Updated: Oct 8
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 iconic 2001 Intimidator SS Camaro program, initiated by the late legendary NASCAR competitor, Dale Earnhardt. Building on the success of Berger Chevrolet's popular Berger SS Camaro program from the previous year, Earnhardt commissioned Matt Murphy and his crew to create 100 modified 2001 SS Camaro coupes and T-Tops.
These cars would follow in the footsteps of the cosmetic-focused Championship Series (1994-1995) and Signature Series (1996-2000) Camaros offered by Earnhardt's dealership.
PRODUCTION RUN & RELATED VEHICLES
* - PR1, PR2
** - Convertible #13 & a 2002 Intimidator SS Camaro built for Kelley Earnhardt (thought to be identified as 'PR3')
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, total horsepower was officially rated at 381, a number combination 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 race cars bearing numbers 8 and 1.
Each of the Intimidator SS Camaros received a painted matte black taillight panel with chromed infill Camaro lettering, program badges, and a 'Magnetallic Grey' hood stinger and deck stripe graphic.
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 autographed by Earnhardt himself. It's been reported Murphy brought the initial batch of inserts to the 2001 Daytona 500 where Earnhardt signed them prior to the start of the race in his motorcoach, parked in the track in-field.
The remainder was to be purportedly signed after the race back onsite at his dealership.
SIGNED DASH INSERT BREAKDOWN
#01-28, #46, #50, #52, PR1, PR2
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 and connection to the racing competition numbers.
During the development phase of these cars, Earnhardt reportedly instructed Murphy to intentionally skip car number 13. It's been proposed this was due to Earnhardt's superstitious considerations of the often-thought unlucky number.
With its place out, it remains unclear if the planned Intimidator SS run would have included 99 cars or expanded to 101 numbered cars to fit the expected 100-car total. Car #003 was built for Earnhardt Sr. who also spent time driving PR1.
Sadly, Earnhardt's tragic crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 on February 18th, 2001, brought things to a screeching halt. As such, only 85 Camaros (82 in the official production run with 3 additional vehicles classified as 'Prototypes') were created for the program. All came in SS trim.
Just 33 received a signed instrument panel insert. With this convertible, a total of 86 Camaros are related to the Intimidator SS program.
Likely due to issues sourcing that quantity of coupes, T-Tops were also utilized for the run.
Production Run & Related Cars
* Bodystyle rumored to have been excluded by Earnhardt Sr. when developing the program
** Official run with related vehicles
*** Includes 2 Prototypes (PR1, PR2 ) & Kelley's 2002 example
Car #13 Origins
The story of Car #13 begins in December 2001, when Matt Murphy reached out to Berger sales associate, Dennis Barker, in search of a new SS Camaro convertible. Barker had been involved with prior GMMG Camaro programs that involved Berger Chevrolet, notable their 2000-2002 Berger SS Camaro runs.
An example equipped with a six-speed manual transmission was located at nearby Feldman Chevrolet in Novi, Michigan. They received the car in September. It was then transferred to Berger with only a reported 69 miles on the odometer. On December 28th, Murphy purchased it for $28,500.54. Sometime during this period, Murphy asked Berger Chevrolet salesman Dennis Barker to 'break it in' for him, adding a few hundred miles of light driving.
Murphy then brought the car to Georgia, where he likely drove it occasionally or used it to log test miles before its Intimidator SS upfitting. When he eventually sold it years later to a customer, the Camaro's odometer showed 2,844 miles.
According to GMMG records, in August of 2002, Car #13 was logged in the shop's system and given the Intimidator SS treatment. It was also identified as car #13 and adorned with the accompanying numeral graphics (fixed to the base of the windshield and rearview mirror) and numbered console badge.
Matt (or possibly someone from his team) also added his company's brass door tag bearing the number '16003'; '1' representing the car's 2001 model year, '6' signifying its LS6 upgrade, and '003' likely referencing Earnhardt's iconic race competition number.
