They say that change is constant – and for everything there is a season…….
At an early age, children start to imagine what they’d like to do or be when they grow up -
(--but then, how many firemen and astronauts and ballerinas and nurses can the world absorb???!!)
Thankfully, most children change their ambitions as they grow and learn and experience all that life holds.
As a child, I knew that my life needed to be surrounded by cars – and that’s never changed.
“Mom Settlemire” tells me that she and my father knew that from the time I was two years of age, I would be in the car industry in some way, shape or form – as I was (and still am) crazy about cars. I was always lining up my toy cars ‘just so’ - -perhaps that’s why I love autoshows so much………..
I always figured that I’d be a Chevrolet Dealer – following in the footsteps of my Grandfather, my Uncle and my Father – and in lock-step with my Cousins Tom and Sue.
It didn’t quite turn out that way…..
Over the years (I started my 34thyear with GM this September..) I have had the pleasure of working with many great people – from Dealers and their Managers and Employees - -to Designers, Engineers, Attorneys, Accountants, Promoters, Journalists, Professional Drivers, Administrators, Small business owners – the list goes on and on. I’ve had the pleasure of living in many states and driving some pretty amazing GM cars and trucks. And yes, I’ve driven the competition’s cars and trucks as well – because if you don’t – how can you design, engineer, and build the world’s greatest cars and trucks??? I’ve had the enviable opportunity to watch a car come to life – from the first imaginings – to the time it roars to life at the end of an assembly line – to when you, the proud owner, take delivery.
When I was invited to join the Camaro/Corvette Team, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
At the time, the Performance Car team (at Chevy) consisted of Dick, Fred, Cheryl, Sarah, Bob, Lisa, and Sam – and yes some came and went – but what a team it was! And of course, there were hundreds more men and women at GM Design and Mid-Lux – the Engineering Group that brought you the 4th gen Camaro and Firebird……and SLP who brought you the Camaro SS and Pontiac Firehawk…..
The worst day of my career? August 27th, 2002 when the last Camaros and Firebirds rolled off the line at Ste. Therese……we had a group of very proud men and women who truly cared about the cars they brought to life…
I was simply inconsolable – and to this day, my eyes water just thinking about it.
One of the best? January 9, 2006 when we unveiled the “Camaro Concept” which, as we all know, would become the basis for the 5th gen Camaro.
Since then, GM has changed, grown, shrunk, and even gone thru bankruptcy….. I’ve watched dear friends retire, get separated (from the company) get separated (from a spouse) get married, get divorced, have children – and yes, unfortunately, pass on to ‘That Great Chevy Showroom in the Sky.’
When my friend and then-current boss, Rick Baldick came to me in the late winter of 2002 and asked me how I felt about “Shows and Exhibits” – I think my response was along the lines of “……I’d rather drink Drano, thank you!” I was offered another job – but decided that since I’d helped to pull together the NY Autoshow in the late 1980s – well – why not?
Little did I realize at the time that this job would be such a great one. Yes, the hours are long and arduous, and yes, it requires a lot of travelling….
( ---------another 50,000 Marriott points and I think I get to keep a hotel.........)
…but it allowed me to do so many things far and above what I’d expected. It allowed me to be involved with our concept cars and trucks. It allowed me to become very familiar with our Historic Fleet. It allowed me to continue working with the press to get GM Cars and Trucks out there in front of the public. It gave me many 3am wakeup calls to be ready to be interviewed at 5:15am for early news shows. It allowed me to meet so many great people within the industry – and to work with many Autoshow promoters and their staffs. I was privileged to work with great men and women at GM Creative Services, Gail & Rice, Bluewater Technologies, Czarnowski, ProDetailers, The Term Group, Show Services, Custom Automotive, GLS, QEK, GES, MotorTrend Shows, Paragon, Freeman, Spin Communications, Castle Communications, McNabb, Carlisle Productions, many associations such as Philadelphia Auto Dealer Association - the list seems endless – (and forgive me as I’ve left many out….)
