Muscle Car Review - - Contents -

Face-to-face with an orig­i­nal owner’s Z/28

The garage door to the sub­ur­ban home in north­ern Ohio opened, and we could see a 1969 Z/28 plainly in the dou­ble-car garage. Most of the space was taken up by bi­cy­cles and what ap­peared to be toys.

“Karl is the guy who owns the car,” Michael Light­bourn said. “It was his fa­ther’s, and he’s got the power of at­tor­ney, so in a sense he in­her­ited it, but his dad is still around.”

The pre­vi­ous night we had vis­ited with Karl and his fa­ther’s sis­ter, Juanita, at another house 4 to 5 miles away. Due to di­vorce, Karl would not be able to make an ap­pear­ance the next day at the fam­ily abode where he had lived the pre­vi­ous 17 years.

“How long has it been parked?” Michael asked.

Karl said, “The last time it was driven was 1994. [My fa­ther, Stacy Quickle] took my son, William, for a ride. He parked it on Colby Road and it has not [been driven] any­where since. We had a set of four Rally wheels un­der it, and I put on space saver spares. When those went flat, we dragged it onto a flatbed and into the garage where it’s at now.”

The time had come to sell be­cause Stacy, liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, had health is­sues and was “not go­ing to fix it.”

“I’m not go­ing to be the one to do it,” Karl said. “I’ve got nowhere to keep it. I don’t know what else to do with it.”

Karl was “3 or 4 years old” when Stacy, liv­ing in Elyria, Ohio, pur­chased the Z/28 brand new. Walk­ing into the garage, we no­ticed the li­cense plate frame in­scribed with the Chevy dealer’s name, Sharp­nack, on top and the lo­ca­tion, Ver­mil­ion, on the bot­tom. The car sat low on those four air­less space saver tires, which was strange but true.

“When I was younger it seemed like daily, sev­eral times a week, peo­ple asked, ‘Is this car for sale?’ He has said no for 49 years, and this is the first time, on March 29 [2018],

that he sent me the pa­per­work and has agreed to sell.”

Z/28 is the big deal with this Rare Find, of course. But this par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple came from the fac­tory with both (1) the Rally Sport front end, fea­tur­ing the spe­cial black-painted grille with con­cealed head­lights, and

(2) the body-col­ored front bumper, op­tion code VE3, aka En­dura, made of rub­ber and op­tional on any 1969 Ca­maro.

Our ap­point­ment time was 8:30 in the morn­ing. Don, Karl’s un­cle, had just ar­rived to show us the Z/28. Don im­me­di­ately slipped into the garage to start re­mov­ing de­bris. We asked him to let us take photos first.

Be­ing there in per­son is much dif­fer­ent from re­ceiv­ing photos from read­ers, and this was an amaz­ing find to come face to face with. How of­ten do you see an un­re­stored 1969 model any­thing wear­ing its orig­i­nal paint and get to talk to peo­ple who have owned and driven the car since new?

The non­run­ning Z/28 on that garage floor came to life as Karl and Juanita spoke. Karl said, “At around 20,000 miles, [Stacy] told me he was right over here on Pearl Av­enue. He crossed some rail­road tracks and he took off hard and hit a wa­ter pud­dle, and [the 302] de­vel­oped a tick. About two weeks later he drove it to Ver­mil­ion, and that’s when [the Chevy dealer] said the wrist­pin had eaten into the cylinder wall.”

One of our first moves was to open the hood, which re­quired a key to the af­ter­mar­ket hood locks. We did this be­fore check­ing out the trim tag to ver­ify the Z/28’s orig­i­nal­ity,

Michael said, “Want to see some­thing amaz­ing this car still has?”


“The smog sys­tem. Those are the first things that got ditched on these cars.”

The AC ra­di­a­tor cap also ap­peared to be

orig­i­nal, which was en­tirely pos­si­ble, as the odome­ter was ac­cu­rate at 37,403.4 and the car had hardly been driven since about 1980, the date of the last regis­tra­tion on the li­cense plates.

We no­ticed tower-style fac­tory hose clamps. The valve cov­ers were stock as well. Over­all, the en­gine com­part­ment ap­peared like the dealer had done the re­place­ment en­gine war­ranty work. The car didn’t change much from the early 1970s.

Juanita, eight years younger than her older brother Stacy, re­called how driv­ing the Z/28 dur­ing 1970-1974 made her “the coolest kid in high school.”

Did she “hot rod” the Z/28? “I did my share of rac­ing,” Juanita said, and “never got beat.”

“I re­mem­ber driv­ing it down 57 here and go­ing from where the mall is to 254, run­ning it through the gears and watch­ing the gas gauge drop.”

