CONCORD (Oct. 10, 2000) – A great learning experience turned into a dream come true for 15-year-old Brad Blackmon — a dream he’ll be sharing during the seventh annual GoodGuys Southeastern Rod & Custom Nationals, Oct. 20-22 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Even without a driver’s license, this Mooresville, N.C, high-school student has shifted into high gear behind the wheel of his modified, custom-built 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.
It was a project that began two years ago when Blackmon’s stepfather, Ray Cook, traded a ’69 Corvette for a beat-up, engineless ’67 Camaro body. Like any young teenager with hopes of owning his own car, Blackmon immediately took an interest in the stripped-down two-door. It gave Cook an idea, and he decided to make a deal with 13-year-old Brad.
“I told Brad that if he helped me do the work and learned how it was done, then we would re-build it for him,” Cook recalled. “It’s been a great bonding tool for us.”
After two years of hard work and quite a bit of money, Blackmon has no intention of approaching the Camaro like other teens might treat a first car. In fact, his plan for the Camaro has changed since the project began. Blackmon admits that originally he couldn’t wait for the opportunity to take the Camaro out everyday. But as his March birthday gets closer, his post-license plans don’t include driving the Camaro on a regular basis. Instead, he will be using his family’s S-10 pickup truck. According to Blackmon, he wants to save the Camaro for special occasions and car shows. “I don’t want to get it messed up,” Blackmon explains. “It’s a valuable car now, and it means a lot to me.”
Part of Blackmon’s love for his car comes from the time and energy he and his stepfather put into it; they didn’t build a show-stopping car overnight. Cook had been rebuilding and customizing cars for years, but Blackmon had a lot to learn.
The two completely stripped and disassembled the car. They started by putting in a powerful 355-cubic-inch small-block Chevrolet V-8 engine and a Tremec five-speed transmission. They installed 17-inch wheels for better handling and four-wheel disc brakes for quicker stops. On the inside they upgraded all the gauges. Blackmon and Cook selected ’84 Corvette seats in gray tweed set against a black leather interior. With the help of locally based Smith Paint & Body shop, they created the eye-catching exterior by using a base coat/clear coat metallic-silver DuPont paint.
Despite the long hours and his newly acquired restoration skills, Blackmon is quick to point out that he is not an expert yet.
“I am still learning,” he explains. As soon as he can save the money, he hopes to gain more experience by working on a panel truck. “If nothing else,” he adds, “I now have some great car-painting skills.”
Even though he hasn’t been able to cruise around town and show off his stylish Camaro during the past two years, Blackmon has received a degree of celebrity and recognition by touring local car shows with his sleek hot rod. After he and Cook completed work on the modified street car, Blackmon displayed the Camaro at Run to the Sun in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last year where he drove away with a Top 25 award. After three appearances at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the Food Lion AutoFair, the Camaro recently won a Top 10 award at the fall 2000 show.
With the new school season underway, Blackmon doesn’t have as much time to spend on his newfound hobby, but he does have plans to show his car at the upcoming GoodGuys show. Just as the parent of any teenager would feel, Blackmon’s stepfather is thrilled that the 15-year-old has found a constructive hobby. If nothing else Cook says, “Working on the car keeps Brad out of trouble.”
General admission for the GoodGuys Southeastern Rod & Custom Nationals is $10, with children aged 7-12 admitted for $6 and seniors over 60 admitted for $8. Children 6 and under are admitted free. Parking is $5. Event hours are Friday from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, contact Lowe’s Motor Speedway at (704) 455-3205.