Chevy Camaro fans tour GM Lansing plant

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Lansing — Chevrolet Camaro fans from across Michigan, the U.S. and Ontario drove their favorite muscle car here Thursday for a special celebration and factory tour honoring the 50th year of the Camaro.

General Motors Co. opened the doors of its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant for a rare public peek inside the factory that builds the Camaro and Cadillac ATS and CTS variants. The plant has been building the car since last year when the sixth generation launched.

The company estimated up to 1,300 would come through the doors Thursday. Tours were self-guided with dozens of people along the plant floor answering questions at different build spots as workers wore Camaro Fifty T-shirts as part of the celebration.

Attendees had a chance to listen to a tech talk from some GM employees who work on the car including chief engineer Al Oppenheiser and a kickoff that featured UAW Local 652 President Mike Green, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and GM officials.

“We’re excited to meet so many Camaro enthusiasts, customers and supporters that in some cases have traveled extremely far to celebrate this milestone and share in the passion of the vehicle that we get to build every day,” Plant Manager Steve Notar Donato said.

Young and old Camaro fans brought their Camaros, including Lerick Chissus, 4, of Novi who drove his red Camaro Power Wheels with his sister, Lorelai, 1, in the passenger seat.

“He got it ready for the car show,” mom Jennifer Chissus said. Dad Lerick Chissus is an engineer on GM’s Camaro team. “He washed it and polished it.”

Mike and Barb Gerish of Kawkawlin near Bay City drove their 1968 burgundy Camaro to the celebration, a car they’ve had since 1969 and they bought for $2,389. They were excited to see inside the plant.

“It was our honeymoon car,” said Barb.

Jim Wozniak, 62, of Hubbard, Ohio, drove his black 1977 Z/28 and was busy polishing it in the parking lot for the car show.

“I bought it new,” he said. He was 23 and paid about $5,600. “It was my first new car and I still own it. I always wanted a Camaro and I saved up and bought one.”

He wants to bring the car onto Woodward for Saturday’s official Dream Cruise day.

On Friday, hundreds of Camaros are expected to participate in a police-escorted cruise from Detroit onto Woodward in Ferndale and north.

Chevy announced the Camaro name during a press conference on June 28, 1966, and the 1967 model car arrived in dealerships in September of that year. The car took a seven-year production break when the fourth generation ended production in 2002. The fifth generation returned in 2009 as a 2010 model.

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