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Ride Of The Week 05/04/2020: Ronnie Bottegal's 1971 Camaro RS

Updated: May 4, 2020

Since this is the first Car Show Life Ride Of The Week Feature, I figured I'd start it off with the car that sparked my love of automobiles, my mom's 1971 Camaro RS.

From what I've heard, the story goes like this. In March of 1971, my mom and her two younger brothers walked into Book Chevrolet in Altoona, PA to see a lime green, 1971 Camaro Rally Sport parked in the showroom. My mother fell in love! One problem, when she went to put a deposit down, she didn't have her checkbook on her. So she borrowed a check from her youngest brother for the $25 in hand money and left to secure her own loan.

In those days there was not financing department at the dealership. This was her first big adult purchase. She sought out her own auto loan and insurance. My grandfather was taken aback, both by the stunning sporty car that she was bringing home and that his first-born was showing her independence.

When the time came to pick up her new ride, she was unaware of the process of dealer prep. Upon seeing that the car wasn't in the showroom, she began to panic. Her salesman made a joke that they had sold it out from under her, which did not go over well. Here, it was in the back, having been detailed and ready for delivery.

The Camaro was with my mom for some big milestones in her life: her wedding day, first apartment, first home and of course, the birth of two sons, me being the the first. This was the "car-car" as my brother and I first knew it. We rode in a pair of car seats in the back. When we took road trips, my dad had to affix a "X-cargo" carrier from Sears to the vinyl roof.

Unfortunately this car was rode hard and put away wet. After 11 years, the latter of which required regular rust repairs to the body to pass Pennsylvania inspection, it was time to put her out to pasture. The last straw was driving to a birthday celebration for one of my paternal grandparents. There was a driving rain storm as we headed to their house, my mom sitting in the passenger seat with the cake she had just baked and decorated on her lap. Rusty water was leaking in from the windshield dripping on to the freshly frosted cake.

My brother and I resisted the change. This was the only car we'd ever known. While test driving a prospective replacement, my younger brother who was about 3 years old at the time exclaimed, "I hate this car! I hate this car! I want to go in the Camaro." At 3 and 6, we had no clue how bad of shape it was in, we just loved the car.

This car set me on a path where cars would be at the center of my universe, specifically Camaros. When I had an opportunity to buy my first car at age 18, I was set on getting a Camaro. I've had 3 total since but they all pale in comparison to the lines of that 1971. I've even created a concept of how I'd outfit a 2021 convertible to mimic that '71 and honor its 50th anniversary. Check out the gallery for photos for some of the few images I have of the car.

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