This photo has not been manipulated. That's an actual 1968 Chevrolet Camaro turned into a Jekyll-and-Hyde car from its split badges on its front grille to the carpet in its trunk. It's the result of an exacting, months-long rebuild that created a car unlike any other. The crazy minds who created it? Four guys from State Farm insurance.
If you've ever tried to buy car insurance for a classic ride, you know it's a complicated process, and one fraught with potholes. The universe of classic cars runs from rusted rat rods not worth their value in scrap to multimillion-dollar machinery; some owners want to drive them as much as possible, others won't roll them any further than the garage door. In most cases, any insurance on a classic vehicle begins with a guess about its value, and one owner's chromed wheels and nitrous-injection system is another's crime against history.
About four years ago, State Farm insurance agents noted a growing demand for such policies. The nation's largest insurer runs a Vehicle Research Facility in Bloomington, Ill., that studies auto repair techniques, and took it upon itself to explain the nuances of classic cars to its agents. Tom Hollenstain, the research administrator for the facility, said while the group mulled building a couple of vehicles to show the difference between restored and modified, the shop manager had the brainstorm to combine everything into one vehicle, split down the middle.
The build began with the discovery of a 1968 Camaro among the thousands of totaled vehicles that pass through State Farm's hands every year. "It was one of those cars that looked good from far, but was far from good," said Hollenstain, after suffering an engine fire that blew out the windshield and melted the dash.
Working around other projects off and on for nearly 3 1/2 years, the shop slowly built its double-sided muscle car. The driver's side of the Camaro received a show-quality restoration back to factory original state -- from the seat covers to the frame rails. The passenger's side was given the kind of rebuild that often draws inspiration from whatever twelve pack's on sale at the corner liquor store -- with sloppy body filler, odd-sized wheels and massive air brakes. Even the engine gets a split treatment; one side has an aluminum head, the other cast-iron as GM intended.
In the middle, State Farm's builders carefully melded the hood, grille and paint of the original with that from a Camaro SS, and kept the line razor-sharp through the vehicle. Outside of the upholstery work, "the car was entirely built by the four staffers here," says Hollenstain.
The half-and-half Camaro will run and move, but not very well, thanks to mismatched brakes; State Farm plans to keep using it as a training tool and advertisement for its classic car policies at auto shows nationwide -- and a quiet testament to four car enthusiasts who made a statement about the world of classic cars on company time.
Photos: State Farm via Flickr