Lost and Found Again: Nick’s 1969 Stingray
Story Kevin Harper / Images Bill Erdman
You can never get tired of the stories behind connecting an owner with a car. Though there may be similiarities, there is often a twist or turn along the way that makes each story that much more unique.
If you’ve been through it, you can often relate and make that connection. If you haven’t, you marvel at the effort and secretly begin to question whether you have that type of commitment.
Nick Petruzzulli is a committed Corvette guy. His story doesn’t center on finding his first, but finding the one that would be a suitable companion to the ’66 big block that he already owned. The Hoboken, New Jersey, resident thought a ’69 big block convertible would be the perfect complement and that became the objective.
“Some things are just meant to be,” he said. “Corvettes have been my passion since childhood. I went to the Bloomington Gold weekend in St. Charles, Illinois, to start my search. Early Friday morning, as I hit the field, I came to the dealer lots. There in front of a tent is this beautiful Rally Red 427, 390 horsepower convertible. It was stunning and looked gorgeous from all angles. It was totally restored, frame off. It was all there – body fit, paint, undercarriage, engine, interior.
“The price was $44,000, which I thought wasn’t bad. Could this be that quick and easy? Here I thought it would take the whole weekend to find the right car. I decided to take a walk around and see what else I would come across. After looking through the car corral and the auction tents, nothing struck me quite like that first car, so I decided that I wanted that car.”
Nick knows enough to understand that a dealer’s price is a number that isn’t always set in stone. “I went back and we started negotiating. After going back and forth, we were $2,000 apart. I’m at 40, they’re at 42. I leave my offer on the table feeling pretty confident they will meet it and told him to call me when they wanted to make a deal. That night, I became even more confident when I found out the dealer had purchased the car that morning in the car corral and paid $35,000. I thought a $5,000 profit isn’t bad for 24 hours.
“Next day, the salesman calls and says, ‘Nick, if you still want the car, it’s yours for $40,000.’ Bingo! I told him I’d be there in 20 minutes or so.”
Here’s one of those twists that can wear out the less committed. “When I got to the lot, check in hand, the salesman approaches me with a grim look on his face and says, ‘Sorry, Nick. The car just sold.’ I couldn’t believe it. I asked him what he meant by sold when he called me 15 minutes ago and said we had a deal. Turns out another salesman sold the car to a collector who would pay $42,000. I couldn’t believe it, but in hindsight, I guess I should have met the dealer’s price the day before.”
The rest of the weekend went by and Nick was set to return home to New Jersey no closer to his goal than when he left. “I spent the next few months regretting my mistake every time I told someone the story. Every ’69 I looked at as a potential purchase didn’t even come close to that car at Bloomington Gold.”
A year passed and the process started again. Nick found himself at Bloomington Gold, but things had changed. “To my disappointment, I found that prices had gone up. Worse, there wasn’t a car that could come close to my lost ’69. On the last day of the show, Sunday, before leaving that afternoon, I took a walk through the field of cars getting judged for Bloomington Gold certifications. It’s something every Corvette enthusiast should do at least once. You see the most beautiful and extraordinary displays of Corvettes in the world.”
Nick wanted to be one of those with a car being certified, but that wasn’t this day. He was on the verge of a second trip home without a car, but the twists in the quest aren’t always cruel.
“As I approached the group of 1969 cars, my eyes see this gorgeous Rally Red 427 convertible. It was beautiful. Lightning had struck twice in the same place. I felt the tingle in my stomach. I thought, ‘Maybe if I get lucky, the owner might be interested in selling.’ I patiently waited for the judges to finish up the car and I approached the owner.
“He said he might consider the selling the car. His name was Keith Busse and he was a collector from the Kansas City area who owned a Corvette museum. All of his cars are Bloomington Gold and NCRS Top Flights. Since the ’69 only came up with a silver, he would have to do some work and try for the gold next year.”
In conversation about the car and its history, Nick got jolted by more. It seems Busse had bought the car at the show … last year at the dealer’s lot. “It was the exact same car, my car,” Nick said, “except he removed the rally wheels and Goodyear tires and replaced them with authentic Firestone redlines and original finned hubcaps that were optional that year. After telling Keith my story, he almost felt obligated to sell me the car. He said for $44,000, less the Firestones and wheel covers, the car was mine. I felt like I had just made the deal of a lifetime.”
Since having the car in his possession, Nick has placed his own Firestones on the car. A good friend, Paul Tsacos, had a set of the original finned wheel covers for sale to complete the package.
“I have enjoyed driving and showing my car since I owned it,” Nick said. “It’s a special feeling. There are many red ’69 convertibles that are just as sweet or even sweeter than mine, but to me, mine is the sweetest of them all.
“Some things are just meant to be.”
Story richard Truesdell / Images Richard Truesdell and Edward Peghin
Corvettes and television go together like tea and honey, going all the way back to the Corvette’s inception in 1953, when both were in their infancy.
To many, the connection reached its height with Route 66, which ran from 1960 to 1964 on the CBS network. Tod (Martin Milner) and Buz (George Maharis, whose character was later replaced by Linc, played by Glenn Corbett) took to the highway and the Corvette was forever linked to the Mother Road.
In the years since, Corvettes have starred in prominent roles in dozens of other TV programs, movies, and popular culture.
