The parking lot was empty with the exception of a 12,000-horsepower Chevy “Bowtie”. The massive expanse of tarmac was usually filled with cars and trucks belonging to the workers that assemble Chevrolet’s iconic Camaro hot rod at the state-of-the-art assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont.
Not the morning of June 10, 2011, though.
Preparations for clearing the lot had begun a month earlier with announcements to plant workers that half of their massive parking lot would be closed for a few days.
So, the day before — June 9 — we fenced off most of the points of entry, coned off the rest and spent a couple of hours building the yellow outlined Chevrolet logo with 30 brand-spanking new Camaros.
With the sun about to rise, a dozen traffic cones were strategically positioned in an effort to visualize what to do when 700 more Camaros arrived at the parking lot. The first ones began to trickle in at 7 a.m. By 11 a.m., Camaro owners from Texas to Nova Scotia needed to jockey their cars into position for an aerial photograph of our staging masterpiece.
The goal of the effort, part of the 23rd annual Camaro Nationals hosted by the Ontario Camaro Club, was to establish a new Guinness World Record for the largest car mosaic.
I’ve set four Guinness records over the years for long-distance driving and although my involvement with this record attempt was limited to being the staging marshal, it felt good to be part of the plan.
The strategy was to build a frame of new Camaros in the shape of the Chevrolet “Bowtie” logo. They had to be spaced and carefully lined up with exit options for each car. No trial runs, the first attempt was the call for action.
Now, anyone who knows how to drive should have a decent idea how to park a car. Drive into a driveway, back into a spot at the supermarket or parallel park in front of a coffee shop. No sweat. But there’s a significant difference between “parking” a car and “staging” several hundred cars.
After 30 years in the business of designing and producing media and promotional events, I’ve been around the track with vehicle staging. But 700 of them? In four hours? With 700 different drivers? Without any practice?
The first few Camaros trickled in, beautiful first-generation models with tight-sounding V8 engines. I began a line four paces from the north side of the Chevy logo. Soon, two-way radios were crackling about the dozens of Camaros lining up at the south entrance to the parking lot. The staging race was on.
By 10:40 a.m., nearly 700 Camaros of all years had been staged. A few minutes later a small plane was overhead. I knew there was a photographer on board taking pictures to send to Guinness Superlatives.
At day’s end, thousands of Camaro owners and fans had toured Oshawa’s Camaro assembly plant. Outside they drooled over the cars and shopped in the vendor market before the staging masterpiece evaporated as hundreds of Camaros were driven to homes and area hotels. And the next two mornings my humble crew and I were back at the empty lot at sunrise, waiting to do it over again.