The CAR as ART – Naples Florida Weekly

 

HUMMING WEST THROUGH MONTANA’S Rocky Mountains behind the wheel of a 45-foot Entegra Cornerstone motor coach weighing in at 20,000 pounds, Giovanni Di Stadio, 48, wants to talk about other motor vehicles, the antitheses of the Entegra Cornerstone in design and function: classic European sports cars, exotics and American muscle cars.

In particular, he’s chatting from the Big Sky Country about a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette unlike any other, a creation weighing in at roughly 3,000 pounds in a length of less than 15 feet.

“This car — I refer to it as a museum piece, an art piece. You could never use it for its intended purpose,” he says, speaking to a reporter by phone from the mountains outside Billings.

This is the most pristine 1962 Corvette in the world, apparently, a gleaming red rocket no one has ever driven, explains Mr. Di Stadio. So far, however, it’s not the most famous. That one was presented to the St. Louis Cardinal’s slugger Mark McGwire as a gift from the team after he hit his 62nd home run, in 1998.

ABOVE: The engine and transmission were installed, but never started. COURTESY PHOTOS

ABOVE: The engine and transmission were installed, but never started. COURTESY PHOTOS

A series of unusual historical circumstances have left the old Corvette still new, 60 years later.

In 1962 the car was shipped in crates — body in one, transmission and engine in another, rear end in a third — to a drag and road-race driver who died before he could assemble it. His widow took possession, selling it years later, still crated, to another Corvette aficionado.

“That owner took the engine and transmission out of the crates and installed them, but never turned the key,” recounts Mr. Di Stadio. The owner then sold it to Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee, where it remained for some years until the museum closed in 2020 and Mr. Garrett died the following year. The car then went to its current owner in Michigan.

That man has now hired Mr. Di Stadio, a relative newcomer to the buy-and-sell business world of classic high-end cars, to find a new owner.

LEFT: The red leather interior matches the red paint of the car’s exterior.

LEFT: The red leather interior matches the red paint of the car’s exterior.

The first thing he points out would have been the most unlikely recommendation 60 years ago, when Chevrolet produced only 14,534 Corvettes at a base selling price of $4,038 (about $39,000 today): Buy this beauty if you want to, with its original everything right down to the tires. But don’t plan on driving it.

You could do that with one of the roughly 100 other 1962 Corvettes still rambling and rolling, and for prices in today’s market ranging from about $30,000 for a car in only fair condition up to near $100,000, or more, for a ’62 ’Vette in excellent condition, car experts estimate.

But this is different.

“You’d destroy the value of this car if you started it and drove it away. So the car is static art,” explains Mr. Di Stadio, who gave up his interior design business of more than 25 years in Palm Beach County so he could talk about — and sell for clients who own them — some of the most elaborate, agile and elegant unions of automotive sculpture and highly engineered internal combustion on the planet.

BELOW: The odometer reads “zero.”

BELOW: The odometer reads “zero.”

Now, with two partners, Mr. Di Stadio sells cars through his second-career, first-love business: MPG Motorcars, in Stuart, about 45 minutes north of West Palm Beach. The company manages collections of cars, restores individual machines, details machines, and provides a host of other services for what are arguably the most beautiful and inventive models of the 20th century. MPG is also newly taking up the business of conversion — turning classic cars into electric-powered vehicles.

MPG Motorcars’ current inventory, listed online at www.mpgmotorcars.com, includes a 1960 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, a 1991 Jaguar XJ, two Porsche 911s, one a 1996 model and the other from 1998, along with a 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, listed at more than $120,000.

That’s not much money, relatively.

The Lamborghinis and Ferraris he’s sold? Not even close, monetarily, to the value of the ’62 ‘Vette, the biggest diamond on his proverbial ring, in his estimation. The car is likely worth more than 10 times any of those other cars.

Giovanni Di Stadio / MPG Motorcars wins “excellence in class” for their 1986 Ferrari 328 GTS, at the Cavallino Classic, The Breakers, Palm Beach.

Giovanni Di Stadio / MPG Motorcars wins “excellence in class” for their 1986 Ferrari 328 GTS, at the Cavallino Classic, The Breakers, Palm Beach.

In a news release, Mr. Di Stadio listed the price this way: “$,$$$,$$$.”

By comparison, a 1967 Chevy Corvette L88 Coup went for $3.85 million at a 2014 auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., the most expensive of all time, according to Moneyinc.com. But Chevy only made 20 of those, that year.

In the selling of clients’ cars, Mr. Di Stadio says, he typically gets a 10% commission. His purpose isn’t money so much as working with these cars and the people who love them, he notes.

“I’ve been involved with cars since my early teens (in New York, where he grew up),” he explains. “I found it fascinating. My dad was a bank vice president, but he collected cars and hot rods. I was always helping him.

“The dealership side of the business is new for me. I started amassing a nice-size collection of classic cars, and my CPA advised me: He said, ‘You’re buying and selling these cars, you might look into getting your dealer’s license, turn your hobby into a business with tax write-offs.’ The timing was right, so I did.”

And now this.

A Corvette website, www.corvsport.com, describes the 1962 models this way: “Despite its origins and its undeniable ties to the very first Corvette (in 1953), the 1962 was faster, handled better, was more physically appealing, and was the most completely realized and most civilized of any Corvette made to date, though it continued to retain much of the pioneering imagination that made Harley Earl’s 1953 concept car such a triumph at its unveiling during the 1953 Motorama.”

With fuel injection, the ’62 ’Vette could produce 360 horsepower and a top-end speed of more than 130 miles per hour.

That was in a year when John F. Kennedy faced down the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crises, The Beatles recorded “Love Me Do,” the average annual income was $5,556, gasoline was 28 cents a gallon, and the average cost of a new car was $3,125, according to thepeoplehistory.com. Not only that, but professional race car driver Rodger Ward won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time in a car powered by an Offenhauser engine running an average speed of more than 142 mph.

Here’s how Mr. Di Stadio became part of this car’s history: A neighbor near his Michigan summer home introduced him to the neighbor’s brother.

“So we drove to see him,” Mr. Di Stadio says. “He has an astounding collection of mostly American cars with either very low mileage or they’ve been completely restored right down to the nuts and bolts.”

One of those cars was the 1962 Corvette.

“He showed me the car and told me the story, then asked me: ‘You’re a car appraiser, you own a dealership, what do you think it’s worth?’

“And I said, ‘This is north of a million, easily.’

“In the right room with the right Corvette freaks, or at an auction, the sky is the limit. Go find another like this car. There isn’t one.”

At the moment, he’s made inquiries of two or three collectors to gauge their interest, including former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, famous for his classic car collection.

“We haven’t heard back from Jay,” Mr. Di Stadio says.

But no matter. This 1962 ’Vette may never get to a starting line. But when it gets to an auction block, it might go faster than any other car in its class. ¦

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