Rich Gregory has a long history of enjoying the best four-wheeled machines Chevrolet offers, including his personal collection of Chevelles and Corvettes. But once the Barrington resident laid eyes on a neighbor's 1969 Camaro, his passion became laser focused on that iconic pony car.
"It was the body style that I fell in love with," he says. "I had never had one and was ready to own one."
Gregory's newfound Camaro interest rapidly raised to a boiling level, and before long the desire for a single car turned into two, three and, eventually, five.
"In addition to the timeless design, there is such nostalgia with the year 1969," Gregory says. "It was the year I graduated from college and it is neat to go back to your roots and relive the good old days."
With such an impressive fleet, the only thing missing was a suitable place to store them. "Our home garage could accommodate three vehicles but when you wanted to make room to work on something, you had to put one outside in the weather."
When the fourth '69 Camaro came along in 2003, the die was cast: a separate garage was in immediate order. Rich was on board, but his wife wasn't so convinced. "She was worried about losing her view of the backyard and having it be an eyesore."
To put her mind at peace, Gregory trudged out to the yard and marked out the planned floor space with stakes while she watched from her kitchen window. Now that she could visualize the massive structure's footprint, she consented.
With her blessing, Gregory set about creating his custom space. Radiant floor heat keeps his feet warm during those long winter days, wood paneling covers up drab concrete walls and lumber framing and period décor sets the '60s cruising mood. The project started in January 2005 and was completed by mid summer.
As for the rolling art, Gregory has accumulated his classics from around the Midwest region. The Garnet Red Copo Camaro clone was purchased in 2007 in Richmond and now packs a NOM 427-cubic-inch V-8 engine from another 1969 car. The Lemans Blue Z/28 coupe is the lone out of area find, coming from Denver in 2000.
The Daytona Yellow Yenko was sold new at Jack Douglass Chevrolet in Hinsdale and was purchased by Gregory from a friend in Madison, Wis., in 2003 while the Daytona Yellow Rally Sport Z/28 was found in downstate Decatur in 1998.
Not only does Rich enjoy the cruising side of the hobby but also the fast-paced side, hammering on his Pro-Tour Camaro race car. The high performance vehicle was custom built to handle track abuse; it packs a GM Crate Fastburn 385 c.i. V-8, a Tremac five-speed transmission, Detroit Engineering suspension plus their triple adjustable shocks, and Wilwood six-piston front and 4-piston rear disc brakes.
"The garage is done and it's my dream 'man cave' design," Gregory says. "My buddies call it the 'Garage Mahal' but at its core, its just clean storage and display with enough separate room for getting dirty."
With the project complete, one may wonder what Rich's wife thinks of the classic car paradise.
"She always kids and says, 'It would be nice to have one room in the house as nice as this!' All in all, she's been very agreeable and still enjoys her view."