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    [Times photo: Cherie Diez]
    Dorothy Dalton's car is admired in its restored shape.

    A new love, restored

    A thief stole Dorothy Dalton's beloved Mishi Moto, a 1971 Datsun. Strangers help mend her broken heart with a new love: a fixed up 1974 Datsun.

    By LEANORA MINAI, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002
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    ST. PETERSBURG -- She stood in the driveway, as if waiting for a blind date. Her palms got sweaty as she fretted over the unswept carport. But her gray hair was done just right, and her lips were painted red.

    "I wonder what he looks like," said Dorothy Dalton, 79.

    Then he drove up.

    The bright and shiny orange-red Datsun B210. One look, and Ms. Dalton covered her mouth and cried into a white tissue.

    "You sure it's not my old car?" she asked.

    You might remember Ms. Dalton, the retired secretary. In January, someone stole Mishi Moto, her 1971 Datsun 1200 with only 24,000 miles. The thief drove it right out of her carport, leaving only oil stains. She never saw Mishi Moto again.

    Until a replica pulled up Tuesday.

    After reading about Ms. Dalton's ordeal, several business owners in Pasco County got together and bought a battered white Datsun.

    Pete Lucadano and Nestor Nazario of Luke Brothers Landscaping Services in New Port Richey and Mark Beilfuss of Car Classics in Port Richey spent $5,000 fixing a Datsun for Ms. Dalton.

    Her new love has a rebuilt body and a DuPont paint job, new brakes and shocks and new 13-inch tires and custom aluminum rims.

    "We put a new battery in it and tuned it up," said Beilfuss, 33, of Car Classics, who worked 10 hours a week on the Datsun with the other businessmen.

    "God's blessed our businesses and given us all jobs," said Lucadano, 31. "It's nice to step back and give a little back."

    The St. Petersburg Police Department also donated a Club, an antitheft device that locks the steering wheel.

    webfeedcalled Ms. Dalton and surprised her with the news. At first, Ms. Dalton was scared. She thought it was a scam, but the businessmen convinced her otherwise.

    At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Ms. Dalton waited outside her St. Petersburg home for the Datsun. Nazario, 31, a manager for Luke Brothers Landscaping, drove up and hopped out. Nazario hugged her.

    "Did you do this?" asked Ms. Dalton. "Did you make that car?"

    Ms. Dalton opened the door and climbed inside. She adjusted the mirror, put the gear in park and fired up the ignition.

    "It seems to be purring like a kitten," she said. "All right, here we go."

    Except for the odometer, which read 117,744 miles, it was just like old times.

    Related story:

    Where has her Mishi Moto gone?

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