Contributed by Tara Bush
DJ Don Musica (yes his real name) does more than play music around central Florida at the local car shows under the name, Cruisin Orlando. He has been fixing, modifying, and restoring cars since he was 16. His first hot rod was a 1972 Nova in 1985 in his home town of Meadville, PA. Don has owned many classic Chevy muscle cars and trucks (also he keeps my Shelby and Cuda running), but his specialty is first-generation Camaros. He fully restored his first one in 1998, inspired by the 1980's coming-of-age movie “Better Off Dead“. Since then he has restored, to some extent, a number of Camaro coupes and convertibles. Some of them he keeps for years to enjoy, others find a new owner quickly.
Not really looking for another car but curious to know what was out there, Don saw a mostly original 1969 Camaro convertible. It had a color change, fathom green to resale bright red. The price was too high at the time, but he decided to keep a watch on it. After many, many months with no sale, he decided to pay the owner a visit, and why not, it was right down the street. Unfortunately, the owner backed it out of the garage before Don’s arrival and hit the garage wall. Fortunately for Don, the price came down by thousands.
This Camaro was obviously purchased for comfort in 1969 because it is equipped with a power convertible top, power steering, tilt wheel, and factory air conditioning. Most of the car retains its original GM parts including the original 350 engine, automatic turbo 3-speed transmission, and 10 bolt rear end.
Even though this Camaro was already show worthy, the first thing Don does with any car he purchases is he puts on his personal touches and check for safety issues before it is driven anywhere. He replaced the leaf springs and door bushings, fixed the quarter panel dent, touched up small chips and dings by blending the red paint. He replaced the original bumpers, carpet, and radio, plus upgraded to 15” rally wheels and new beefier tires.
After a few short months, the car was ready for showing. It was one of the featured convertibles in the Winter Park Parade as part of a Super Bowl commercial. But the restoration did not stop there. In 2015, Don decided the Camaro needed more POP! The interior got changed to white, added a white bumblebee stripe, and an original rosewood steering wheel. But to enjoy a convertible year-round, the AC needs to be fully operational. New hoses, dryer and evaporator got the temperature at the vents down to 39 degrees.
In 2015, safety upgrades were installed such as front disc brakes, all new front-end parts, and the lowering of the front springs. Don has driven the Camaro all around central Florida for several years but in 2019 the convertible top motor and lines began to leak. In order to make the repairs, the interior needed to be removed. Don decided that while the interior was out, he might as well repaint the exterior because the clear coat was showing age cracks. The windshield was replaced, new cowl hood was fitted, all stainless trim was sent out for dent removal and polishing, removed chrome engine pulleys and hood hinges with originals, and replaced the much-needed body mounts.
Don has never owned a blue car, so the decision was made to use the new Mopar Hydro blue at $800 per gallon! Plus, the bumblebee bee stripe got changed to a white hockey stick stripe. January 17, 2020 was his first ride out. Don came to my house to pick up our two small dogs for a car ride (we have shared custody). The next night he made its debut at Old Town in Kissimmee. The restoration was not quite finished…the gas gauge broke on the way home. Out came the original tank and sending unit. Don’s final upgrade was the removal of the original 10 bolt 2.56 gear rear axle with a correct Camaro 12 bolt posi 3:08.
Don has enjoyed the same Camaro with two different original style looks over the past seven years and will continue to show and drive it all over central Florida.