And then there are my incredibly talented and dedicated ‘partners’ – Kevin, Geff, Marci, Tim, Mark, Terri ,Gary, Jamie, Bruce, “Sarge Marge” Tim, Bill, Paul, BJ, Tammy, and many others– the people who made sure I met deadlines and crossed all the ‘t’s and dotted all the ‘I’s – without them, I could not possibly do my job.
It allowed me the rare privilege to work, once again, on the car I so dearly love – the new Camaro. My thanks to Russ, John, Cheryl, and Al for allowing me to be a part of the rebirth of this legendary car.
I, along with John and Cheryl felt we really needed to have more involvement in the Camaro/Firebird Community when we started work in earnest on the new Camaro – and thus “The 12 Disciples of which there are 15” came to pass – and they’re some pretty amazing men and women who have brought YOUR thoughts and wants and desires to the forefront so that the new Camaro can be a car we can all be extremely proud of. What a rare privilege it’s been to work with them!
And most importantly?
It allowed me to travel throughout the United States and meet YOU, our valued enthusiasts. My position allowed me to support your shows and your clubs – and to let you know that GM does, indeed, care about you and values your opinion. I guess I’d become the ‘face’ of GM to a few people……..
As many of you know, there have been drastic changes at GM - -some good, some not so much.
I will be leaving Chevrolet and Cadillac Shows and Exhibits. I’ve been told that ‘we are choosing to go in a different direction'....but unfortunately, nothing else. When asked if it was something I did wrong, I was told 'no.' Perhaps this is, once again, a sign of the times.......
My Boss, Tim Peters, who I hold in such high esteem has left GM to pursue other opportunities.
You have no idea.
That said, I’m sure I”ll be working with a great group of people and my Title will be along the lines of “Pre-Production Manager” . I don’t know exactly what that will entail. I do know that my new boss is a great guy – and I have some great co-workers that I’ve had the privilege of working with in the past.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to spend time with you as I’ve been able to in the past. And for that, I truly mourn – and I really mean that.
When asked, I will continue to offer my counsel to Russ and Al and John and Cheryl and the rest of the Camaro team – (...and Cheryl tells me my convertible will be built the week of the 18th!..)
And of course, I hope our paths will once again cross. (you can bet that Tom and Sue and I will always host a Camaro/Firebird event each summer at the Family Homestead....)
The Camaro is in great hands. Al Oppenheiser leads a team that has such incredible dedication and passion for this fabled brand. Russ and Cheryl and John are the Chevrolet people that will ensure America can always depend on having a Camaro that delivers much more than expected.
I will miss your smiling faces – and your magnificent Camaros and Firebirds more than I can tell.
Thank you -- Websites and Clubs! So many of you have put in countless hours to support this Camaro/Firebird community that is the envy of the industry and owner groups alike........
And Jason and Chris? Thank you for pioneering a club via internet - and for hanging in there for all these years - - there are so many clubs and sites that I can't start to name 'em all - but I thank each of you for 'keepin' the faith'..... Tim? I'll never forget the legendary "Gray Box!"
Never could I have imagined how so warmly I'd be welcomed into your clubs, your sites, and yes, your homes. I’ve had the privilege of being made a Godfather to children ; I’ve had children named after me. The guys in the Hudson Valley Camaro Club wanted me to be ‘their Godfather’ – and God Bless ‘Joey Red’ – he came up with the moniker “Fbodfather” – a name that others should really have had over the 40+ years of Camaro….
Many of you have asked my advice over the years – and I hope the counsel I was able to provide has helped in some way---
– and most importantly, I hope my constant rants about the use of Safety Belts has saved a life or two.
I do believe our paths will cross again – meanwhile, I ask you to keep something in mind as we all move forward in our lives:
“…The name ‘Camaro’ means ‘friend, pal, or comrade’…”
Pete Estes saw the Camaro as a close companion to its owner.
Further quoting him:
“………It suggests the comradeship of good friends…as a personal car should be to its owner….”
We (..that’s you and me…) came together because of this car – let’s never forget the gift of friendship – let’s always remember to treat those on our sites and in our clubs with love and respect - as true friends should……..
Be well - -and remember: “Always keep the faith…”
Yours in Camaro Comradeship: