Military and special operations vehicles can be curious, seemingly impractical things, often hastily cobbled together to meet a need.
From James Bond-esque amphibious vehicles to the bolt together look of the legendary ‘VW Thing’ to the Vespa 150 TAP, which was part scooter and part bazooka. Something that perhaps has more in common with Mad Max than James Bond is the Camaro ‘Ghost Car’. The muscle car was put into service to deliver aid in the form of food and medicines to civilians during the Bosnian War, which lasted from April 1992 – December 1995.
The Ghost Car has a film script-like air to its beginnings: It all started when a Danish ex-soldier who had served with the elite Jægerkorpset called Helge Meyer had the urge to find a way to help civilians caught up in the crossfire of war in what was once known as Yugoslavia. At the time, Meyer was very aware of the Balkan crisis being Security Chief for a newspaper in Neu Isenburg, operating just a few km from Rhein-Main Air Base.
Of course, the UN was already delivering to crucial aid, but the conditions made the trucks slow and they struggled to cope. The result was many losses and many damaged which meant less aid getting through. Meyer noted these problems and put his mind to coming up with a viable option. His solution was simple and effective; avoid slow moving trucks and use something more nimble, something stealthier. He put his ideas to the American Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany, and came up with the unlikely scenario of a 1979 Chevrolet Camaro being used as a military vehicle.
The stock Chevy was uprated to withstand the rigours of war, with that striking Mad Max battering ram and mine clearing blade, reinforced Kevlar armour plating panels fitted to the outside and the underneath. It also had ground to air radio, body heat detectors and a night vision system and run-flat tyres. The Camaro Ghost Car also had steel plating on the windows and infrared absorbing paint to avoid radar detection and was also fitted with a nitrous oxide system. The standard 5.7-litre V8 had its bhp uprated from 182bhp to 220bhp – with a jump to 400bhp when nitrous was applied.
And yes, Helge Meyer was himself the driver, even once taking a 9mm round in the head, which lodged harmlessly in his protective Kevlar helmet. Meyer and the Camaro were unarmed – all that came between Meyer and an untimely end were his Camaro, protective clothing and a Bible.
With the Ghost Car all ready to go, the soldiers based at the Rhein-Main Air Base raised an impressive $12,000 to buy toys, medical supplies and food and clothing. This was packed into the Camaro to the tune of 400kg per journey. Once loaded up, the nifty but not so quiet aid support vehicle would supply the residents of Vukovar in the north with much needed supplies. Suffice to say, they would hear the V8 engine and get to know the distinctive roar of the muscle car and be there to greet it when it arrived, helping to speed up the delivery process even more.
Meyer delivered aid both during the day and the night, and he found himself involved in a few car chases too. Luckily, that V8 engine would always get him out of trouble. Indeed, while the Camaro was clearly taking on a huge increase in weight, it could still manage to reach 125mph in around 13 seconds, making it able to outrun any problems it might encounter.
When not in action, the car was pretty much hidden in plain site in various back roads, thanks to Meyer’s good knowledge of the area. While resting, the Ghost Car lived up to its name with the infrared absorbing paint keeping it the off radar.
You might be wondering what might have become of such a botched together one-off running the gauntlet of a war zone. Well, the Camaro Ghost Car has been put out to grass and is still owned by Helge Meyer. He’s changed the colour to a far less stealthy orange these days, and the Ghost Car now has more than 62,000 miles on the clock.
Images: warhistoryonline.com Credit: Helge Meyer
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