Cars and Conversation

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Lanny Gasaway’s muscle cars are fast – at opening doors for a greater purpose

One is a family cruiser. The other is a date car.

They both have a bigger purpose, however: They are conversation starters that allow Lanny Gasaway to be a witness for Christ to some who he might not otherwise be able to reach.

The Pleasant Site resident is the owner of a true split-grill 1970 Camaro RS and a 1972 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. While the Camaro is modified from its original state, the Corvette is about as original as a 47-year-old car can be.

He acquired the Camaro in 2000. He had been looking for a true RS for quite some time when a friend happened upon this one.

“Everyone thinks the ‘69 Camaros are rare, and they are, but you just about can’t find the 70 big-mouth Camaro,” Gasaway said. “You just see so few. I’ve had a lot of people try to buy it from me, but that one has a home. It’s my prize car. That’s the one that will stay with me, Lord willing.”

The only thing he hasn’t modified on the Camaro is the interior.

Gasaway and his brother built a 454 big-block V8 engine specifically for the RS, replacing the car’s stock 350 V8. The 454 produces between 500 and 600 horsepower. “It’s a stout old car. It’s a good street car, a good cruiser, one you could drive anywhere.”

The beautiful deep blue color paint job on the car is the work of his brother, Scotty, of Belmont. 

“It was a nice car before,” Gasaway said. “We painted it blue and put the stripes on it. We had to put a larger hood on it because we put so much motor in it. I wanted (the scoop) one size smaller; I wanted it to look a little more street. But once we got it on there I liked it, so I kept it.”

So what’s the secret to detecting a true RS from one that’s been modified to resemble a 1970 RS? Look at the nose.

“The tale-tell item of a true RS is the round parking light,” he said. “A lot of times what you’ll see is an old Camaro with the tiny split bumpers, but what it won’t have is the extra three inches of a nose extension, and it wont have the round light; it’ll have a rectangle parking light (below the bumper). What that means is the car originally came out with a straight bumper all the way across the front.”

As it left the dealer

The Camaro’s stablemate is a factory original 1972 Corvette Stingray. It’s never been touched, other than a paint job somewhere in the past five decades.  Gasaway bought the car from a museum in Illinois. It has very low mileage for its age. This particular specimen sports a Steel Cities Gray paint color, and has a T-top roof and removable back glass.

“Just the way I like it,” Gasaway said. “It’s like a time machine; it feels like you just drove a 1972 off the lot. It was somebody’s baby.

“I had actually been looking for one of them, a good one, all my life,” Gasaway said of the Vette. “My wife and I drove to Chicago and bought this one a few years back from a museum.” It only had between 60,000 and 70,000 miles on it when he bought it. It’s got more than 70,000 miles on it now. “It’s a great driver. It doesn’t get abused at all. It never has.”

This Stingray’s features – or lack thereof – make it a rarity. It lacks power steering and power brakes, and has a four-speed manual transmission. “The 454 and the four speed make it rare,” Gasaway said. “It’s Steel Cities Gray. You don’t see that that much.” There’s another feature that sparks conversations: a seemingly useless key hole on the back between the tail lights. It begs mystery because there is no deck lid. The purpose it served, as it turns out, was as part of a security system built into the cars at that time.

This model features split front and rear chrome bumpers, and 1972 was the last year that feature appeared on the Corvette. In 1973 they only came with chrome bumpers on the rear. In 1974, chrome disappeared from the Corvette’s fascia for good.

The car’s originality continues out front with the enormous engine.

“It’s got a lot of torque. They didn’t have an enormous amount of horsepower back in the early 1970s, but it’s got between 400 and 500 lbs. feet of torque, so it’s strong,” Gasaway said.

The cars say a lot about Gasaway’s taste in automotive genre.

“I’ve had newer Corvettes through the years, but I always wanted an old one. There’s just something about vintage classic American muscle. There’s a nostalgia there you can’t get in a brand new car. These days my car habits are all old school.”

He and Heather take them out on special occasions or to dinner sometimes. They and their two daughters can fit in the Camaro, with its back seat. The Corvette, a tight two-seater, is reserved for dates. 

These two cars stay in their garage, while their daily drivers sit out in the elements.

“I tell Heather, ‘if you’re cold, they’re cold.’ I keep a heater on them.”

Not about competition

Gasaway has entered the Camaro and a 1985 Chevrolet pickup the couple own into a few car shows, but it isn’t for the reason some might think. Gasaway has a different kind of winning in mind: soul winning.

“To be honest I’ve never been about the competition when it comes to these cars,” he said. “I’m more about the conversation. I love the people I meet. I’m a Christian, and I love to be able to use these cars as an open door to talk about Him. I’ve had these cars most of my life and all of my Christian life, and I’ve always had it in mind that these cars open doors. You can’t drive one of these cars without a stranger coming up to you and talking to you.”