Updated: Nov 21, 2022
After years of myths and speculation, the rumors are true: a single 2001 Intimidator SS Camaro convertible was surreptitiously created by Matt Murphy’s GMMG team.
The unauthorized droptop, identified by Murphy as car number 13, was unveiled at this year's 23rd Annual All GM Show, presented by Berger Chevrolet, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since being created at GMMG's facility over two decades ago, the Camaro has never been publicly displayed, instead being tucked away and far out of sight.
The car is part of the 2001 Intimidator SS Camaro program, initiated by the legendary NASCAR competitor, Dale Earnhardt. Following Berger Chevrolet's lead with their popular Berger SS Camaro program a year earlier, Earnhardt commissioned Matt Murphy and his crew to build 100 modified 2001 SS Camaros.
ISS: Package Contents - Exterior
All of the vehicles were to be black coupes and up-fitted with package contents like chambered exhaust mufflers with stainless tips, a carbon fiber air-box, ball-milled brake rotors, American Racing 200S alloy wheels with painted 'Magnetallic Grey' spokes and a front grille insert highlighted with a retro 'SS' badge.
With the performance upgrades, horsepower was rated at 381, a numeral with special meaning to Earnhardt. The racecar he drove for Richard Childress Racing bore his iconic number 3 while his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park who drove for Earnhardt’s team, piloted cars bearing numbers 8 and 1.
Each also received a painted matte black taillight panel with chromed Camaro lettering, program badges and a 'Magnetallic Grey' hood stinger and deck stripe graphic.
ISS: Package Contents - Interior
Inside the cabin, embroidered floor mats were added along with items like a numbered cloisonné on the center console, an output badge on the center stack and a rearview mirror with compass and auto dimming functionality. A personalized touch was a Bright Argent silver gauge insert signed by Earnhardt himself.
The package also included a fitted car cover with the Intimidator SS logo. Each car was numbered with numeral graphics applied to the rearview mirror and on the base of the windshield, matching the number presented on the console cloisonné.
As was the norm per GMMG protocols, each received a numbered brass door tag identifying them as having passed through the speed shop.
Sales & Distribution
After the upgrades were added, the vehicles left GMMG's shop in Marietta, Georgia, and were transported and exclusively sold through Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet in Newton, North Carolina. The standard price was $40,381, another subtle reference to the horsepower callout.
During the development phase, Earnhardt instructed Murphy to intentionally skip car number 13. With it out, it remains unclear if the ISS run would have included 99 cars or expanded to 101 numbered cars to fit the expected 100 car total.
Sadly, Earnhardt's tragic crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 on February 18th brought things to a screeching halt. As such, only 85 Camaros were officially created for the program with just 33 receiving a signed instrument panel insert. It's likely due to issues sourcing that quantity of coupes, T-Tops were also utilized.
Car #13 Origins
Car #13's story begins in December 2001. Sometime in the month, Murphy reached out to Berger sales associate, Dennis Barker, in search of a new SS Camaro convertible. One (equipped with a six-speed manual transmission) was located at nearby Feldman Chevrolet, in Novi, Michigan. They received the car in September. It was transferred to Berger with 69 miles on the odometer where on December 28th Murphy bought it for $28,500.54.
Murphy brought the car to Georgia where he likely drove it occasionally or used it to log test miles. When he sold it years later, the Camaro's odometer showed 2,844 miles.
According to GMMG records, in August of 2002 it was logged in the shop's system and given the Intimidator SS treatment. It was also identified as car #13 and given the accompanying numeral graphics and console badge.
Matt also gave it a brass door tag bearing '16003': 1 for its model year as a 2001, 6 for its LS6 upgrade and 003 likely a reference to Earnhardt's iconic race number.
It also received a unique powertrain upgrade, having its stock LS1 V8 engine exchanged for an LS6 V8 engine, likely sourced from a surplus of GMMG's ZL1 Supercar Camaro program. The 381 horsepower callout on the hood graphic was not updated to reflect the bump in output.
The vehicle did receive a signed gauge insert. It's been said Matt discovered it years after the program had ended, stuck behind another unsigned insert. He then added to his convertible.
Another bespoke touch was a 'by Berger' badge on the rear panel.
From there, the next known timeline milestone is an underhood signature by Murphy in February of 2008. He signed his name and date in silver ink on the passenger side strut tower. It's presumed this was around when he sold it to an outside customer as part of an effort to raise funds for his then struggling business.
By then the 4th-generation Camaro was long out of production (ending in 2002). Facing mounting financial woes and with numerous unfinished projects, GMMG later closed in 2011.
The car quietly resurfaced in the winter of 2022 when it was acquired by its present owner on Valentine's Day before making its official public debut this weekend at the Camaro-focused car show in the Wolverine State.
Status & Legacy
With true 1 of 1 status, this Camaro remains as the sole convertible from the entire 86 car run of 2001 Earnhardt Intimidator SS Camaros built by GMMG and sold through Earnhardt Chevrolet, in Newton, NC.
It was not commissioned or authorized by Dale Earnhardt, sold through his dealership, or its existence known about, with the rogue droptop highlighting the fast and loose protocols employed by the GMMG team in their all-out pursuit to build any modified Camaro, sometimes bending, breaking, or overlooking rules along the way.
As it sits today, there is no denying its status as a GMMG-built Camaro nor its inclusion in the EISS story.