#13 DOOR TAG ID
2001 model year
LS6 engine upgrade
Production sequence but likely altered to correlate to Earnhardt Sr.'s '3' race number
Car #13 received a unique powertrain upgrade, with its original LS1 V8 engine swapped out for an LS6 V8 engine, likely sourced from the surplus of GMMG's ZL1 Supercar Camaro program. However, the convertible's hood graphic with the 381 horsepower callout was not updated to reflect the increased output.
The vehicle also received an Earnhardt-signed silver gauge insert. Reportedly, Matt discovered it hidden behind another unsigned insert years after the Intimidator SS program ended and the run was distributed to customers.
After the discovery, he allegedly added it to his convertible as a special touch.
'By Berger' Badge - Car #13
Another bespoke touch Murphy added was a 'by Berger' badge, affixed on the passenger side of the rear panel. This was not typical for the run, being sourced and sold through Earnhardt Chevrolet, in Newton, N.C.
With collaboration on several other Camaro programs together, Murphy likely had easy access to the emblems and wanted it included.
'By Berger' Badge - Car #07
The only other 2001 Intimidator SS Camaro to receive this badge was Intimidator SS #07,
The vehicle was purchased by Berger Chevrolet from Earnhardt Chevrolet on April 30th, 2001, with a reported 25 miles on the odometer. When it arrived at Berger, the 'by Berger' badge was added to the driver's side of the rear panel.
The vehicle is also one of the 33 of the run to receive Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s signature on the gauge cluster insert.
Later in June of that year, it was sold to the late Floyd Garrett who put it on display in his Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Documentation shows car #07's travels from Earnhardt Chevrolet to Berger Chevrolet and subsequent owners.
The next notable event in the timeline of Car #13 is an underhood signature by Murphy in February of 2008. He signed his name and date in silver permanent ink on the passenger side strut tower.
This likely took place around the time when he sold it to a regular customer as part of an effort to raise funds for his struggling business.
By this point, the fourth-generation Camaro had been out of showrooms for several years, with production ending in 2002. Unfortunately, GMMG faced mounting financial difficulties and was later forced to close its doors in 2011, leaving several unfinished projects behind.
The car stayed in the shadows until quietly resurfacing in the winter of 2022 when it was acquired by its present owner on Valentine's Day.
Its next stop was its official public show debut this weekend at the Camaro-focused car show at Berger Chevrolet.
Status & Legacy
With true 1 of-1 status, this Camaro remains the sole convertible from the entire run of 2001 Earnhardt Intimidator SS Camaros built by GMMG and sold through Earnhardt Chevrolet, in Newton, NC.
This collector-grade car was not commissioned or authorized by Dale Earnhardt Senior, sold through his dealership, or its existence widely 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-assembled 4th-generation Camaro nor its inclusion in the Intimidator SS Camaro story.
It is documented and included in my Camaro Special Editions book.
Official Public Debut
The car made its official public debut at Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on August 27th at 10:30 am during a sunny morning presentation in the historic locale's lower delivery showroom.
Its arrival and presence at the show was kept hidden from participants with the vehicle remaining covered.
A Grand Unveil
Surrounded by a crowd of eager Camaro and Chevrolet enthusiasts, I shared several announcements related to the GMMG community. This included the upcoming Invitational Gallery at this year's Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, a word from the GMMG Registry, and an update regarding my new book, Camaro Special Editions. The project heavily profiles the cars built by GMMG and features a Berger Supercar Dick Harrell Edition Camaro on the cover.
All that led up to the unveiling of car #13. After sharing a brief overview of the vehicle, the car cover was pulled back and the droptop shown off. Guests then had the chance to see it up close and take pictures of the rogue GMMG build.
Click the video below to watch the live unveiling.
UPDATE: 5/23: Mecum Indy Bound
In the spring of 2023, the news was announced that Camaro Intimidator SS #13 was heading to Dana Mecum's 36th Original Spring Classic auction, held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
There, among 3,000 other collector and classic cars, this special 4th-gen GMMG-built Camaro crossed the auction block on Friday, May 19th. It did not sell but garnered a high bid of $90,000 - the highest recorded amount publicly offered for a 2001 Intimidator SS Camaro.
NOTE: The research into the 2001 Intimidator SS Camaro #13 and its origins is ongoing. Updates will be made as new information and details surface.