DEER PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s an unusual memorial for a fallen Army officer from Queens who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007. It’s a tribute the soldier would have loved — a memorial on four wheels.
The tribute is a car restoration — the soldier’s 1970 Pontiac GTO convertible. The collectible car was owned by Capt. Jeffrey Calero, who grew up in Queens Village and hoped to restore it.
“Well, he wanted to get it the way he wanted it, like new,” Ray Calero, the soldier’s father, told CBS 2’s John Slattery on Tuesday.
When Jeffrey Calero bought the car in 2005, it looked good, but it had rust and a bent frame. Calero was a Special Forces officer on patrol in Afghanistan in 2007 when he was killed by a roadside explosive. The military promoted him to major, and the owner of Paul’s Rods & Restos, a Deer Park car restoration shop, heard about the soldier’s car and decided to complete the project in his honor.
“To do something little like this, to celebrate his life, it’s not little, it’s big. Thank God we were able to do it,” car restorer Paul DiMaura said.
It’s now five years later and $100,000 worth of parts and labor have been used on the 400-cubic inch engine, the suspension, brakes and wheels. An array of parts, some donated, that will have the car fully restored to mint condition.
The soldier’s father, who is surrounded by photos and military mementos, said he find it all a bit overwhelming.
“But it’s bittersweet. It’s an honor to have the car, but you’d rather have no car and have your son,” Ray Calero said.
A lucky sister will take possession of the classic when it’s displayed at a Deer Park car show in mid-September.
It will be displayed as proudly as the banner with a gold star that’s in the window of Ray Calero’s home.
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