In the 1960s, General Motors executives had some big perks Each of the GM divisions was run by a general manager who had lots of power. These men were able to drive cars—often special models—kept in the Executive Garage.
Pete Estes was general manager of Chevy. He liked convertibles. In 1968, Chevy performance guru Vince Piggins had a Camaro Z/28 convertible put together for Estes. Today, this car is owned by auctioneer Dana Mecum.
Piggins was trying to win approval on special performance parts he wanted to use in the SCC’ss Trans-Am racing series. He built a Camaro ragtop, added the special parts and put it in the Executive Garage knowing Estes would try it out and OK the parts as production options, making them legal for racing.
The Camaro convertible was ordered through the Fleet Special Order Department and assembled at GM’s Norwood, Ohio, plant on July 15, 1968. It was the only ’68 Z/28 convertible built. The car was loaded with extras. It did not originally carry the performance options. They were added when the car was taken from the Executive Garage and sent to the GM Tech Center. Then, it was taken back to the Executive Garage and made available for Estes to use.
The car was finished in dark Fathom Green and had a folding rear seat, auxiliary console-mounted instrumentation, auxiliary lighting, power windows, a remote outside rearview mirror, custom seat belts, a blue light AM/FM stereo system, a rear window defroster, a Comfortilt steering wheel and posi-traction. The racing parts included 4-wheel disc brakes, a performance suspension package with Koni shocks, a cowl plenum fiberglass hood (a prototype of the ’69 Camaro fiberglass hood), a cross-ram intake and tube headers.
Estes liked the Z/28 convertible and drove it frequently, but it belonged to GM. Towards the end of 1968, it was taken back to the GM Tech Center and the racing parts were removed. On Dec. 17, 1968 Bill Markley Chevrolet—located near the GM Building in Detroit—sold the ragtop to T.H. Standen, a GM worker. Two years later, Standen sold the car to Vern Nye, another GM employee.
Vern Nye held onto the car for nearly 20 years. Next, Dana Mecum bought the car for the first time. It then went through a series of owners and had different work done to it. Around 2004, the car wound up back with Dana Mecum.
Muscle car historian Colin Comer of Milwaukee, Wis., says “The Estes Z/28 convertible is truly the only one, and since it is a prototype for a car that was never even under consideration for production, it is an important GM vehicle.”