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2002 Hot Rod Camaro #1986 Returns to Berger Chevrolet for Homecoming Reveal

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

After decades overseas in Norway, the globe-trotting muscle car returned to a proper all-American celebration.

2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet

Arriving in time for the celebration of Hot Rod’s magazine’s milestone 75th anniversary, the farthest traveling and highest output 2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro has returned stateside from the far northern shores of Norway for the first time since new.


Commissioned by Berger Chevrolet with package upfitting handled by GMMG, the globe-trotting car #1986 was revealed in front of eager onlookers at the dealership’s 24th All GM Car Show.

Berger Chevrolet car show
Crowds gather for the 24th All GM Show (Image: Berger)
Berger Chevrolet Hot Rod Edition Camaro reveal
Moments before #1986 arrived. (Image: Berger)

Program Background


In 2002 and following other successful runs of modified 4th-generation Camaro programs, Berger offered their Hot Rod Magazine Edition Camaro program. This run of 38 cars (2 red prototypes followed by 36 production vehicles) harkened to the storied publication’s 1967 Camaro SS test car, honoring the concept in the modern age.


Each was identified and marked with a year from 1967 through 2002, connecting to each year of Camaro production to date. After either assembly by Chevrolet or sourcing from other dealers, Berger had them shipped to GMMG’s facility in Marietta, Georgia for package install before returning to Berger’s showroom for final sale.


2002 Hot Rod Camaro by Berger Chevrolet and GMMG
A trio of Hot Rod Edition Camaros with their current owners.

The Phase 1 (380HP/400TQ) package contents included items like chrome Cragar SS wheels, Eibach lowering springs, a ‘hockey stick’ stripe graphic, a new grille insert with red bowtie emblem, and a painted body color top hoop.


Inside the cabin, the seats received two-tone leather upholstery along with a silver gauge face insert, embroidered floor mats, and a black Hurst shift knob.


Numerous accents on the cars were red, connecting to the Bolero Red paint of the Hot Rod’s classic test car. Another nod to it were large HOT ROD TEST CAR door graphics, coming in either white or black.

2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG at Berger Chevrolet

Origins: #1986


Car #1986 was built at GM’s Saint-Therese plant in Special Service coupe trim (RPO B4C) and purchased by Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet, in Newton, North Carolina. It was painted Navy Blue Metallic and optioned with items like a remote 12-disc CD changer, Monsoon Premium sounds system with amplifier, and the Hurst short throw shifter.


Boasting a new car price of $25,705, it was acquired by Berger and then delivered to Bill Heard Chevrolet in Kennesaw, Georgia before the short journey to nearby GMMG. After receiving the Phase 1 upfit, it headed north to Berger Chevrolet.


With the end of the calendar year fast approaching, just days before Christmas of 2002 it was purchased by Nils, an automotive enthusiast and racer in Norway. He was motivated after hearing the news 4th-generation Camaro production was ending and the realization this may be his last chance to acquire any of these pony cars new. Handling the transaction was HRE Camaro specialist, Dennis Barker.


2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet
Former Berger Chevrolet GMMG Camaro sales, Dennis Barker
2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG and Berger Chevrolet
Participants received this official windshield graphic & numbered signed certificate.

Fjord-ward Bound


Ocean transport was arranged but would have to wait until after a mandatory six-month waiting period per intercontinental new vehicle sales. Arrangements were made for the cross-Atlantic journey with Barker assisting in securing long-term indoor storage for the vehicle.


Leadfoot Nils seized the downtime, using it as an opportunity to return the car to GMMG for Phase 2 upgrades along with a line lock (totaling an additional $8,350 of options).


All modifications were completed in the Spring of 2003. From there Nil’s vehicle was loaded in a shipping container (along with a peer’s 2002 Dodge Viper) at the Garden City Terminal in Savannah, Georgia, in summer and shipped east across the Atlantic to its new Norwegian home.


More Power


Thoroughly enjoying the new acquisition and in support of the model, in July of 2004 Nils traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend the F-Body Reunion. There, he met GMMG owner Matt Murphy along with his staff in person and learned of their most ambitious project yet, the Berger Supercar Dick Harrell Edition Camaro. In addition to a radical wide-body treatment, these vehicles would feature a never-before-seen Phase 3 427ci V8 upgrade.


Set on securing that same powerplant for his #1986, Nils and the GMMG team spent months conversing about potential upgrades. The result wasn’t the Phase 3 but rather an over-the-top Phase 4 454ci 680hp engine.


2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet

Supporting it would be other go-fast upgrades like Kooks headers, chromoly roll cage, Nitto drag radial tires, SS rear spoiler, modified Z06 brakes, and rear slotted brake rotors. Originally, the stock Z28 B4C hood was going to be exchanged for an SS hood but then switched to the cowl induction style from the wide-body Dick Harrell edition.


