Text by Karl H. Kazaks | Photos by Tom Wallace
When Johnnie Self Jr. was in high school, he loved playing football for the Christiansburg Blue Demons, and he loved driving the car his father let him use: a 1969 Camaro Z28. Sometimes his parents, Johnnie and Donna Self, would get a phone call from someone in the community saying they had seen Johnnie Jr. drive by.
“I didn’t realize it at the time,” Johnnie Jr. says, “but everyone knew who I was because it’s a one-of-a-kind car.” It also had license plates that read: “DADS Z28.” The elder Mr. Self purchased the Camaro new on Halloween night, 1969. It has an eye-catching appearance: Lemans blue with two wide, white racing stripes down the hood and trunk lid. It also sports styling distinct to that model year: a low, wide look that is simultaneously sporty and aggressive.
Johnnie Jr. has since given the Camaro back to his father, who still owns and treasures it. But his parents wouldn’t be surprised to get a call from someone today announcing that they had just seen Johnnie Jr. drive by, because his new car is just as attention-getting as his father’s: a bright blue 2016 Corvette Z06.
“I ordered it from the same dealer, Harvey’s, where Dad bought his Camaro,” Johnnie Jr. relates. But he picked up his Corvette at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., and hauled it home. Like his father’s Camaro, Johnnie Jr.’s Corvette has a wide body and rides low to the road. But it sports technology unique to our day and age, such as the Drive Mode Selector, an application which allows the driver to switch between five driving modes ~ weather, eco, touring, sport and track. When shifting between modes, the car adjusts a number of variables, including suspension, steering, engine responsiveness and exhaust. The dashboard display also changes.
When you put the car in track mode and listen to it roar, Johnnie Jr. declares: “You really know this car was built to compete on the track.” The super car has a supercharged 6.2L V-8 650 hp engine and all kinds of cutting edge materials, including an aluminum frame, carbon fiber hood and composite front air splitter. The car is a metallic Laguna Blue with a removable roof panel and Apple CarPlay. Its fat tires are 19 inches in the front, 20 inches in the rear.
Both generations of Mr. Self find that fellow travelers appreciate their vehicles when they take them out. “They’ll hang out of the window on the highway, trying to take a picture,” Johnnie Jr. smiles. The Camaro, which has 70,000 miles, still has all of its original mechanical parts, including a 302 engine. The elder Johnnie’s daily driver is a 2002 Chevy Silverado. Johnnie remembers two rides in his Camaro particularly. The first was the day he and Donna got married, when the car provided the ride home. The second was in 2003 when the couple’s other son, Denny, was married and left the church in the car, just as his parents had years earlier.
When Johnnie Jr. takes his Corvette out for a spin, he can have a clear memory of the ride, thanks to video cameras located under the front bumpers. That’s quite a jump in technology from the communications system in the Z28 when Johnnie Jr. was driving it in high school – a CB radio installed by his father. “When Dad came over the CB,” Johnnie Jr. recalls, “I knew it was time to go home.”