For 25 years, Craig Stripling lived with regret.
“I cried a good bit,” said Stripling, 54. “Most people have buyer’s remorse. I had seller’s.”
In 1987, Stripling sold his first Chevrolet Camaro – a 1969 Rally Sport – claiming “it was time to grow up.”
During the 2½ decades that followed, the North Augusta resident never said goodbye.
“Life happens and sometimes you have to let go,” Stripling said. “But I’m not going to lie; letting go was hard. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. There wasn’t a moment when I didn’t miss that Camaro.”
From 1987-2011, Stripling owned nine Corvettes, none of which fulfilled expectations. Then, in Christmas 2011, Stripling’s wife, Kimberly, delivered.
“She said we were going to look at cars,” Stripling recalled. “But sure enough, Kimberly and my dad had already picked one out – a Camaro. But not just any Camaro, it was a 1968 SS with all the original parts.”
Stripling admits he was caught off guard by the gift.
“Once my wife started talking about buying a house, I threw my chances of getting another Camaro out the window,” he said. “But she came through. Man, did she ever come through. I wish people could have seen my smile that day.”
From the engine to the leather seats – it’s all from 1968. Even the original license plate and owner’s manual remain.
“I’m a firm believer that once you start replacing the original parts you’re pretty much opening Pandora’s box,” he said.
The first owner purchased the car for $4,100 in ’68. Stripling is the third owner.
He takes his car to showcases a year, but the red muscle car isn’t just for show.
“This baby is no garage queen,” Stripling said. “We take it on trips and I just love driving it around. I don’t want a car that isn’t meant to have fun in. For me, nothing beats the subtle rumble of a ’60s Camaro shifting through the four-speed gears. This car is a conversation piece wherever it goes.”
One place it won’t go, however, is on a racetrack.
“I’m from Jackson and grew up on the Jackson drag strip,” he said. “But my wife made me promise I wouldn’t race it. Don’t get me wrong, we still have fun and like to get a little crazy. But no, this one’s not for racing. It’s too pretty, anyway.”