Omahan closes in on ’69 Rally Sport’s Completion

By Jeff Barnes

(Originally published in the Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 30, 2010)

The funny thing is, Bob Jellum really didn’t like his first Camaro.

“It was white and I thought it was ugly,” says the body shop owner, then 18. “But my brother co-signed for it and he really thought it was cool.”

He got a second Camaro which he fixed up like the first one, but that got sold in 1986 to help start his business, Fine Lines Collision at 1509 Military Avenue. Now 51, Jellum says his third Camaro is the one that’s a keeper.

It’s easy to see the attachment for it – he’s had the 1969 Camaro with Rally Sport option for 14 years. He knew when he bought it that it was going to be a project car that wouldn’t be done next year or even the year after that… but he didn’t think he’d be on it after 14 years either. “I knew it wouldn’t be a rush job, though,” Jennum said. “These are pretty hard to come by.”

It had plenty for him to change. “For one thing, it was a pretty rusty car,” he recalled. “One of the first things I did was to put in all new floors.

“It was rusted and dented, but it was the original RS package and untouched – it was a really good place to start.”

Jennum said he started on the car but just sort of evaluating it, disassembling the Camaro to find out what it needed and what it could get by on. “But like a lot of things like this, you put in something new and everything else looks bad,” he said. “

Working on the frame-up restoration off-and-on for 14 years, he replaced all of the sheet panels on the car, converted it from an automatic to a four-speed, put in slotted front disc brakes with two-inch drop, and replaced the Positraction with a 3:73 gear ratio “to make it a little more zippy,” Jennum said. “It’s shifty but fun.”

The engine is still the original, but now has new cams, headers, and a four-barrel carburetor to give it more power. It’s at around 325HP now, but Jennum is building a big-block engine that should take it to 454HP when he drops it in next year.

Last year the car got a new color. The previous incarnation was green with a dark green interior, but Jennum decided it would look better with a Tangelo Pearl orange paint job and orange hound’s-tooth seats. “A few of my friends thought I over did it with the orange, but I think these were the kind of seats they had in the (Indy) pace car that year,” he said.

The interior is the only thing he didn’t personally finish. “Doing it all myself is what’s slowed me down,” Jennum said. “But that’s the way I wanted to do it. I still have to replace the steering wheel and the dash, but there’s a satisfaction that comes with doing it yourself.”

Others agree. In his very first show, the “Last Fling ‘Til Spring” Show in West Point on Sept. 19, Jennum took a third-place trophy in “unfinished modified’ class.

As of now, he said his “money pit” has a valuation of around $25,000. Of course, the Camaro is no commuter car, as he found out in getting insurance for it.

“There are so many restrictions on it when you get the insurance,” Jennum said. “You’re required to keep it in a garage and you can’t put more than 2,500 miles a year on it max. It’s pretty cheap insurance, but they really tie your hands on it.”

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