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I started with old cars, because I had a great interest in 50's music growing up. When I got my license, I naturally wanted a 57 Chevy. Since I had to drive to college, my parents bought me a 57 I found locally, a convertible, no less! It was a mess, and I had to quickly learn how to fix things to keep it running.
I did so by hanging around with some older guys at the local cruise strip in Linden, NJ, Wood Ave. The leader of the local 55-7 Chevy owners was Jimmy Catrone. He taught me so much about mechanics, and helped me keep the converible running for the first 2 years of school. He even taught me the basics of bodywork and we even painted it! It was still an unrealiable car, so he and I found another 57, a hardtop, and we built it up with most of the things that could break, replaced. I set about rebuilding the convertible, at my leisure.
Jim and I built and painted quite a few cars for friends, and eventually formed a car club, the BelAirs, which lasted for many years.
I finished building my convertible, to a very high degree of detail, with some help. I had Bontempo Brothers build me a killer roller cammed 302 motor, with a Muncie 4 speed, and a narrowed 12 bolt rear, with 4.88's. It was a REAL fast street car, but was stolen out of Raceway Park one summer, about a year after completing. It really broke my heart.
But my BelAir friends helped out by donating a 55 hardtop for me to fix up. I did a couple more old Chevies, but was getting tired of the same looks and same fomula for building a car.
Once I decided I wanted to do this "car thing" seriously, I needed to learn more, esp. about bodywork and paint. So I asked around "who was the best bodyman and painter in our area" and most pointed to S & J Auto Styling, and a guy named John Pazsik. I approached John and offered to work for him for free, if he taught me how to do things right.
Well that began a long apprenticship with John, and a love affair with custom cars. John had a 54 Merc that he built in the 50's and won just about every award possible in the car show circuit. He was still building customs, even when customs had been long forgotten. He taught me a lot, but eventually I had to get a "real job", and John eventually went out of business, and retired.
So off I was, on my own.
My first car
This was how my 57 looked when I first got it. Sitting in it with me is Pete Frazee, one of the neighborhood guys who helped me work on it
Jimmy Catrone helped me do the bodywork and paint it. I still remember the paint code for the bright red..DuPont 5229L
Here's the car we built to replace the always breaking convertible. Painted baby blue (color code 44133L) it ran a low mile 350 and 4 speed. Black Roll & Pleat interior, with stock bench seats. It was a very nice riding car, and got me all the way through college. In front of it was my GF, Patty Henkenius.
My ragtop after a couple years of rebuilding. 302 Chevy, with roller cam and rockers, 12 1/2-1 pistons, 750 Holley, ported and polished angle plug heads, 4 speed and a narrowed 12 bolt posi with 4.88's. The wheels were newly made, Craegar Street SuperTricks, 15 x 10's out back. I added bucket seats, tilt wheel, disc brakes, and a Pro Stock hood scoop. No bumper for that race car look.
Cable driven tachometer, and full gauges, and bucket seats. Everlast Upholstery in Linden, did the interior and new convertible top for me, and I still use them for some of my customer, and personal cars.
I stripped to bare then entire engine compartment, and painted in in red lacquer, and hand buffed it all out, before installing the BBC (Bontempo Brothers Competition)engine. It was very nicely detailed, and in fact, I drove around with no hood on the car for a while to show it off
Before I bought the baby blue hardtop, I picked up this other convertible. But it was too rough for me to do for a daily drive, so I sold it off. After the red convert was stolen I tried to buy it back from the guy I sold it to, but he wouldn't do it. I really doubt he ever did anything with the car, either.
Here's the clean 55 hardtop Mickey Capote and the guys in the BelAirs gave me after my car was stolen. We were really a very tight group, and always helped each other out. Unfortunately, I never got around to doing anything more than this to the car. I was planning on dropping in this 454, and even had a factory TriPower for it!
55 or 56???
My last Tri 5 Chevy. Jimmy and I had built this one for a good high school buddy of mine, Keith Campbell. He sold it to get married and I bought it, and painted it Porsche Red. I had to sell it a few years later, to build my 55 Olds.
My association with John Pazsik got me into building customs, a much better outlet for my creative tendencies. I picked up this 55 Olds 98 Holiday Coupe, and started cutting into it. I did all the work in my driveway, 55 Desoto grill, T Bird headlights, 56 Packard tails, 55 Pontiac trim. John helped me do the chop, though, as I had never done one before.
This is the Olds after over 20 years of driving it all over the country to car shows. Candy Cobalt blue, and silver were the final colors. It won many awards, including best paint, but I'm most proud of winning the George Barris Pick at Gettysburg in 2003, out of almost 1000 cars.