- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2000

Back when muscle cars reigned supreme, Curt Ugone was a student at Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va. As such, he couldn't afford his ride of choice, a Super Sport Camaro.

A man can only be denied so long. Now the owner of Falls Church Auto Body, Mr. Ugone decided a few years ago to take action to fulfill that long overdue wish. He began shopping for a muscle car that would have made him proud during his high school days.

He encountered the usual dead ends, false leads and cars listed with no thought about truth in advertising.

During the summer of 1998 he drove to Manassas, Va., in order to check out a 1968 Camaro coupe. As advertised it fulfilled his two most important requirements: a big-block V-8 engine and a manual transmission.

When the garage door opened he knew, at first glimpse, that his quest for an old muscle car had ended.

Confronting him in the garage was a red 1968 Camaro SS396 coupe with a stick shifter protruding from the console on the floor. "It was as clean as a pin," he remembers. It still is.

The deal was quickly done, and Mr. Ugone anxiously occupied the driver's bucket seat leaving his wife, Lisa, to drive their dualie pickup home.

Chevrolet manufactured 235,115 Camaros in 1968 with an available list of 81 factory-installed options and 41 dealer-installed options available.

Each and every 1968 Camaro weighed in at about a ton and a half and rode on a 108-inch wheelbase. The Camaro carried a base price of $2,694, but with the myriad extra-cost options available prices ranged wildly.

The Super Sport package included the Firestone D70x14-inch red-line wide oval tires, special engine hood, black accented grille, special suspension, dual exhausts and whichever engine/horsepower combination the buyer desired.

In the case of Mr. Ugone's Camaro the original owner opted to spend the extra $263 for the SS package that included a 396-cubic-inch V-8 set up to deliver 325 horsepower. That selection, known as the L-35 package was topped by a Holley four-barrel carburetor capped by an air cleaner with an impressive "Turbo Jet 325 Horsepower" decal.

On the other side the outside of the engine hood are a pair of longitudinal air vents. They are there strictly for the sake of appearance and they do look impressive.

Extra-cost options on the flashy Camaro include:

* Houndstooth interior.

* Dual outside mirrors.

* Console with gauges.

* Power steering.

* Bumper guards.

* Deck spoiler.

* Chin spoiler.

* Power brakes.

The original owner even sprung the $74 for the black vinyl top, which still looks good. The car must have spent years in a trailer or garage for the top to be in its current condition.

Instead of having the typical idiot lights on the instrument panel, the Camaro has them mounted at the front of the floor console.

Where the gauges typically are located are where the 5,500-rpm red-line tachometer and speedometer are found.

Front disc brakes help bring the powerful car under control. Factory-mounted seat belts complete the safety package.

Astro-ventilation is how General Motors labeled the first year they dropped the wing vents on the Camaro. The fifty slots on the cowl ahead of the windshield were supposed to duct the airflow to the interior.

With the exception of the brilliant red paint, the car is believed to be in original condition.

The black vinyl top appears to be the one put on almost a third of a century ago. Mr. Ugone has inspected his car to the point he says even the windshield, cleared by electric wipers, is original.

While occupying the bucket seat behind the three-spoke, rosewood, tilt steering wheel of the Camaro, Mr. Ugone proclaims: "It still runs good and still drives good."

Having the Camaro as a teenager would have been nice, but, somehow, the pride of ownership now seems sweeter.

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