SECOND TIME AROUND
Hot Rod|January 2021
After a shady shop pulled a huge scam restoring his 1969 Camaro, the owner ended up building the car of his dreams
Richard Prince

Paul Brunner fell in love with 1969 Camaros the first moment he saw one, all the way back in the fall of 1968. He would have bought one brand-new but was unwilling to give up his 1967 427 Corvette, and at the time, he couldn’t afford both. Over the ensuing years, his love for ’69 Camaros continued unabated, but it took exactly four decades before he actually bought one.

“In 2008,” Paul remembers, “I was looking through an Internet auction site and found a 1969 Camaro for sale in Texas. It was a ZL1 clone that looked really good. I was in New Zealand at the time and called the man who had built the car. This car had an aluminum 427 engine and a rock crusher M22 tranny.” The seller claimed he had built five identical ZL1 clones, and although the one Paul saw was already sold, he had another one under construction that Paul could buy. The seller provided references, and Paul sent him a sizable deposit toward a total purchase price of $93,000. “At the time, this price was in line for similar cars,” he explains, “but if I could have seen into the future to know what the economy was going to do, I would have sat back and watched.”

The seller was soon sending Paul dozens of photos of the build as it progressed. “He sent me photos of the body on a rotisserie, photos of a new floor being put in the car, photos of the sound deadener laid on, and many, many more photos of the engine, running gear, seats, and every aspect of the body. All in all, I have well over 100 photos from the seller, whose name shall remain unmentioned.”

After several months the seller informed Paul that the car was finished and ready for delivery, but as you’ve likely already surmised, the build was little more than a mirage. “After several months, the car arrived at my address in Montana. It sounded like a rubbish can full of rocks when I started it! I drove it about three miles, and the temperature went over the red line. I got very little help from the seller. According to him, he had driven it in the heat of Texas, where he lived, for quite a few miles and it ran perfectly. Up on the liftit went! The undercarriage was full of dents and rust. There was Bondo visible on the rocker panels. In short, I got seriously ripped off, and I was not a happy camper. Eventually I learned that the seller had built one really nice Camaro and sent all the photos to the buyers of the other four, poorly built Camaros! I have never sued anyone, but this was way too much for me not to do so. I filed suit in Montana, and my seller tried everything to get the suit transferred to Texas. It didn’t work! He hired an attorney to represent him in Missoula, Montana, and after running up a legal bill of over $11,000, he declared bankruptcy.”

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