- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2010

Even before he had a driver’s license, young Jim Miles was lobbying his father to buy a new 1973 Camaro. In those days, practicality came first, so the Camaro dream never became a reality.

In 2001, Mr. Miles had two sons of his own, and he wasn’t going to omit a Camaro experience from their formative years. He liked the models from 1970 through 1973 and began shopping for an original car.

His search ended in December 2002. On the Internet, he discovered an all-original 1973 Camaro in Tampa, Fla., offered for sale by Louise Mencin, the original owner. She had purchased the Camaro at Brooklyn Chevrolet Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 29, 1973. “It was definitely an impulse purchase,” Mr. Miles said.

He bought the car with about 109,000 miles recorded on the odometer and arranged to have it trucked to his Germantown, Md., home. He waited anxiously, and a week later, his car arrived - an early Christmas present. The car was better than he expected, and he was pleased to find meticulous records the previous owner had kept. She had receipts for every part and every maintenance ever performed on the car, including price paid and the dates of service.

The Camaro is a Type LT, which Mr. Miles explained is for Luxury Touring. The 3,349-pound car is one of 32,327 such models manufactured that model year. Each of those Camaros rode on a 108-inch wheelbase.

Mr. Miles said he drove the car for about a year in the condition it was in when it was purchased. He wanted to see what it needed for a complete restoration and to familiarize himself with the car. During that time, parts were accumulated in anticipation of restoration.

Records that came with the car indicate there was no charge for the black carpeting or the choice of color, but the list of optional extras included:

c Air conditioning - $397.

c AM/FM radio - $135.

c Vinyl roof - $87.

c White letter tires - $78.

c Console - $57.

c Style trim - $56.

c Power brakes - $46.

c Soft Ray tinted glass - $39.

c Rear window defogger - $21

c Rear speaker - $15

The base price for the new Camaro was $3,268. Beneath the hood was a 350-cubic-inch Quadrajet V-8 that developed 245 horsepower. To keep tabs on all that power, there was a 130 mph speedometer next to a 7,000 rpm tachometer on the dashboard. It had a red line of 5,000 rpm.

By 2003, Mr. Miles had won the support of his wife, Mary, and sons Brandon and Ryan and had a plan in mind. With the 15-foot-8.5-inch-long Camaro in the garage, the restoration process commenced. Hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs were taken that proved useful during the reassembly process. “We had parts in hundreds of labeled baggies,” Mr. Miles recalled.

It soon became evident that the Camaro was a very tired car. The doors were sagging, so the hinges were replaced along with every other wear item that showed signs of aging.

The car was taken to Mike’s Auto Body in Thurmont, Md., where it was hand-stripped. With the bare metal exposed, it was apparent it had once been involved in a rear-end collision.

The Camaro was off the road for about a year, and before it was put back together, Brandon Miles said, he was beginning to think the work would never be done.

Eventually, the Camaro came back home wearing a fresh coat of medium orange metallic paint. Mr. Miles had sent the front bumper off to be replated with chrome, and the rest of the trim pieces were either buffed to a like-new sheen or replaced. The black dashboard was sent to California to be re-covered. He said the front bumper guards were a federally mandated requirement.

In the small trunk was the original Firestone Wide Oval F70x15-inch spare tire. “The spare takes a third of the space,” Ryan Miles observed.

By June 2005 the Camaro restoration project was more or less complete. The sleek 49-inch high Camaro easily sliced through the atmosphere, if not the congested traffic, and Mr. Miles reported mileage of about 12 mpg. The capacity of the gas tank was 18 gallons.

“It runs beautifully,” Mr. Miles said, 35 years after he first wanted a Camaro.

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