CamaroNews – Built in secret, Fisher Body began work on #123377N100001 on May 17, 1966. The coach was delivered to Chevrolet by Fisher Body on May 21, 1966, and the final assembly work then began on the first “F” car to be produced in the Norwood Pilot Production car program. N100001 is the very first build of the hand-built, 49 car pilot assembly test program designated for the GM Norwood, Ohio Assembly plant. The first “F” car to be produced in an assembly plant was produced and configured with a 230 cubic inch engine, 3-speed transmission, whitewall tires, push button radio, front antenna, and deluxe seat belts. Built for the product launch with “show paint required,” it was lightly equipped to accommodate the opening days of the pilot build and also to appeal to the masses in pricing and safety features. It was also equipped with a 110-volt static lighting display to be used at General Motors sales conventions. When it was finished it was stored hidden until its inaugural uses as an assembly test mule and display in the Chevrolet product line unveiling.
It was during its time in secretive storage that Pete Estes held a dramatic 10:00 a.m. 14 city network news conference and officially released the name “Camaro” to the world. Up until that moment, all pilot cars had been built without even knowing a name. The Camaro was received by the automotive press to much enthusiasm and was estimated to account for 12% of Chevrolet production in 1967. N100001 was removed from lock and key and used as an assembly test mule before being required at destination by GM employee D. Reeves at 6030 Cass Avenue in Detroit on August 1, 1966 officially prior to the unveiling of the Camaro on or around August 25, 1966 at the Sheraton-Cadillac Hotel. It was at this convention that R.T. Ayers first saw the sport coupe and used his influence inside the Camaro division to request and receive the initial build from the product unveiling.
Full production of the Chevrolet Camaro began on August 7, 1966 at the Norwood plant. It was the engineering knowledge and revisions from the information gleaned during the pilot program that made this a smooth transition. Jim Seim, Pilot Car Coordinator, was in charge of making these engineering revisions based upon the feedback he was receiving from the multitude of vendors involved, as well as the pilot program employees.
With the sales convention complete in Detroit for the release of the 1967 Camaro to the Chevrolet dealers of the world, affectionately known as “Men of action”, N100001 was shipped to the Tech Center in Warren, Michigan for a photo shoot that would include press release photos in still photography, as well as color promotional videos to be used by General Motors. N100001 can be recognized in multiple photographic forms gracing the images with its signature “1967” vanity plates. Curiously, the car appears with and without the single, small block letter emblem used on the deck lids and headers on the front fenders. With no holes drilled for this build, it is thought that these graces were applied with a small amount of double sided tape and removed. Shortly after this shoot, press release photos were circulated across the country to newspapers around September 8, 1966 for the new Camaro roll out at local dealerships for the end of the month of September.
After its appearances at sales conventions in Detroit and Kansas City in the last half of 1966, N100001 was shipped back to Flint, Michigan for removal of the specialized 110 volt static display lighting by GM for reuse and the car was then shipped to R.T. Ayers High Performance Chevrolet in Yukon, Oklahoma in December of 1966. (Jim Seim interview and GM shipping receipts)
R.T. Ayers, recognizing the sales potential of having the first build in his inventory, took delivery in December of 1966. He had become a prominent driving force in the Midwest, selling and specializing in the high performance models of the day. Relocating his family from Kentucky to Yukon, Oklahoma in 1957 and quickly making the transition from nylon design, manufacture, and distribution to the aircraft industry. With the partnership of his brother’s pre-existing car dealership, Yukon Pontiac on his resume, he began his ascent to the top. In late 1959, he convinced upper management at Pontiac to listen to his expertise in seat belt manufacture. His ideas were ultimately implemented years later and a life-long friend in Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen was achieved. Knudsen, with Pete Estes by his side for years became close friends with R.T. Ayers. It was these relationships that drove Ayers to travel extensively and stay in constant touch with the quickly changing landscape. It was because of his relationship with the “inner circle” that R.T. bought the local Chevrolet dealership in 1962. He was aware of the management changes underway and the refocus of the product lines away from Pontiac to Chevrolet. It is not coincidence that Ayers immediately closed the Pontiac dealership and turned his focus to Chevrolet. R.T. Ayers Jr. recalls the evening that his father bought the Chevrolet dealership in impromptu fashion at The Yukon Roundup Club in the summer of 1962 saying, “Dad was listening to Mr. Barrett vent about the trials and tribulations of running the store. Mr. Barrett, drink in hand, voiced that if he could sell the store and retire……he would. My Dad removed his checkbook from his pocket and wrote a $5,000.00 escrow check on the spot.” The family’s relationship with top brass continued for years with R.T. Ayers Jr. sharing correspondence additionally with Bunkie Knudsen.
Photos & Info courtesy of pilotcarregistry.com