Fact: one of the most exciting ways to enjoy your classic car is by road-tripping it long distances. This is something not as widely known in the collector hobby as you’d think, and something I learned while rallying my 1971 Plymouth on the inaugural Hagerty Maple Mille last year.
Hard-parking your vintage tin in a cruise night parking lot or on the field at a car show is great, too, don’t get me wrong – you’ll often find me doing both – but even as someone who considers themselves more of a car enthusiast than a driving enthusiast, I have to admit long hauls in pre-’70s autos are a blast.
That’s why I figured it the best way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chevrolet’s iconic Camaro muscle car, launched September 29, 1966 as a ’67 model. Think you’d like to do the same? I’ve put together a checklist of what you’ll need to do to re-create the classic Camaro trip I undertook late September during the 2016 Hagerty Maple Mille.
1. Find a classic Camaro
It’s not a classic Camaro road trip unless you’re driving something brutish, brawny and bowtie’d. Collector car insurance firm Hagerty, Maple Mille title sponsor, offered us a pair of company fleet cars restored to near-factory condition.
The first was a Bolero Red 1967 automatic-equipped convertible powered by a 327-cubic-inch V8 with just over 20 miles on the engine. The power ragtop and mild mill made this an excellent cruiser we could drive top-up to keep out morning dew; and top-down when it warmed up.
The second was a Hugger Orange 1969 big-block 396 SS putting 325 gross horsepower through a Muncie four-speed. This is basically as good as it gets for factory Camaros—a bright, attention-grabbing colour and a rumbling V8 made this feel like a no-compromise car perfect for eating up asphalt. (Fun fact: the car was actually a distracted-driving-front-collision write-off that Hagerty trained its employees to restore.)
Classic Camaros aren’t cheap, but if you don’t already have one in your garage, you very likely could make it happen. A ’67 ’vert like ours averages about $30,800 ($40,600 CAD) according to Hagerty’s value guide, and a ’69 SS about $44,400 ($58,500 CAD), but V8s in good condition can be had for as little as $30,000 CAD.
2. Find a classic car rally
The Camaro’s anniversary happened to fall right around the same time as the 2016 run of the Hagerty Maple Mille, coordinated by B.C.-based Classic Car Adventures (CCA) and hosted by company co-founder Dave Hord. The annual event collects about two dozen vintage cars and plots them on a three-day non-competitive rally along some of the province’s twistiest and most beautiful back roads.
This year saw us and a gaggle of Mustangs, Porsches and British sports cars tackle a 700-mile Peterborough-Renfrew-Petawawa-Haliburton route over the September 23-to-25 weekend.
CCA’s hosted more than 18 of these events over the last 10 years, mostly in B.C. and the western U.S., and they typically sell out pretty quick, especially since the price – which includes dinners, hotel and roadside assistance – is unbeatable.
That said, if you can afford it, you could consider one of the much-more-expensive white-glove alternatives Stateside. On the other hand, plotting your own route on Google Maps, booking your own hotel, and crossing your fingers will cost you almost nothing but time, but does run the risk of turning into a dud of a trip.
3. Find some co-drivers
The Hagerty Maple Mille is built around an assumed two-people-per-car model—one to drive, the other to navigate. It works well not only because having someone handle directions relieves the driver of that duty, but because these long trips are most enjoyable when you’ve a few friends or a partner to take it all in with.
My Maple Mille co-driver, Clayton Seams, behind the wheel of the ’67
My co-driver was Driving.ca’s Clayton Seams, who was great not only for pointing out prime spots for car photography – totally optional, of course – but, as the owner of a ’70 Corvette and someone not unfamiliar with a four-speed, for taking over the manual labour of driving for a lot of the trip.
4. Find some adventure
The reason long-haul road trips beat hours-long jaunts is because the opportunity for adventure grows exponentially when stretched over a few days. For example, our ’67 Camaro with its not-even-broken-in small-block V8 performed flawlessly day one, giving Seams and myself 200 miles of driving pleasure.
It wasn’t until day two, when we jumped into the ’69, that the ’67’s two-barrel Rochester carburetor started acting up and inexplicably flooding about four miles from the hotel.
Organizer Dave Hord and Hagerty rep Jonathan Klinger tore down the carb three times but couldn’t fix the fouled-up choke, forcing us to take advantage of Hagerty’s comprehensive roadside assistance and towing (free for classic car owners insured by Hagerty, and offered complimentarily to everyone on the Maple Mille).
Maple Mille organizer Dave Hord, left, blowing into a Rochester carb, with Hagerty’s Jonathan Klinger, right
Side-of-the-road wrenching makes for some good (mis)adventure, but you can’t count on its happening, and probably don’t want to anyway. We suggest guaranteeing adventure by trying something new—like fitting your car with period-correct bias-ply tires, as we had on the ’69 Camaro.
That simple change made two-hands-on-the-wheel driving necessary on mornings when the rubber was still cold; and made the rear axle step out a little on the route’s many corners. Exciting!
5. Just drive
The last thing you need to do to enjoy your classic Camaro—is to just drive it. If yours is anything like ours, it should feel like the embodiment of excess, with more-than-ample power, unnecessarily wander-y steering, and, if your driving is as spirited as ours was, a fuel bill that works out to about 8 mpg [29 L/100 km].
The Camaro is all about not making compromises; it couldn’t afford to if it was going to compete with the incumbent Mustang. And if you want to enjoy your classic Camaro, you shouldn’t compromise either. Take it across the province; drive it for days on end; and celebrate this icon’s 50 years.