By Armand Grassi, Founder
I first became interested in the Camaro when I saw my first one in 1967. It was a Rally Green RS, slowly rolling down State Street in Erie, PA. Upon seeing it , I said to myself, "Now that's a real ride!" At the time, I was 24 years old, had a three-year old son and a daughter on the way, so I had to keep my Camaro lust at bay for a long, long time. Had to concentrate on raising my family first you know.
Finally, in 1982, I was living in Brandon, Florida and the kids were old enough to pretty much take care of themselves, so now it was my turn. I found 1968 RS in a used car lot that was in pretty bad shape. No exhaust system, leaky head gaskets, rear quarter and floor pan rust, etc. etc. etc. But who cared? It was a Camaro, and after shelling out $600, it was mine! My wife followed me home and later told me that she figured if the car made it home I probably did OK. Well, it made it home - barely. My Camaro was finally in my own garage.
Now that I had my Camaro, I immediately began looking for a Camaro Club to join. I had heard good things about the United States Camaro Club in Dayton, Ohio, so I hooked up with them. I got a lot of tips from their members regarding the restoration of my Camaro, and it was then that I saw the true value of a car club. Being able to communicate with a bunch of people who are as fanatical as you are about a specific car is not only informative - it's a heck of a lot of fun too!
I noticed that the USCC had a lot of Local Chapters throughout the country, but none close to where I lived in Brandon. I contacted them and asked why and their response was "because you haven't started one yet ." This was their polite way of issuing me a challenge, and I wasn't one to back away from a good challenge, so I said let's do it. I didn't know it then, but this moment in time was the first breath of life into what would become the Sunshine State Camaro Club.
I decided that the best way to start a club would be to get as many Camaro Club enthusiasts as possible together in a relaxing atmosphere to discuss it. The first thing hat came to mind was a picnic. After all, this Florida and that's what we do - we picnic! I created a letter inviting all Camaro enthusiasts to meet with me at Edward Meddard Park, a few miles East of Brandon, for a few burgers and hot dogs and to discus the birth of a new club dedicated to the preservation of all years of Camaros.
I stuck a copy of the letter in the windshield of every Camaro I could find in mall parking lots, car shows, even those occasionally stopped at red lights. On the day of the picnic, I was floored when a couple of dozen people showed up and all shared my enthusiasm and desire to start a club. After some discussion, the name Sunshine State Camaro Club was picked and in June 1985 we were on our way.
One of the things we decided was that we would be an active club. And active we were - we committed to having some form of activity every month. Some months we attended a car show as a group, held a Camaro Cruise-in at a local Steak 'N Shake, held an occasional Poker Run, and anything else we could come up with to keep busy. Probably the activity I'm most proud of was our 1987 Camaro Parade Lap at Daytona Speedway prior to the IROC Race during Speed Week (Remember? IROC races used to be run with Camaros).
It took me over a year to convince the folks at Daytona to let us do the lap. (Most people don't know it, but Daytona is a Pontiac track!) I spent many a Saturday morning in the office of Mike Helton, who at the time was in charge of media and promotions at the Daytona Speedway, trying to convince him that a single file of Camaros lined up from 1967 to present year would be real entertaining of the fans there to see and IROC race run with Camaros. I guess I must a made a real pest of myself, because Mike finally agreed. So there we were on a Friday morning making our pace lap around the track, led by the official pace car! Believe me, that is something you don't ever forget. We did the lap again the following year, but after that Chevrolet discontinue their participation in the IROC and our parade laps came to an end.
I served as President of the SSCC for eight years, and during that time the USCC disbanded so we just continued on as our own club. Also during that time and for the many years following, I met some of the best people on the planet. Our membership has always been family oriented and made up a lot of talented, professional and just plain nice people that I am so very proud to consider my friends. Like everyone says, the membership is what makes a club successful. With our group of members, we just can't lose.
After I stepped down as President, Alan Marshall, who was Vice President of the SSCC from day one, took over. With Alan's tireless efforts and unwavering dedication, the SSCC continues to flourish and grow.
And the rest is history.....................................................