With all the sto­ries and Karl show­ing us the orig­i­nal ti­tle, from 1969, we were cer­tain the car was a Z/28. The trim tag backed up the Z/28 pack­age with its X33 stamp­ing. But what about that en­gine? Light­bourn shined his light onto the pad on the pas­sen­ger-side front of the en­gine, where it read, “CEA.” At the same time, Michael spoke on his cell­phone to a for­mer GM em­ployee who worked for Chevro­let when these cars were new.

“CE” pos­si­bly refers to Counter Ex­change or Chevro­let En­gine. No mat­ter—not just any­body could buy an en­gine stamped “CE,” which is a des­ig­na­tion for war­ranty ac­tion and not avail­able to the pub­lic.

In this light, an older GM mus­cle car with a war­rantied en­gine is dif­fer­ent from the same GM mus­cle car with a missing en­gine that has been re­placed by a pri­vate party. Some­times these shops or own­ers get a “cor­rect DZ” block, but this en­gine in­stal­la­tion would not be as rig­or­ous as a CE re­place­ment from Chevro­let.

In other words, col­lec­tors will spout, “Oh, the orig­i­nal en­gine is missing, so this Z/28 will never be num­bers-match­ing.” Maybe so,

but a Counter Ex­change cre­ates a cor­rect fac­tory re­place­ment en­gine, au­tho­rized by Chevro­let pro­ce­dure.

In this in­stance, the block needed to be re­placed, along with the in­ter­nals. The dealer re­in­stalled the re­main­ing orig­i­nal parts, from the air cleaner assem­bly to the Hol­ley four-bar­rel, the in­take, valve cov­ers, heads, ex­haust man­i­folds, and right down to the smog sys­tem that was in­tact and those tower-style hose clamps. They even screwed on that orig­i­nal ra­di­a­tor cap, now ap­pear­ing as ic­ing on this cake.

The car will go to the col­lec­tion of Duane Lobbestael from the Detroit area. Duane has been a Ca­maro buff since he was 10. Born in 1969, he bought his first Ca­maro, a 1969 RS/SS 396, in 1984 from saved pa­per route money. He re­ally likes this 1969 Rally Sport Z/28 be­cause it is a “sur­vivor.”

n The orig­i­nal dealer re­placed the orig­i­nal 302 in the early 1970s un­der war­ranty.

n The first words out of Michael Light­bourn’s mouth when he saw the Z/28 were, “Looks like a de­cent car.” This car has been garage-kept for all but a year or so since new. It sat low on flat­tened space-saver spare tires.

n The trim tag on the cowl has the all-im­por­tant X33, which de­codes as Style Trim Group with Spe­cial Per­for­mance Equip­ment (Z28) for cars built in Nor­wood, Ohio. NOR in­di­cates Nor­wood on this plate.

n Light­bourn pointed out that one of the bat­tery cables was still fac­tory orig­i­nal.

n The four-bar­rel is an orig­i­nal Hol­ley 780-cfm car­bu­re­tor, as ver­i­fied by the Chevro­let part num­ber 3923289-DZ and Hol­ley list num­ber 4053. “913” is a date code where 9 stands for 1969, 1 is Jan­uary, and 3 is the third week of the month.

n Karl had last seen the orig­i­nal win­dow sticker in the pages of one of the old car mag­a­zines in­side the car. Sadly, the in­voice was nowhere to be found.

n Hide­away head­lights, part of the Rally Sport pack­age in 1969, were in good con­di­tion. To­day, un­re­stored cars are pop­u­lar with mus­cle car col­lec­tors. They like to see orig­i­nal­ity, like this orig­i­nal Z/28 badge in the grille.

n When a Z/28 is equipped with RS equip­ment, the RS badges are deleted from the fend­ers. How­ever, the RS logo re­mains on the steer­ing wheel.

n The trunk was full of de­bris, but the spare tire ap­peared to have never been on the ground.

n A big sur­prise un­der the hood was find­ing the orig­i­nal smog sys­tem in­tact and in place.

n In­cred­i­bly, the orig­i­nal ra­di­a­tor cap re­mained.

n The rear win­dow had traces of rust around the mold­ings.

n The big­gest sur­prise of this trea­sure hunt was find­ing the orig­i­nal tires, with am­ple tread and prob­a­bly about 500 orig­i­nal miles on them, con­cealed un­der 7-8 feet of boxes and toys in the cor­ner of the garage.

n “CEA” stamped on the en­gine pad, pas­sen­ger side, de­notes a Counter Ex­change, which was war­ranty work.

n The odome­ter showed 37,403.4 miles.

n Loaded on the trailer, the Z/28 was ready to be shipped to its new home. Michael Light­bourn’s plan is for the car to re­main in its orig­i­nal state. The orig­i­nal Rally wheels were stored in a stor­age shed in the back­yard.

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