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We sat in the shade of a mid-90s summer day in St. Cloud, Florida, sweat rolling down our ribcages and yes, we were drinking something cold. Though middle-aged, the face of the trim and fit Piispanen just for a second or two became one of an excited, testosterone-laced high-school kid back in ’66. Don’s an auto body tech by profession and the simplicity, crispness and the detail are wholly evident in his minimalist, not-for-show Camaro. Then the story he’d been holding inside for decades spilled out of him like a soda fountain cherry Coke.

“The Camaro was supposed to be a Bolero Red Rally Sport with a 275-horse 327 and a 4-speed, black standard interior, power steering and brakes, Rally wheels, duals, and a deep tone black rally stripe,” he said as if he was in rehearsal for a shadow play later that afternoon.

It didn’t happen. He didn’t get the car. To be exact, his dad made a judgment call like so many other fathers of the era—kid doesn’t need no damn hot rod, hell, he might have fun with it. Don needed pop’s initials on the co-sign form. “He said ‘all Camaros were hot rods,’ so that was that.” But that wasn’t that at all.

Don grew up around the infernal machine. Dad was a body tech for years, so the jigger bobbed in his blood early on. “In ’66 I worked part time as a line mechanic at a Chevy store. In the summers, it became my full-time routine.” Throughout his car life, he made up for that dear disappointment of youth, salving himself with a string of able four-wheeled companions: ‘60 Corvette, ‘63 Corvette, ’62 Nova SS, ’64 Falcon hardtop, ’66 Mustang coupe, ’68 Bel Air no-post, ’68 Cutlass raggy, ’65 El Camino, ’72 Nova, ’65 Mustang, and finally this ’67 SS clone.

Don’s been in the pipeline a long time, paid his tangible and psychic dues, and now it doesn’t matter if his car’s fast, quick, or down with the latest tricks or some coveted hot-car sub-stratum like the so-called Pro Touring genre. He’s seen it, heard it, breathed it all before and needs no more than the Detroit Iron he’s peddling right now.

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