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.”