"Grim Reaper" and "Ghost Rider" are just two of the two dozen modified Chevrolet muscle cars that will delight children and high-performance car enthusiasts alike when the 5th Gen Camaros of the Carolinas displays its colorful Camaros during the Sept. 18-21 AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Chevrolet introduced the Camaro in 1967 as a response to Ford's popular Mustang. The small but powerful cars gained a loyal following over the next 35 years and through four different body designs, but Chevy canceled the sporty model in 2002. In 2006, the company surprised everyone at the North American International Auto Show in Michigan by unveiling a retro-styled Camaro coupe built on one of General Motors' Australian car chassis. From its evil grin in front to its four heavy-lidded taillamp lenses, the concept was a near clone of the 1969 Camaro, and fans were practically begging dealers to accept their deposit checks for the inevitable production model.

Scott Stewart, of Statesville, North Carolina, was one of those early buyers when the fifth-generation Camaro arrived in showrooms as a 2010 model. Stewart and his wife had dated in high school when he owned a 1971 Camaro, and seeing the fifth-gen car depicted in the 2007 "Transformers" movie put his desire into high gear. He picked up his ride - an Inferno Orange coupe with black stripes; the 312-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6; and six-speed automatic transmission - in February 2010 and immediately began transforming it into the Grim Reaper.

"I've put a lot of modifications into the car," Stewart said. "Some of it is trim for dress-up, like the chrome parts under the hood, the Lingenfelter racing pedals, or the customized brake caliper covers. Some of the upgrades are for performance, like the Doug Thorley headers and Hurst shifter. But the change I'm proudest of would have to be the mural under the hood of the Grim Reaper, which is how the car got its name. Kids see it and think that's the coolest thing."

A few months after the Grim Reaper came into his life, Stewart was at Cars and Coffee Charlotte, a monthly, informal get-together for auto enthusiasts, when he and 20 other Camaro owners decided to form the 5th Gen Camaros of the Carolinas car club. Not surprisingly, Stewart is currently the group's president.

The club's roster has grown to 178 members - some who heard about the group through friends, and some, like Butch Yates, who were "recruited" on the side of the road. Yates, of Gastonia, North Carolina, was driving his Inferno Orange V-6 coupe on vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when a member chased him down to tell him about the 5th Gen club.

Caught up in the club's enthusiasm for customizing, Yates drew inspiration from the Nicolas Cage movie, "Ghost Rider." The car's many modifications now include an engine compartment decorated in stunningly realistic flames, with the Ghost Rider skull at the center of a blazing mural.

"I bought the car because I liked the retro look," Yates said. "I always wanted a Camaro but could never afford it until this model came out. Now, it goes everywhere with me."

5th Gen members are very active at car shows, cruise-ins, and driving events, and they organize the North Carolina Camaro Gathering in Concord each April to raise money for Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem. Last April's event raised $4,000 and attracted Camaros of all generations from 12 states as far away as Washington.

The 5th Gen Camaros of the Carolinas has not missed an AutoFair since its first in spring of 2011, and the group has 24 of its most colorful creations set to appear at the Sept. 18-21 event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The AutoFair features nearly 50 car club displays and more than 10,000 vendor spaces offering an array of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway. In addition, up to 200 cars will be auctioned by Dealer Auctions Inc., and kids can enjoy face-painting, bounce houses, and other games and entertainment in the Play Zone.

Hours for the Sept. 18-21 AutoFair are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 per day for adults and children 13 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Fans who buy three tickets get the fourth day free. Parking for the event is $5. For more information on the four-day event, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.

To purchase tickets, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267), or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.

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