To my surprise it was a "barn fresh" '70 AAR 'Cuda, and it was FJ5 to boot. The car retained most of its original paint from the beltline up. The lower rear quarters had some real shady bodywork done to them, and the lower heels of the front fenders had some noticeable work done as well. After looking closer, I was blown away by how original the car appeared with the exception of the butchered patch jobs. Immediately I asked him how much for the car and of course his original response was "It's not for sale." I continued to talk to him but, concerned his kindness would be receded, I decided to lay off.

I called him again that night and asked for another visit. I went to visit the car a number of times before finally asking him if he would mind if I followed along on his restoration and posted updates on my website Cudaworld.com as a live feature. He agreed and thought that would be cool.

About six months after finding the car I received a call from his wife mentioning they decided to sell the car and thought I should have the first crack at it. Even the locals that knew about the car were not contacted as the couple felt it was in better hands with me. I instantly printed out my fender tag codes and headed to Janetville, Ontario, to review the tags. I was a little puzzled by the lack of a console and the '72 bucket seats in the car. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the car was converted to a four-speed by the second owner only months before the present owner bought the car.

Being a four-speed guy, I wasn't too concerned. Knowing this, I made an offer for the car and it was accepted. On December 3, 2002 I got to drive the 'Cuda for the very first time. My life-long dream and goal of owning a real Limelight AAR 'Cuda had finally been realized. The grin from ear to ear could be seen for miles as I drove her home.

For the balance of 2002 through October of 2003 I drove the car and loved every mile I put on it. The original dream of ownership quickly changed to a dream of restoring her. The interior was showing its age and the engine compartment hadn't been touched since new.

The Restoration Begins
Bolt by bolt, part by part, the car was catalogued, bagged, and tagged. My basement quickly became restoration central, and the bulk of the car ended up downstairs. A one car garage doesn't have a lot of room to work and store parts. The first plan was to get the car over to Sam Civello's home for metal repair. Sam and I have been best of friends ever since I tried to buy his 'Cuda in 2001, but that's another story. Sam is one of those hard to find metal guys gifted in the art of repair and fabricating. He knew exactly what I wanted.

The 'Cuda was media blasted, and we could see the severity of the rear quarter rot and knew this car would need rear quarters. Sure, aftermarket quarters would work but that was the easy way out. After searching endless leads, I found one quarter in Connecticut, and one in New York, which meant I would be taking some road trips. Upon arriving in Connecticut, I was blown away by all the parts the guy had. I picked through everything and ended up with more NOS metal and a mint original dash pad. Learning more and more about metal repair, I continued to feed Sam with NOS and rust-free steel. Once again this original body was back to its former glory and we could begin test fitting fenders, doors, and trunk lid.

I knew I had the best metal guy in the business, but I would need someone who could do the paint work. After all, 90-percent of what people care about is paint and body. After hitting every local cruise night, car show, and car event, the hottest cars had one common denominator, Ernie Barrett from Vetteworks in Port Perry, Ontario.