- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

In November 1968 fast-talking Mike Thompson accomplished what every teen-age boy wished he could.

While a high school student he managed to convince his parents of the wisdom of buying him a new 1969 Z28 Camaro. The sporty Chevrolet was rally green accented with wide white racing stripes.

As was the custom in those days, cars were kept only three or four years before being traded for a newer set of wheels.

A quarter of a century later Mr. Thompson, now owner of a pair of Mobil service stations in Silver Spring, began to regret having sold his original Camaro and started to search for a replacement.

After chasing dead-end leads across the country for more than a year, Mr. Thompson found his dream car in Catonsville, Md.

The garnet red Z28 Camaro with black racing stripes had been sold originally in Baltimore. It was one of 19,014 of the Z28 Camaros built in the 1969 model year. Each one sold for a base price of $2,726. All of the original Z28 Camaros were available for the street, but were really aimed at the racetrack.

The Camaro, with the distinctive crease lines atop the wheel openings, had been repainted once and had been dressed up with optional brightwork.

Mr. Thompson was given an opportunity to test drive the long dormant car. "It was like I had never been gone," he recalls.

He quickly paid for the Camaro and drove his 3,050-pound car, on its 108-inch wheelbase, to his Ashton, Md., home.

The first year was spent enjoying the car and doing research to learn what it would take to restore it and where to locate the parts.

In 1993, when Mr. Thompson was comfortable with the project, the Camaro was disassembled.

The majority of the restoration work was accomplished in his two-car garage.

For the better part of a year, according to Pam Thompson, her husband spent every free moment in the garage with his Camaro.

"The kids and I would go out to the garage and visit," Mrs. Thompson says. She knew her husband always listened to a specific radio station as he worked on the Camaro. On Valentine's Day Mrs. Thompson had the radio announcer broadcast the message: "Mike, leave the garage and go inside the house. Your wife has something for you."

Astonished, Mr. Thompson went into the house to find his wife with a replacement of his long lost wedding ring.

The car's well-preserved interior is highlighted by the three-spoke rosewood steering wheel. Otherwise, most of the black interior is original with the exception of the carpet, headliner and the driver's bucket seat.

A four-speed Muncie transmission with an original Hurst shifter protrudes from the floor.

After all the extraneous trim parts installed by the previous owner were removed, Mr. Thompson returned the car to the base-model exterior it had when it left the factory more than 30 years ago.

He reports that the original 8,000 rpm tachometer redlines at 6,000 but he says it will go to 7,500 without blowing. Of course that knowledge comes from his experience with a Camaro 30 years ago.

Previously driven 52,000 miles, Mr. Thompson's vehicle is now approaching 57,000 miles.

Now that the Chevrolet Camaro is better than new, he drives the car only if weather conditions permit.

"On the highway I can get six or eight mpg," he says, "if I keep my foot out of it."

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