At the same time that Tod and Linc drove off into the sunset, there was a Corvette that was to become an icon of the marque, the Grand Sport. Developed by Zora Arkus-Dontov, it was a lightweight racing version of the Corvette whose styling mirrored the then-new C2 Sting Ray. Over the years, countless Grand Sport replicas and tributes have been built, some based on C2 Corvettes, others on custom frames.
But what if you could combine the styling cues of the original Grand Sport, but underpin it with the state-of-the-art chassis of a C6 Corvette? That question wasn’t lost on Dan Woods, host of the popular wrenching show Chop Cut Rebuild (CCR) that airs on the SPEED Channel along with Laurent and Mike Bensaid of Corvette Specialty of California (CSOC), located in Riverside, California.
Chop Cut Rebuild works on concurrent builds over the course of 13 episodes. In its seventh season in 2010, the CCR team worked on two start-to-finish build-ups. One was a 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger; the other was a Corvette Grand Sport tribute built on a contemporary C6 chassis.
The build was planned in late 2009 and early 2010 with the design and renderings – by CSOC’s in-house artist Gaston Gardeazabal – completed in mid-February, 2010. This would give the CSOC and CCR teams less than nine months to complete the car in time for its planned debut at the 2010 SEMA Show. Dan Woods is a very hands-on host, so he had the opportunity to do something that most of us can only dream of, cutting up and modifying the bodywork on a current-generation Corvette.
While the car would be fitted with an E-Force Edelbrock supercharger, many of the segments would be centered on the extensive modifications to the body. This presented a dilemma to Woods and series director Ed Peghin, who noted, “We quickly realized that documenting the Grand Sport, or GS as we called it, would be a challenge. How much entertainment could we extract from the build of a fiberglass vehicle? Designing a vehicle out of fiberglass is a laborious and painstaking process that does not make for exciting television once the viewer understands the process. How much filler, sanding, gluing, and more sanding, sanding, sanding can we show beyond one episode?”
Starting on the morning of March 18, 2010, Laurent attacked the C6 ’Vette like a man on a mission. Front bumper, rear bumper, rear fenders — all removed. The rear window, gone. The interior was stripped down to its barest essentials.
With the first segments in the can, it would be a month before the CCR team would return. When they did, the CSOC team had applied the fiberglass and filler to the rear and the seductive shape, with the split-window treatment, was taking shape. Dan Woods got an education in the art in applying fiberglass, which was chronicled in front of the CCR cameras.
As the bodywork progressed, maintaining a rigid schedule, attention turned to the mechanicals. In addition to the planned modifications under the hood, the GS was treated to a comprehensive suspension upgrade with components supplied by Pfadt Race Engineering in Salt Lake City, Utah. But there was a complication in the build process.
With winter moving into spring, the economy impacted the build. Mike and Laurent had to deal with several small family-owned suppliers going out of business, threatening to derail the build process. The solution was to purchase a second Corvette to install the mechanical upgrades while the body fabrication would proceed on the initial car.
Next, the CCR team visited the Edelbrock facility in Torrance, California, to detail the fabrication of the E-Force supercharger that would add 200 horsepower to GS. For the next episode, they returned the following week to CSOC with the hardware to document the installation of the E-Force supercharger on the second C6. This was followed by the installation of Baer brakes and Rated X wheels, designed by Jason Rushforth of Rushforth Wheels in Huntington Beach, California.
While the mechanical upgrades on car two kept the project on schedule, Laurent and Mike redesigned the Corvette’s stock interior. The interior received a complete facelift, with the stock trim replaced with leather and suede everywhere, in shades of black and gray accented with contrasting blue stitching. When the installation was complete, there was no low-rent vinyl to be seen anywhere in the cockpit.
Over the last two months, molds were produced so the rear-quarter, split-window treatment could be applied to the second C6. This was followed by painting, cutting, and buffing of the now-completed bodywork. Like many similar efforts, the design is polarizing with some loving it, while others have their reservations. One thing is certain: the craftsmanship is flawless, in a way that reflects well on everyone connected with the project.
Combining two generations of Corvettes into a single car is something that many have attempted. Getting the two generations to mesh perfectly is elusive, but not in this case as everyone connected with this ambitious build has something to be proud of.
The fact that every important step of the way was documented by the cameras of CCR (and is available for purchase as a DVD of the seventh season), make this a special treat for ’Vette fans.
Chop Cut Rebuild works on concurrent builds over the course of 13 episodes. In its seventh season in 2010, the CCR team worked on two start-to-finish build-ups. One was a 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger; the other was a Corvette Grand Sport tribute built on a contemporary C6 chassis. The build was planned in late 2009 […] More »
Next, the CCR team visited the Edelbrock facility in Torrance, California, to detail the fabrication of the E-Force supercharger that would add 200 horsepower to GS. For the next episode, they returned the following week to CSOC with the hardware to document the installation of the E-Force supercharger on the second C6. This was followed […] More »
Starting on the morning of March 18, 2010, Laurent attacked the C6 ?Vette like a man on a mission. Front bumper, rear bumper, rear fenders ? all removed. The rear window, gone. The interior was stripped down to its barest essentials. With the first segments in the can, it would be a month before the […] More »