Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Henry Moeschler hadn’t had his beautiful Daytona Yellow 1969 Camaro all that long before his love affair with the car came to a screeching halt — literally. Moeschler was only 21 at the time and found himself on the wrong piece of pavement — right on the tail end of a stopped line of traffic on a four-lane highway with an inattentive driver bearing down from behind.
“It was a young girl babysitting two kids and she wasn’t paying attention,” recalled Moeschler, a resident of Mosinee, Wis. “I saw her coming and I tried to gun it and get out of there, but she plowed into me from behind and sent me into the median. Both cars were totaled… The back half of my car was pushed in all the way up behind my driver’s seat.”
Thankfully, nobody was badly hurt in that 1971 wreck, but Moeschler’s first new car was a casualty. It took the affable Moeschler nearly four decades to decide he wanted to get another Camaro — not because he didn’t like Camaros anymore, but more because he got married, had kids, ran several businesses and then eventually spent a lot of time restoring a 1969 Chevelle. When he did decide it was time for a Camaro, however, Moeschler went to the top shelf and found a stunning, low-mileage Z/28 that has gone a long way toward easing the sting of losing that first car when he was young.
“I wanted [a Camaro] because I had one originally, and some of the guys around the Wausau area where I lived had Z/28s and I always wanted a Z/28,” Moeschler recalled. “But I couldn’t afford the insurance and couldn’t afford the car, so I had to wait 40 years to get the car, is basically the story. I had to wait until I had some extra cash!
“I probably started about 15 years ago looking for that Camaro. I was real picky looking for just the right one. Then I just searched and probably looked at 50 Camaros before I found the one I wanted.”
That was in January 2008, and Moeschler was more than willing at the time to travel more than 1,000 miles from northern Wisconsin to Charlotte, N.C., to bag the car he was after. He found the exact Daytona Yellow ’69 Z/28 he had been seeking. Ironically, the car had less than 20,000 miles on the odometer — about the same number of ticks Moeschler’s original Camaro had when it was wrecked.
Moeschler admits he found many nice cars when he was Camaro shopping, but he was determined to find a car that met all of his criteria. “I was looking for certain things. I didn’t want a vinyl top. I wanted all Daytona Yellow and I wanted to have the gauges, the Rosewood steering wheel, four-speed, Z/28. And the plain black interior, not the houndstooth. I don’t like the houndstooth, personally.
“And after doing that Chevelle project, I learned that I’m better off buying one that’s near done and I can finish it myself just the way I want it, rather than starting with a basket case that’s real rusty. With my Chevelle, I probably worked for a month on the frame alone because it was so rusty. This one, the frame is just perfect yet. That’s the key, I think. Starting with rust is not fun. This car, it was restored very well. It was almost done. The trunk was not done very well so I re-did the whole trunk and made it perfect. A couple minor things under the hood were not done quite right, and I did a couple little paint touch-ups, but it was done very nice. The underside of the car is like brand-new. They did an excellent job on the underside.”
Moeschler’s original Camaro wasn’t a Z/28. It was a base Camaro with a black vinyl top and a 350-cid V-8 under the hood. His second car, however, was set up for racing straight from the factory, and that’s exactly what the car’s first owner did with it.
When Chevrolet unveiled the Z/28 performance package in 1967, the idea was to offer a car that would qualify for the Trans-Am Cup racing circuit, which capped engine sizes at 305 cubic inches. By combining the 327-cid block with the 283-cid crankshaft, Chevy had itself a 302 mill that it fitted with a four-barrel carburetor, aluminum high-rise intake, L79 Corvette heads and solid-lifter camshaft. Some special badging and cool, fat stripes made the cars look as good as they ran, and the cars were a big hit, jumping from 602 built the first year to more than 20,000 for 1969.
The original owner of Moeschler’s car apparently favored drag strips over road courses and transplanted a 454 in the Z/28 and made it his weekend drag car. It was raced periodically for a decade or so, then put into mothballs.
