- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009

A couple of years after witnessing Ford’s sales success with the Mustang, General Motors design chief Bill Mitchell fought back with the Chevrolet Camaro in 1967. It was marketed by Chevrolet as “The Hugger.”

The American motoring public at the time was excited, but Michael Taylor was too busy to be excited because he was still a student in grade school. A quarter-century later he went about educating himself by shopping for a vintage Camaro he could restore.

In the autumn of 1993, Mr. Taylor answered an ad offering for sale a 1967 Camaro convertible in Edison, N.J. Over the telephone the son of the original owner described the Camaro to him, and he responded, “I’ll be right there.”

The Camaro had been wrecked and, with the entire front end smashed, it was parked in the owner’s garage. Yet despite the wreckage, one look was all it took for Mr. Taylor to go for the sale.

He had grown up in a family with automotive mechanical skills and knew that he could make the wrecked Camaro whole once more.

“I bought it on my birthday,” Mr. Taylor said. The next day he returned with a borrowed trailer, hauled the car to his home in nearby Mercerville, N.J., and unloaded it on the driveway, where it began leaking antifreeze all over.

“It was a diamond in the rough,” he said.

Papers that came with the 1967 Camaro show that the seller’s mother had purchased the car new. Extra cost options on the car included Power Glide transmission ($194.84), deluxe interior ($94.80), power steering ($84.30), AM radio ($57.40), power convertible top ($52.70), console ($47.40), white letter 14-inch tires ($31.35), “Bumble Bee” stripe ($28) and tinted windshield ($21). All those extras plus taxes brought the total up to $3,622.44. The original owner put $2,100 down and financed the remainder through General Motors Acceptance Corp. with monthly payments of $39.

Immediately after getting his 3,180-pound Camaro home, Mr. Taylor started to disassemble the damaged front end. Eventually a front frame clip from a salvage yard replaced the bent original. “I wanted to keep everything original,” he said.

With the front off the car, the engine that had powered the car for 138,000 miles was rebuilt, as was the automatic transmission. Evidence was discovered during the engine overhaul that it had been previously rebuilt, but incorrectly. New front fenders and a primered hood were installed while Mr. Taylor was busy stripping off several layers of paint from the rest of the body. “There must have been about 10 coats of paint,” he said.

The straightened Camaro was resprayed in the same Butternut Yellow hue it wore in 1967 when it left the factory. A black “Bumble Bee” stripe is wrapped around the front of the car. A new black top with a plastic rear window was installed, along with a replacement deluxe interior - black with white inlays. A new tinted windshield was located as a replacement for the original one, broken in the wreck.

Under the black dashboard is the heater, and at the top of the dashboard is a single speaker. In front of the driver is the 120-mph speedometer. Such a speed may actually be obtainable with the 350-cubic-inch, 210-horsepower V-8. A single two-barrel carburetor feeds fuel to the engine.

In the trunk at the other end of the Camaro is a full-size spare tire. The four tires on the ground are mounted on optional Rally wheels on a 108.1-inch wheelbase.

Most of the restoration took place in Mr. Taylor’s driveway within about three years. He reports that the fun of the project was working on the Camaro with his son. “It runs real well,” Mr. Taylor says. It sounds great too, since he installed a new exhaust system last summer.

In the time he has owned his Camaro he has added about 7,000 miles to the odometer. “After a lot of tender love and care,” Mr. Taylor says, “it is now a head turner.”

Currently, both father and son enjoy driving the refurbished yellow convertible. The three-year renewal was completed a little at a time, but in reality the restoration will never be done. There always seems to be something that could use some more of that tender love and care.

For your car to become the subject of the Out of the Past column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. No customs or hotrods accepted.

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