All parts were purchased in September and packaged in October into four crates totaling 1,500 pounds. The 454 was built at GMMG and installed in their white Camaro ‘test mule’ for local test driving.


The crates were then shipped to Norway for a never-before-seen onsite install and final tune by GMMG staff. The two tech’s visit took place November 11th through the 19th of 2005, with the pair flying (in first class at their firm request) from Atlanta to Oslo to connect with Nils and the car. After days of work, the unprecedented ‘Norway Install’ was complete, costing $13,995.


All told upgrade options totaling $61,360 were added, pushing the vehicle’s total price to a staggering $100,060.

2002 GMMG Hot Rod Edition Camaro by Berger Chevrolet
GMMG staff onsite in Norway for the Phase 4 upgrade. (Image: Wade Phillips)
2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet

Northern (Spot)Lights


While in the Land of the Midnight Sun, the fjord-pounding fiend caused quite a stir. Several automotive publications covered its story and radical build, including Bilsport, Amcar and Amcar Borsen, each favoring images of the car surrounded by big smokey burnouts.


In 2016 the car was sold to another Norwegian Camaro collector who continued to enjoy the one-of-a-kind American muscle car.


Berger-Bound


As Hot Rod magazine’s 75th anniversary year was kicking off, in the early winter of 2023 the present owner became ready to release the car. Connections were made with it being purchased and joining the South Carolina Collection. Transport was arranged for the vehicle to make the trek from Oslo back across the high seas to the historic Berger Chevrolet.


After arriving on U.S. soil, several updates were made, including reapplying white hood stripe graphics, in preparation for the car’s grand reveal at this year’s 24th All GM Show at Berger Chevrolet, held August 25th.


2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet
Shipping sheets remain fixed to the vehicle from it's recent journey.

Grand Reveal


In the weeks leading up to the event, the unveil was included in several advance media interviews including spotlights on eightWest and Fox 17 television broadcasts.




Remaining out of sight in the dealership's east parking lot, the presentation commenced at 10:30 am in the rear service hall. Amongst eager fans, showgoers and other GMMG Camaros, the car rumbled in before the awaiting crowd.


Its origins and travels were briefly told before remaining static for pictures, Berger staff interviews and up-close examinations.

2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet
2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet

HRE Gathering


From there, it joined the Hot Rod Edition Gathering, a group of 10 other HRE Camaros on display. These vehicles traveled in from around the Midwest to participate, composing the largest show group since new.


A special inclusion was PR1-T: one of the concept Hot Rod Trucks, an orange 2003 Silverado customized by GMMG and Berger Chevrolet. The hot hauler was equipped with items like a GM crate LS6 V8 engine with a Stage 2X upgrade, chrome American Racing wheels, and chambered exhaust.


2003 Berger Hot Rod Truck PR1T
PR1T was a prototype Hot Rod truck built by Berger. (Image: Wade Philips)
2002 Hot Rod Camaro by Berger Chevrolet and GMMG
The author with some of the participants in this year's Hot Rod Camaro Gathering
2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet
The author w/ former HRE Camaro sales, Dennis Barker & Matt Berger

HRE Gathering Gear

In conjunction with the reveal, special celebratory Hot Rod Gathering gear was created, including an official license plate listing all of the 2002 HRE Camaros (including the prototypes) in chronological order. The orange Hot Rod truck (that was present for the event) is also listed along with ghosted text showing Camaro's production from 1967 to 2002 and Berger's tagline of 'Prescriber Power'.


The plate was seen on car #1986 during the presentation and show and was installed on several other participating Hot Rod Edition Camaros onsite.


Other HRE Gathering gear was offered including a white and black clock and camping mug.


2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG and Berger Chevrolet
The celebratory HRE Gathering license plate was displayed on #1986.
2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG and Berger Chevrolet
Part of the HRE Gathering gear included a camping mug, seen here with the HRE Test Truck.
2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG and Berger Chevrolet
Author Matt Avery documenting the HRE Gathering participants..

Wheeled Wanderlust


With global allure and commemoration of numerous automotive milestones, #1986 pays homage to the red-hot page-turning legacy of Hot Rod magazine, Berger Chevrolet's illustrious performance heritage, and the Camaro community’s insatiable passion for going all-out.


Having journeyed thousands of miles from the northern fjords of Norway back to the heartland of American Michigan-made muscle, this cherished bowtie classic ignites any driver’s wanderlust and conjures up countless transcontinental escapades yet to come.

2002 Hot Rod Edition Camaro by GMMG #1986 at Berger Chevrolet

Post Event


The reveal of 1986 was also included in Berger Chevrolet's official recap video of the event and show which can be seen below.

 

Photos by Matt Shaw & Berger Chevrolet

Graphic resources provided by Vecteezy

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