What sparked my interest in cars? It goes back to when I was 15 years old and driving my brother's Nova at 110 mph, and I didn't have a license. My first musclecar was a '69 Chevelle SS convertible with a 350-horse 396. I owned it about 6 years, and did a partial restoration on it. I was able to work with the body shop at obtaining all the replacement/restoration parts myself. That experience kind of whet my appetite.

While I was happy with the Chevelle, I could not justify doing a total restoration on the car. I was ready for a challenging project. I asked my longtime friend and mentor Ron Martin if he thought I could handle a project of this magnitude. He believed I could. So in 2000, the Chevelle went up for sale.

The search for the right project took me to the Mopar Nats and Chryslers at Carlisle for 3-plus years. I had narrowed my search to an E-Body. In my opinion, E-Bodies look somewhat feminine and not as squared-up and masculine as B-Bodies. after being disappointed at what I saw for sale at Carlisle and the Nats, I just kept looking. I was advised that above all else, do not compromise on the body. I had to hold out for a rust-free car. Finally, I found a car for sale on eBay, (a lot of the parts also came from there). The car was in Los Angeles, California, and had not run in several years. It looked restorable, and the deal was made. The car was owned by Sage Stallone. (yes, Sylvester's son who used it as a loaner car for movie set employees.) The car didn't run and was missing valve covers and some other accessories. It was a 318 car with A/C and was originally dark tan metallic with a vinyl roof and tan interior. All I cared about was that the body had no rust. It certainly did have its share of dents, but the body was good enough to work with. I had full intentions of replacing the interior and engine anyway.

The car was transported from Los Angeles and arrived August 20, 2000. I couldn't wait to take it apart! I started on it the day it arrived, and had it completely disassembled by the end of October by working weekends at Jerry's Custom Cars in Clearwater, Florida. Here I was, putting who knows how much money into this car, and I had never even driven it yet. The only thing that worked on the car were the lights. As the car was taken apart, I labeled and bagged everything and placed them in storage containers. Jerry's shop quickly became my second home. I photographed everything (or drew pictures on note pads) from the interior disassembly to the bumpers brackets for reference when it came time to put it back together. That was one of the best things I ever did. The last thing to be removed from the car before it went to the body shop was the front and back glass, engine, and transmission-all of which were going to be replaced.

The car was sent to Superior Auto Body in Pinellas Park, Florida, in early 2001. It was bead blasted inside and out prior to priming and block sanding. I did have to replace one front fender and the hood. I ordered a fender from Jackie Stephens at Stephens Performance, and the hood came from Goodmark. All the suspension was removed, and the parts were either replaced or rebuilt, then refinished. Year One was my major supplier and labeled me Ms. Hemi. Ron Vallario at Superior Auto Body did a fantastic job with the paint and body. The depth and finish of the paint are incredible. I took the side-window glass home, polished it, and cleaned all the mechanisms. Ron helped me locate a N.O.S. tinted back glass from Muscle City Glass. We had searched for over two and a half years for that glass.

The car was trailered back to Jerry's, so I could start reassembly in July 2001. That is when it really got to be fun. I personally replaced each and every part I could by myself before I would ask for any assistance. I also had to not be intimidated in a garage where I was the only female. That at times was tough, but also a blessing. Where else can a girl get at least six opinions on any given day about how she should do something?