Camaro RS SS

2 comments

  1. Eileen Christensen

    From Canada, so nice to read a happy and good news story for a change. Congratulations on a job well done. This should be motivation to others to get up off the couch and accomplish a worthwhile project.

    • Phil Collins

      Gear Heads Forever !!!

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