This Shakespearean Actor Loves Muscle Cars and Redneck Trucks

Shakespeare is dead, but Christian Camargo—the lead role in the Bard’s “Pericles”—has a thoroughly American taste in cars.

byBenjamin Preston|
This Shakespearean Actor Loves Muscle Cars and Redneck Trucks

William Shakespeare died 400 years ago this week, and over the years that have slipped away since his passing, the playwright's name has been elevated to godlike status. He stands far above other literary giants of the English language, and is credited for turns of phrase—"All the world's a stage," "To be, or not to be," "Fair is foul, and foul is fair"—that have become so commonplace today as to go unnoticed.

A man who knows more Shakespeare quotes than you is Christian Camargo, an actor who recently played the starring role in Shakespeare's Pericles at the Theater for a New Audience, in Brooklyn. Clad in the garb of the ancient Greek king for whom the play is named, he uttered his lines in a voice packed with emotion and saturated with archaic English tones.

One sin, I know, another doth provoke;

rMurder's as near to lust as flame to smoke:

rPoison and treason are the hands of sin,

rAy, and the targets, to put off the shame:

rThen, lest my lie be cropp'd to keep you clear,

rBy flight I'll shun the danger which I fear.

Not long after the show, Camargo emerged from the dressing room into the theater's lobby, dressed like anyone else who might be walking down a Brooklyn sidewalk. It came to my attention that he was into cars, and naturally, I wanted to know what sort.

"Muscle cars, man," he said in broad American English, a product of his Westchester County, N.Y. upbringing. "I'm a child of the Seventies; I like that stuff."

As it turns out, the guy who played a Shakespearean king also likes to hoon his old Chevy pickup trucks in the California desert, where he lives and has a lot of garage space. He also has a drag race-ready '71 Oldsmobile Cutlass, an '89 Toyota Land Cruiser and a tubular-framed Chevy desert truck he calls the Bronco Eater.

"I guess I'm turning into more of a redneck desert guy, but with an appreciation for the finer things, too," he said, with a nod to his immersion in Shakespeare's work.

Back in the late '90s, Camargo and a friend opened a car restoration shop in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Their focus was 1969-75 models (although they did restore one '59 Cadillac), and their method was to travel around in desert communities and scour the local classifieds for rust-free driver cars.

"It was the early days of eBay Motors and the Internet," he said. "We got some great deals, and there was always a story, which I loved."

For example, Camargo and his business partner bought a '74 Ford Torino from a guy who had been saving one, for years, for his first-born. The man's daughter wasn't interested – she wanted a Miata – so the guy, brokenhearted, had no choice but to sell.

None of the cars they sold were ground-up restorations. Camargo said they were all good driver cars that they "fixed up" to sell. As an added bonus, all of them came equipped with 8-track tape players. Part of the charm of owning a Seventies car, he said.

At the same time he was running the restoration business, Camargo was also getting acting gigs. The acting career took off – including a starring role in what he described as a bad car show, for MTV – and he and his friend ended up selling the shop.

Now, Camargo's automotive interests are more personal. He's looking for a new project – amateur drag racing ended up being a little too expensive, so he might want a milder version of his '71 Olds – but says he'd like to just keep something for a while.

"I'm on a mission to honor the one-owner philosophy; keeping a car for a long time rather than getting something new," he said. "You take this car that's been around for 40 years – yeah it gets worse gas mileage than the new stuff, but the amount of waste you create from building a new car is crazy."

If you're into old cars, keeping something old as your driver is a solid idea. After all, those cars aren't getting any younger, and you don't want to end up like Shakespeare's King Richard II, who said, "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."

Don't be that guy. Be a winner. Be like Pericles.