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Classic Wheels Bring Back Memories

Source: New Haven Register

HAMDEN, CT — Mario Mattera’s 1967 Chevrolet Corvette is more than a mere machine.

It’s a piece of history.

Mattera, of Long Island, N.Y., traced the history of his rare 427/435 L-89 Chevrolet Corvette rag top back the Hamden car dealership where the automotive beast was first unleashed on the road.

The car returned to Partyka Chevrolet on Skiff Street Saturday for a photo shoot for Hemmings Motor News, a prominent car magazine. But for Mattera, it was also a chance to better know his car by seeing first-hand where it was sold and talking to some of the people who actually serviced the car.

“This car brings back a lot of memories,” said Bill Obier, who was the dealership’s service manager when the car was first sold. After more than 40 years, Obier still works at Partyka and remembers working on the car.

And it’s no wonder this particular car still sticks out in Obier’s mind, even after working on thousands of other makes and models.

The meticulously restored machine is one of only 16 Corvettes of its type, with distinctive built-for-speed aluminum headers. Its jet black finish with a cherry red racing stripe further sets it apart.

“It the only known black roadster of its type,” Mattera said.

In Mattera’s mind, the protect-o-plate, the warranty, the original license plate, are more that just documents; they’re artifacts. The people who worked on the car before it rolled out of the dealership and other car enthusiasts who remember that distinctive ’vette racing through Hamden’s streets are more than just old gearheads, they’re primary sources of history, holding pieces the story behind that car that Mattera is seeking to put together.

Mattera couldn’t keep the smile off his face when talking with Obier and Bob Tommone of Wolcott, who came to Hamden Saturday to check out the car he remembers racing around the Hamden area in the ’60s and ’70s.

The car’s base price in 1967 was $4,240, though it has almost $1,000 of factory options. Mattera is the car’s fourth owner. The previous owners were all from the area. He bought the ’vette six years ago, but declined to say how much he paid.

He said the car is not for sale, but he did estimate it could be worth more than $500,000.

Equipped with a 427-cubic-inch engine, cranking out 435 horsepower, the car can burn rubber with the best of the old muscle cars, but it seldom if ever hits the road. The car traveled to Hamden on a covered trailer.

Mattera and the Partyka crew revved up the engine Saturday and were going to bring the Corvette outside, but it started to rain, so the car stayed in the garage.

“It’s a museum piece,” Mattera said. “You pull the cover off and savor the moment. Then you put the cover back on.”