On April 7, 1967, Bob Simonen walked into the Toronto-based car dealership Gorries Downtown Chevrolet-Oldsmobile and $3,625 later walked out with a 1967 Black Panther Camaro.
Fast forward to 2016 and Simonen, 75, still owns the vehicle only now it's worth maybe 100 times as much and is considered one of the rarest and most sought after Camaro’s of all time.
In 1967, Simonen was just three-years married and working for the ACR in Sault Ste. Marie.
He and a friend travelled to Toronto to pick up a small-sized ‘daily driver’, or commuter, vehicle and the first place they stopped at was the Gorries dealership.
“The Black Panther Camaro was in the showroom. I fell in love immediately. I’d never seen a car that was black and gold or had mag wheels before,” said Simonen referring to the vehicle's Magnum 500 wheels, pretty unique at the time.
Him and his friend left the store and drove around to other dealerships but the whole time Simonen kept talking about the black Camaro.
His friend said 'You know you’re not going to buy anything else so we might as well go back to Gories', and the next thing you know he was driving it off the lot and back down the highway to Sault Ste. Marie.
The next morning Simonen’s wife Lorraine walked outside and couldn’t believe her eyes.
“That’s a daily driver huh?,” she said.
Simonen said Black Panther Camaros were made for only one year and that most likely only a dozen or two were ever produced.
Because many of them were used in racing, they were often souped-up, damaged, or repainted.
In 2016, only three are known to exist and Simonen's is the only one that has its original body and engine.
The 1967 Black Panther Camaro is essentially the same as a regular 1967 Camaro except for its wheels and its black and gold external paint job and deluxe gold interior.
A very unique item inside the vehicle is the ‘007 panel’, some non-functioning novelty switches for imaginary devices like an ejector seat, a laser beam, and machine guns.
“Americans love this car. They go crazy for the James Bond panel, they just can’t get enough of it,” said Simonen.
Simonen and his wife drove the vehicle until 1980 when it went into storage and was only taken out in the summer months.
In 2000, they fixed the vehicle up and started taking it to car shows where it has won several awards and been featured in a number of magazines and news sites like Bloomberg and Canadian Classics.
Simonen said Hollywood production companies have even approached him asking to use the vehicle.
In 2017, Simonen will have owned the car for 50 years.
He is the single owner and the vehicle only has 52,000 miles on it.
There’s so few of the vehicles around – and none in the condition of Simonen’s – that there’s no sale precedent for it’s value, however Simonen has been told it’s as valuable or perhaps more valuable than other Camaro’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I’m not sure I ever want to sell this. If someone wanted to buy it from me it would have to be an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said.
“I’m still in love with the vehicle. I didn’t buy it as an investment, I just really loved the car. My wife and I have enjoyed many great times in the vehicle."
Simonen was asked if he and his wife ever took the vehicle and ‘parked’ it in a romantic location somewhere.
“That I won’t say,” said Simonen with a big grin.