Back on August 3, I posted a blog that "Papa" John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John's Pizza, was looking for his old '72 Camaro. Schnatter was offering a cool quarter million dollar bounty for anyone who could turn over the title to his old hot rod. Schnatter had sold the Camaro back in 1983 to fund his first pizza joint, which he established in the back of his dad's tavern. Now a millionaire several times over, Papa John hit the road in a highly publicized nationwide search, making TV appearances and pleading to millions to keep an eye out for his car. As fate would have it, word got out to one PHR reader, Jeff Robinson of Flatwoods, Kentucky--who's '71 Camaro we featured in our November 2006 issue. It turns out that Papa John's Camaro was indeed a '71 model, not a '72 model as Schnatter originally thought. It also turned out that Jeff Robinson was the owner of John Schnatter's original Camaro. Our congratulations go out to Jeff for holding the winning "lottery ticket," so to speak. But beyond that, it bears repeating how incredible Jeff's Camaro is, and how far it's come since Papa John owned it. Bearing absolutely no resemblance mechanically to the pizza delivery car it started out as, Jeff has transformed the Camaro into a true Street Fighter.
I remember the first time I saw Jeff's Camaro, and how impressed I was. During the summer of 2006, I traveled to Bristol Dragway for the NMCA race, and while cruising the pit area for cars to feature in PHR, I locked on to Jeff's Camaro. The car was absolutely immaculate inside and out. It stood out from the other cars in the pit area because it was actually still a street car, and hadn't yet succumbed to the trappings of being an all-out racecar. It was licensed and insured, it had a full interior, and it hadn't deteriorated visually like most drag-only cars with dents, scoops, or decals festooned all over the body. In fact, Jeff had spent a great deal of time fixing some bad body work that had been done previous to his ownership. With a fresh coat of gold paint, it gleamed like a showcar, but ran like a thoroughbred. That weekend, I witnessed Jeff's Camaro lift the wheels effortlessly several times on its way to 10-second timeslips. I personally photographed Jeff's Camaro, capturing many of the cool details that I mentally filed away for use on future magazine project cars. One thing is for sure: Papa John has bought himself one awesome Camaro that doesn't need a thing to make it a true player.
Digging deeper into the story, Popular Hot Rodding readers will also appreciate that the engine in Jeff Robinson's Camaro was built by none other than Engine Masters Challenge alumnus and winner, Tony Bischoff of BES. Bischoff is the engine builder of choice for many top NMCA competitors, and the 540-inch big-block in the Camaro may, or may not, be part of the deal--we'll have to get back to you on that. If it is, Papa John will have a super fun time getting reacquainted with his old ride!
We thought we'd re-post Ro McGonegal's story of Jeff Robinson's '71 Camaro from our November 2006 issue once again, to give you (and Papa John, if he's reading) an idea of how cool this car really is. For more information on Papa John's search, and how he and Jeff Robinson hooked up, log on to www.papasroadtrip.com