Imagine falling in love with a muscle car that raced 30 miles from where you live and then racing halfway around the world to bring the car back to the “neighborhood!” Something like that takes a special car, lots of luck, a bunch of money and a very determined enthusiast.
Dave Belk of Davenport, Iowa is a very serious muscle car collector who has a ton of determination. Belk has owned 11 Yenko Novas, three COPO Chevelles and some COPO Camaros, Baldwin-Motion cars, a ’71 Dick Harrell Camaro, a ’69 Dick Harrell Nova, a ’67 Yenko/Harrell/Gibb Camaro, a ’68 COPO Fred Gibb/Dick Harrell Nova, a Yenko Vega and a ‘69 Dick Harrell wagon.
The car that he fell in love with and brought back to Iowa from Japan is a ‘73 Nickey Camaro. Teacher Glenn Heble of Mount Vernon, purchased the Camaro on March 23, 1973 when he came home from Viet Nam. Heble loved drag racing and Nickey Chevrolet of Chicago built some of the best drag racing cars around. So Helbe ordered a dark green Nickey Camaro with a 454-cid 450-hp LS6 motor, four-speed gearbox, fat tires, traction bars and other go-fast goodies. He named it “The Educator” and it taught other drag racers a lesson. [inpost_gallery post_id=48372 group=’all’]
In 1990, Heble advertised the car for sale in Drag News and a California dealer snapped it up. Belk came across the old ad and decided to trace the car. He actually located Heble who said he could not remember the dealer’s name but would look for it. Amazingly, a few months later he called up with the name.
Belk called the dealer and found out the car went to a dealer in Japan, but it no longer existed. So, Belk hired a private eye. That was the start of an international car hunt. Belk next wound up hiring a Japanese man who worked for the California dealer, flew him to Japan and opened a bank account there.
Eventually four people got involved in the hunt and got paid thousands, although there was no guarantee of the car ever materializing. Fortunately it did, but things were youch and go right until the end when the man they finally convinced to sell the car requested an $300 more to cover daily fluctuations in the exchange rate.
After Belk had the car bought, some paperwork was sent to Iowa via overnight mail and the car went by ship to the California dealer. The dealer arranged transport to Iowa. Belk said the experience was “a true group effort.” The group involvement continued with Rick Nelson of Musclecar Restorations putting in original guages and attending to other details, while Joe Schoenthaler applied new Midnight Green factory paint. Belk says the car is the only fully documented Gen II Camaro with a Nickey big-block Super Car Conversion.
The car’s documentation includes a copy of the original Nickey work order and a copy of the original New Car Invoice. Belk has newspaper clippings on the car and affidavits from the original owner and the California dealer. Also in the file are photos of the car racing and its World Record Holder Certificate dated June 23, 1974. It shows the car made an 8.12-sec. one-eighth-mile pass. Belk has aDrag News article, a copy of a 1973 Nickey Supercar order form, a copy of the Japanese title and all export documents. “I challenged Steve Bimbi of Nickey Chicago to show me another Gen II Nickey car will such paperwork,” he said.