Rebuilding Camaro comes with a few surprises

  • Published
  • By Bill Orndorff
  • 309th Maintenance Wing
For Corey Dalton, working on the 1969 Rally Sport Camaro he's entering in the 309th Maintenance Wing's car show is almost like taking care of a younger sibling.

After all, the car's been in his family for almost 40 years. And he plans to keep it that way.

Dalton, a sheet metal mechanic for the 571st Commodities Maintenance Squadron, was 13 when his family bought the Camaro convertible from a Riverdale dealership in 1973.

"Even then I liked that car -- I always liked cars when I was growing up," he recalled. "We bought it for my mom to drive around in. I don't remember what they paid for the car -- maybe about $2,500. Back then, that was a lot of money. These cars are going for $50,000 to $60,000 now. That's just amazing."

The Camaro was driven by his parents, Guy and Marie Dalton, and his two sisters with a carload of girlfriends. When his parents separated, the Camaro ended up sitting in his mother's garage for about four years.

"My sisters weren't interested in it, so I started restoring the car," he said. "I wanted to get it done. I'll never get rid of the Camaro because of the sentimental value of the car -- it just means too much to me."

Once the work started, Dalton and the friends who helped him found a few surprises.

"The guy that owned the car first apparently took it to Wyoming and used it for rabbit hunting. When we restored the car, we found .22 shell casings in the trunk, underneath the carpeting -- they were everywhere."

The Camaro had its motor rebuilt about five years ago, and the dashboard, steering wheel emblem and convertible top have been replaced. The car also received a new paint job.

"The car used to be a garnet red, a darker color like fire engines," Dalton said. "I painted it in a color called '2006 Chevrolet Victory Red.' It's a real bright eye-catching red. I showed my mother and she didn't like the color when I showed it to her, but I said, 'Sorry, Mom, that's the color it's going to be.' Once it was painted, she just fell in love with it. That red just pops in the sunlight."

Dalton did the interior work himself, using a kit he bought through a classic car parts company.

"I had to rip off all the old covering and adhesive, then actually push the new stuff on. I held it in place with clothespins while it dried," he said. "It was exciting and kind of challenging because I had to quickly glue a lot of stuff. It turned out pretty nice, if I do say so myself."

Dalton was inspired to work on vehicles from two sources -- his father, and his uncle. His father, Guy Dalton, did small engine repair in addition to working in logistics at Defense Depot Ogden. By age 15, Corey Dalton was building car motors.

His uncle, Jim Gillespie, was a pilot at Hill AFB and liked to restore cars from the early 1900s.

"On the bombing range, he spotted a 1921 touring sedan that had more than 100 bullet holes in it," Dalton said. "He got permission to take it off the range and he restored it to look like it was brand new. He also restored a 1936 Packard and a 1919 dirt track speedster. He was my motivation to get into that stuff."

Dalton's other entry in the 309th MXW car show is a 1923 Roadster that he describes as "a big go-cart on steroids."

He bought the roadster from a friend for $5,000 and has since rebuilt the motor, replaced the brass steering rods with aluminum, added a 671 blower that increases volume of air coming into the vehicle which in turn increases the horsepower, and put an XJ-6 Jaguar rear end in the back. The vehicle now has an ultraviolet poly-purple exterior with black velour inside and brass gauges, a brass radiator and brass headlights.

"I've had the roadster for 23 years -- when I saw it, I just fell in love with it," Dalton said. "They call it a 23-T roadster. In the hot-rod days, they would take four-seat touring sedans and cut off the back behind the driver, then add a shortened truck bed box on the back."

The eye-catching roadster has 18-inch wide tires on the back and 3.5-inch motorcycle tires on the front. And it goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.

In his job, Dalton refurbishes A-10 pylons, adding new ribs and bulkheads, and replacing the sheet metal. He says working on cars and working on aircraft parts have some things in common.

"The whole thing about doing cars and stuff is you have to have patience," he said. "And building a car to catch people's eye -- it's all about the detail -- all the small things that catch their eye that most people don't even see. And with airplanes, it's all about details and the pilot's well-being. They're trusting you with what they do."