Schnatter sold his Bumblebee-striped black-and-gold 1971½ Chevy Z28 in 1983 to help save his father’s struggling tavern business. He ultimately started a pizza shop in the back of the tavern. That was the start of what has become the world’s third-largest pizza company.
Schnatter had hoped to one day be reunited with his beloved Camaro and had spent years searching for it. In celebration of the 25th year of the Papa John’s enterprise Schnatter launched “Papa John’s Road Trip” this past May in which he searched for the whereabouts of the car. Originally he offered a $25,000 “finder’s fee” but soon increased it to $250,000.
According to the papajohnsroadtrip.com Web site, the car has led an interesting, but well tended life since its departure. Schnatter, living in Indiana, sold it for $2,800 in ’83. First to own it after Schnatter was a couple in Flatwoods, Ky. They kept it for 17 years, selling it for $1,000 in Aug. 2000 to someone in Russell, Ky. In 2004, it was transferred to Jefferey Robinson back in Flatwoods for $4,500.
Robinson modified the car for show and racing. It was featured in the November 2006 Popular Hot Rodding Magazine and won several awards. It was Robinson who still owned the car when he learned of Papa John’s search. The link had been made by the first owners who saw a t.v. interview with Schnatter earlier this month and went on an Internet search for more information through the blog site, Jalopnik.com. Jalopnik had been following Papa John’s road trip chronicles and contacted Papa John’s with the information.
Last week the car’s authenticity was verified and today Robinson is $250,000 richer. Papa John’s has also extended a $25,000 reward to the family who originally bought the car from Schnatter in 1983 and who helped lead to its rediscovery.
On Tuesday, Robinson delivered the car to Schnatter at Papa John’s headquarters in Louisville less than 200 miles away from the little town of Flatwoods.
“The search has been scrambled in the past due to the car originally being described as a 1972 model,” the Papa John’s Web site noted. “In fact, the car is a 1971 ½ model, so technically it’s a ’71. At some point in the company’s history, the year was rounded up to 1972.”
In celebration of the Camaro’s return, Papa John’s offered a free pizza to Camaro owners on Wednesday, Aug.26.