The Camaro name has been synonymous with Chevy's high-performance breed of cars for 35 years. This high-performance reputation combined with a sleek body style is enough to tease any Chevy enthusiast. While the Camaro may not be everyone's favorite, it is hands-down Chevrolet's most popular performance platform.

We decided to look into the world of used Camaros and find out what's involved in locating a good one. Everyone has heard the stories of someone who bought one of the 602 '67 Z/28 Camaro for a few hundred bucks because the seller didn't know what he had. But since those gifts don't occur everyday, the majority of us are forced to look through endless cars listings until we come across a car that looks reasonable. Once the phone calls have been made and the details worked out, a trip awaits. Upon arrival, hopes of a clean Camaro in good condition are often dashed by a wrecked parts car that's been stuffed under a tree for the past two decades. If you're smart, you'll continue to keep looking and have the pleasure of repeating this process several more times.

One thing that could save us all a lot of time is a universal understanding of a few important descriptive words relating to vehicles and their condition. The Kelly Blue Book (KBB) is an organization that keeps track of the approximate value of a vehicle while defining the words excellent, good, fair, and poor. Whether you are buying or selling, it is best to arrive at a common understanding of the vehicle's condition.

The Blue Book defines "excellent" as a vehicle that looks great and is in excellent mechanical condition requiring no reconditioning. "Good" is defined as a condition in which a vehicle is free of any major defects while the paint, body, and interior have only minor (if any) blemishes, and there are no major mechanical problems. If rust is a problem, it should be very minimal, and a deduction should be made to compensate for it. KBB defines "fair" as a vehicle that has some mechanical or cosmetic defects but is still in safe running condition. The paint, body, and/or interior may also need work. The lowest rating the KBB offers is "poor," which is defined as a vehicle with severe mechanical and/or cosmetic defects that may or may not be in running condition. For a more in-depth definition of these terms, visit the Kelly Blue Book Web site at www.kbb.com.

If you are in the market for a third- or fourth-generation Camaro, Carfax (www.carfax.com) is an Internet-based company that helps the average consumer identify important problems an inexperienced buyer may not catch. Carfax conducts extensive consumer research about what people fear most when purchasing a used car, which it uses to inform and aid consumers. This site caters to vehicles from '81 to present.

Once you have armed yourself with a reasonable amount of used-car knowledge, it's time to go shopping. One of the most extensive listings of used cars in the U.S. is the Hemmings Motor News catalog (www.hemmings.com). Hemmings is a monthly publication that includes a short description and contact phone number for each vehicle listed. If you're a serious buyer and looking for the right car, you won't mind crossing state lines to get what you're looking for.

Another source for used cars is the Web-based eBaymotors.com, an auction site that allows you to bid on vehicles and communicate with the seller through e-mail. A picture is worth a thousand words, and most sellers include photos in their listings. There are hundreds of other Camaro-dedicated Web sites that include classified sections. One interesting site is www.classic-camaro.com, which is dedicated to Camaro bartering.

When using the Internet to purchase anything, be sure all your transactions are accounted for and insured. Most people are honest, but when dealing with the large sums of money involved in automobile purchases, you can't be too careful.

A convenient but small-scale sales option is your local classified ads. These ads draw from a small area, often only listing several specific cars if any at all. A major benefit to local publications is that it's more convenient to go see the car in person to determine whether or not it's the ride of your dreams.

Purchasing a car can be quite an event. Whether you're looking for a fourth-generation daily-driven Camaro or your next '69 Pro Touring street machine, there are many factors that should play a vital role in your decision.

The history of the car is often a mystery and undocumented. This is when it's time to put on your archeologist cap to look into the car's past. First, take notice of the location of the car. If it's located in the rust belt of the U.S., then chances are the vehicle may have more holes than Swiss cheese. Check the lower rear window molding, inside the trunk, around the wheelwells, and up inside the quarter panels and fenders. Make an effort to steer clear of any car with rust that's eaten its way through the metal. Another major clue to a car's history is the amount of body repair it has seen. Large patches of plastic body filler are often signs of hidden damage, so beware. Rust and body damage can be some of the most expensive things to fix. In the long run, a free car with extensive damage will often end up costing more than a vehicle in good condition at a reasonable price.

When shopping for a car, the three best things to have are patience, knowledge, and cash. Waiting long enough to find the right car and having the ability to determine its worth are key assets, but it's the green that is going to seal the deal.

The determining factor in price usually comes down to what the market will bear. We didn't include prices for poor, excellent, or rare models in our list because these categories are so broad.

SOURCE
Carfax
www.carfax.com
Kelly Blue Book
www.kbb.com
Classic Camaros Classifieds
www.classic-camaro.com
eBay Motors
www.eBaymotors.com
Hemmings Motor News
P.O. Box 100
Bennington, VT 05201