Brandon part of promotion for new Chevy Camaro

Brandon residents got to give the new 2010 Chevy Camaro a try at the AMC Regency Theatre.

SKIP O\u2019ROURKE | Times\uFEFF

Brandon residents got to give the new 2010 Chevy Camaro a try at the AMC Regency Theatre.

Marty Berkowitz came out because he's always wanted one.

A television report drew Joanie Wilson to the event. Well, that and plans to see Up in 3D.

Joseph Masiello comes from a racing family and always has loved cars.

Christopher Phillip came all the way from Clearwater to see if General Motors delivered on all its promises.

And Jodie McMillen? Well she falls into the same category as many of the folks who ventured to the AMC Regency Theatre on Tuesday to test drive the new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.

"I have a heavy foot," laughed McMillen, 30.

More than 100 people stepped up on a hot day to take a spin in a hot car. Car enthusiasts had waited years to see what GM designers crafted. Fans of the new movie Transformers 2 wanted to get a sneak preview of both car and picture, which the theater screened that night.

Others came upon the promotion by chance but left impressed.

Yet every Tampa Bay resident can boast of bringing the Camaro. GM officials picked the area and Paramount Pictures specifically chose Brandon because of the diversity and down-to-earth nature of the community.

As the car company looks to come out of bankruptcy, it has targeted five communities for special grass roots promotions: Minneapolis; San Diego; Long Island; Austin, Texas; and Tampa Bay.

"We started this last year with some experimental ideas," said Peter J. Ternes, director of communications for sales, service and marketing. "Based on that, we picked five cities to broaden this type of community-based outreach."

Tampa Bay's diversity in terms of age, income and race played factors, but so did the fact it's not a "trophy city" like New York, Miami or Hollywood. GM wants to have similar promotions at local chamber gatherings, neighborhood association meetings and other events.

Choosing Brandon for this particular promotion made sense to Masiello, a 29-year-old muscle car maven from Riverview.

"It wouldn't have worked in Miami, where everybody has fancier cars," Masiello said. "They would have test drove the Camaro and then drove off in a Ferrari. Here, you have real people who like real cars."

That assessment appeared spot on. Raves came from most of the drivers, but these folks have a passion for sports cars. Whether you're talking about a Camaro, Ford Mustang or Dodge Charger, America has long been infatuated with the muscle car.

Plant City's Alan Colvin said the first picture he ever drew as a child was of a car, and 30 years ago he owned two '69 Camaros.

Wilson, 48, owned Camaros back in her 20s, and her husband, Jeff, once owned a '67 model.

"There are people out there driving a Corolla but wanting a Camaro," Masiello said. "Not everyone has one, not everyone can afford one, but when I could afford one, that was it. I got it.

"They make you happy. It's like a vice."

Phillip, 44, concurred and said the new Camaro will only fuel those passions.

"It's a modern interpretation of an American classic."

Most of the drivers echoed that sentiment and expressed a sense of optimism about the car and about GM's chances. Berkowitz, 52, said he may be a few years from buying a Camaro, but he remains keenly interested.

"Hopefully, the car will still be around," Berkowitz said. "Hopefully, GM will still be around.

"I hope it puts them back in the black."

Six area dealers await the delivery of 154 Camaros. Each dealer reportedly has a waiting list.

So if GM does bounce back, our area can say it played a role.

That's all I'm saying.

Brandon part of promotion for new Chevy Camaro 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 5:30am]

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