“It came out of Christianburg Va., and the guy raced it the first few years and then he put it in storage. And [the restorer] tried to buy the car for 25-30 years,” Moeschler laughed. “He was always on the guy and the guy finally let loose of the car and I bought it from the dealer who was selling it for the restorer. He restored it just to re-sell it.
“This car probably wasn’t babied in its original life, but it didn’t rack up a lot of miles. It got parked a lot and he didn’t use it much as a daily driver. That’s why it’s a low-mileage car… It needed all new paint and everything. It was all there but not in great condition because it had sat so long. The seats were all re-done and the carpet was re-done. But the door panels, headliner and a lot of those types of interior parts are all original.”
The Z/28 package was offered only for the Camaro coupe. Some sources say that it came in a basic version priced at $458. However, there appear to have been perhaps a half-dozen variations. The first base package included dual exhausts with deep-tone mufflers, special front and rear suspensions, rear bumper guards, a heavy-duty radiator with a temperature-controlled fan, quick-ratio power steering, 15 x 7 rally wheels, E70 x 15 special white-lettered tires, a 3.73:1 rear axle and special hood and trunk stripes. Four-speed manual transmission and power disc brakes were standard and Positraction was recommended, but not standard.
Four-wheel discs brakes were available for the first time for an extra $500. The Hurst-shifted M21 Muncie four-speed was the only available transmission. The 3.73.1 rear end was standard, but choices were available up to 4.10:1. A functional Cowl Induction hood was also available for $79. Chambered exhaust pipes that helped the ‘Z’ cars breathe better were also optional and were popular add-ons. Z/28s could also have the RS package, which featured a different grille, concealed headlamps and some other trim goodies.
The cars were rated at 290 hp without any upgrades, but that figure usually draws snickers from Z/28 owners. The real figures were probably somewhere between 350 and 400 hp. That didn’t put the Z/28s up there in Hemi country when it came to raw muscle, but their superior handling and agility made them great all-around performers for the time.
And when it comes to good looks, many would put the ’69 Camaros near the top of any list.
“I like the look if it. I like the sound of it. I like the high-revving motor, you know, with the 302. You can rev that motor. The stock cars right out of the box were really nice. They had everything you like, you know?” Moeschler said. “Personally, I don’t like the RS model as much. I like to see the headlights. A vinyl top isn’t bad, but I prefer all-yellow and the black stripes. That’s just what I like. The next guy might not like that.
“It’s just amazing to drive — the torque of it. And back then they pieced different motors together to make that 302 and they really held together well. The guys I knew back in the ’70s would beat the snot out of those cars and they held together.”
Moeschler’s car has the optional floor console with gauges. It still has its original 302 and four-speed drivetrain. The engine was taken out of the car during its racing days but reinstalled during the car’s restoration. Everything on the Z/28 is in immaculate condition and appears showroom fresh. With only 21,000 miles on its clock, Moeschler knows that his Z/28 is a rare and pristine specimen. That doesn’t stop him from driving it, but he picks his times and places.
“I’m particular about where I drive it, but I don’t mind driving it, that’s for sure,” he said. “Having no power steering, that’s a factor. And the bias tires, too.
“It’s more the stone chips and getting tar on it. If you drive it around, you’re going to get that stuff, and if you’re going to shows, you are constantly cleaning it. It’s more the hassle of cleaning it than the miles.”
Moeschler has had his share of cars over the years and has a small, eclectic fleet these days. Next on his wish list is a Daytona Yellow 1969 Nova to go with his yellow Chevelle and Camaro. “I’m going to find that Nova, and if you ever see a yellow Chevelle, Z/28 and Nova all crossing the block together at Barrett-Jackson, they’ll be mine,” he chuckled. “It’s in my will that my kids have to take them to Barrett-Jackson and sell them that way, because they won’t know what to do with them.
“The Camaro, I’ll take to the grave, and the Chevelle. I’ll never sell them.”
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