Paint jail. The specter always lurking in the corner, peeking over a fence, hiding just below the lid of a trash barrel. Your plan seems simple enough. You do the procedures needed to get the car to the painter but you still assume the worst. Doug Derkacht, a building contractor in Tenino, Washington (about 20 klicks south of Olympia where they brew beer), did not escape being dragged through this thicket of thorns.

Doug told us: "My plan was to get the car in paint and then proceed with the suspension as soon as I had it back at my shop. I was so disappointed with the job that I bought some aircraft paint stripper and within a week I had it back to bare metal. I was discouraged, depressed, and ready to get rid of it. Instead, I decided to write it off as a learning experience-and started my search for a new painter."

Maintaining and continually reinvesting in his business, raising a family, and being fiscally conservative precluded any sort of four-wheeled fun. Now in his mid-40s, Doug discussed the situation with wife, Pam. She'd had some recent medical issues "that opened our eyes to how short and precious life really is. She shopped for a new baby grand piano and I went shopping for my Camaro."

After several very rusty disappointments, he found it four hours north of Tenino, a '73 LT still sporting the original paint and interior. Now, he had his palette. Its engine wasn't original but it was still viable. Though Doug could have entertained nasty high-horsepower, he didn't see the need. The car was bound to be a cruiser and all the raw materials were readily at hand. Instead of lurching towards the hottest double-throwdown pieces in the aftermarket, he stuck with a rebuilding regimen that was more or less what he needed.

As in any full-on resuscitation, the Camaro was peeled down to its core, and as the exterior work proceeded, he began seeing red flags. "There were many little things during the paint process that soon became an arm-long laundry list. I knew the project was beginning a long plunge into the void and where it would probably come out was a scary thought. I had the engine and transmission rebuilt, stripped and painted the subframe. The inner fenderwells, core support, hood hinges were powdercoated black with 40 percent gloss."

In the end, Doug got his piece the way he imagined it would be. Perseverance, haggling, and humor helped get him through. But there was more. "I give credit to my dad for getting me started in the hobby when I was a teen. When I was 17, he sold me his '73 Nova and then showed me the basics. I also give lots of credit to nastyZ28.com, a huge info resource for any second-gen Camaro. Finally, I thank Pam for the 100 percent support she gave during the 3-year slog.

"I was beginning to think that maybe she just liked it when I was out in the garage!"