Car Feature: America Parts’ Second-Gen 1974 Chevrolet Camaro

As a young man growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jonas Anderson Vidmontiene enjoyed American cars. It all started with his 1974 Camaro, and he hasn’t looked back since. Through all of the trials and tribulations with the ornery second-gen, Jonas recognized the need for a way to get American parts to his hot rod counterparts south of the equator, and a business was born. This is the story of how America Parts was born through his never-give-up attitude.

Some years back, while sitting behind the wheel of his 1974 Chevrolet Camaro, as his long-time friend took off from a local car meet in his Dodge Dart, Jonas thought to himself, “there is no way I am going to lose to that.” It was two in the morning and the roads were clear. Both Jonas and his friend opted for the “fast-track” road home, and that’s when the race began.

“We were side by side – both full throttle,” Jonas said. “After an eighth-of-a-mile, I was two car-lengths in front. When I got up to speed, I realized my shocks were worthless and my Camaro was moving around like a pendulum. I didn’t take my foot off the throttle – I was afraid, but couldn’t show that to my girlfriend who was riding shotgun, and I definitely couldn’t lose that race. I kept my foot on the floor and prayed to keep the car straight.”

Jonas is still guilty of doing “young guy stuff” in his ‘74 Camaro, although he is much wiser about where he does it

The two cars neared the freeway exit, and Jonas released the pedal, but it was too late. A glance at the gauges showed the engine temperature on “red” which prompted Jonas to stop the car, as white smoke billowed out from under the hood.

Looking back, Jonas knows he was doing “young guy stuff,” and admits he would never do it today. The head gaskets had been burned, so Jonas did what any sensible person would do, and began restoring the car.

Jonas’ Camaro would be a standout in any crowd, but in Brazil, it’s a real head turner!

Purchased in 2004, Jonas said he had been looking for a project car with a V8. He felt Impalas were too big, and the Mopars he had test driven were too expensive. His friend Marcio called him one day and said he had the perfect car for Jonas.

“As soon as I saw the Camaro, I started negotiating with my friend,” Jonas said. His initial goal was to add performance to his street car, so as a result, he sent it to a mechanic and began searching for engine parts – many of which are difficult to find in Brazil.

“The parts were expensive, so I made a list and got on a flight to Orlando.” Upon his return to Brazil, Jonas learned the mechanic was displeased that he went elsewhere for the parts. The Camaro was returned shortly after without any work performed.

With the help of his dad, Jonas found a new mechanic and dedicated his Saturdays to the car. Six months later, the Camaro made its way to the body and paint shop where it sat for a year, forcing Jonas to make many trips to the U.S. to get additional parts, ultimately adding another year to the project.

“I started the car for the first time after two years, and drove it to Pistola Interiors while I was sitting on a wood box for a drivers seat,” Jonas said. He added, the upholstery shop had the car for three months because they were plagued with temperature, and humidity problems.

“Unfortunately, I had to take the engine out again for repairs. I was broke and pissed about that” Jonas said. As a result, he let the car sit for another year or so before he decided to work on it again. Another pair of heads were purchased, and Jonas decided it was a good time to add some visual upgrades to the engine, like new valve covers, an air filter, and some chrome accents. The car also received a new set of 17-inch Boyd Coddington wheels and tires.

The saying “winning isn’t everything” holds especially true for Jonas. Even though he won the race, his beloved Camaro had to come apart again because of it.

Shortly after it was completed, Jonas took his Camaro to a car show. “In 2008, it was the largest and most important show in Brazil. I won the best 1970s “Import Street Rod award.”

Despite receiving an award, driving to and from the show resulted in more burnt head gaskets. “I was done with it. I forgot the car in the garage for a long time.”

During this time, Jonas saw a business opportunity after traveling to and from the United States so often. On one of his many trips, he met his business partner, Fernando Demarco, and started America Parts, a part importation company for American cars.

Jonas described working as an engineer for a telecommunications company and returning home each day to work on his side-business that his girlfriend-turned-wife ran with the help of two employees. His efforts amounted to 14-hour work days that were endured for four long years. “I realized I had a good showroom going, I had parts in stock and had saved some money,” Jonas said. Internet part sales were doing well, but he didn’t have time to work on his personal project because he had retained his “day job.”

“I had a son. One day my wife came to me and said, ‘your job is good, and your company is doing well, but both together is not possible anymore. You don’t see your boy, and you don’t play with him.’ Six months later, I quit the telecom job and dedicated my time to my own business and to my old Camaro.”

Within the first year, Jonas doubled the company’s size and got the engine back out of the Camaro. Once the engine was disassembled, he was able to find the source of the temperature problem – a block fissure.

We can only imagine the epic Brazilian roads Jonas drives in his gorgeous Camaro.

Identifying the problem was the perfect opportunity for another upgrade, so Jonas ordered a 383ci stroker all-forged short block and a pair of Dart aluminum heads. He also added a basic nitrous kit. Consequently, the carburetor was too small and he didn’t have the braking power to stop the car, which led to further upgrades. 

Over the many years, Jonas was tormented by engine problems, and after the many services the car received, he knew it was time to refresh the paint. “I contacted a friend that had a restoration shop – Z28 Garage. At first, the shop performed some simple cosmetic repairs, but then my crazy friend took apart the car and wanted to do a full-body paint job. So we did additional structural upgrades, like installing a roll cage, subframe connectors, race seats and harnesses, Autometer instrument-panel, wiring harness, and door panels.”

In all, the additional work took another year, but the conclusion was the “end” of the project.

Since the Camaro’s completion, Jonas has used the car in two drag races, a few track tests, and he burned through two transmissions before installing a TKO 600.

Future upgrades Jonas plans to make include a Paxton blower and Holley EFI.

Future upgrades for the Camaro include a Paxton Supercharger and a Holley EFI System. All Jonas needs is “the time to work on it.” because “we are the largest performance-parts importer of Brazil and have a subsidiary company in Florida.”

Throughout the build, Jonas says he wanted to throw in the towel twice, but overcame life and priority changes. “I never gave up. I never got the idea to sell the car or give up – my dream to have a fast car has served as fuel for the long project. My son is 8-years-old now and says it’s ‘his car,’ and through all of this, I learned how to build a company.”

About the author

Nicole Ellan James

As an automotive journalist and avid car enthusiast, Nicole Ellan James has a passion for automotive that is reflected in every aspect of her lifestyle. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @nicoleeellan
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