February 9, 2017
About 20 years ago Quentin Carbone was starting his construction business in New York City. He needed a subcontractor who was excellent at building and renovating storefronts, and his father recommended a friend by the name of John Tara. Carbone and Tara did end up doing business with one another, and out of that grew a friendship, strengthened in large measure by their mutual love for vintage cars. Tara had a fairly substantial collection that included a few Corvettes, and Carbone was well on his way to becoming a self-described Corvette fanatic himself.
“I had a 1968 convertible that I purchased in 1986,” he remembers. “I really enjoyed driving the car, but it sat in the garage a lot because it wasn’t very reliable.” The lightly modified C3 was “gorgeous,” according to Carbone, thanks to its candy-apple red paint, Centerline rims, white top and chromed-out LT-1 engine. “I loved it, but I started to realize that getting a stock…Corvette may be a better way to go.”
At the time Carbone was driving a black-on-black ’89 convertible with a six-speed, and while he describes that C4 as “a lot of fun,” the allure of another classic model was too strong to resist. “I wanted an old one that was reliable and that I could drive without worrying,” he says.
Tara took notice of Carbone’s increasing appreciation for vintage Corvettes and began showing him photos of some of the cars in his collection. “One day he showed me a photo of a 1967 big-block coupe parked right in front of Rockefeller Center,” recalls Carbone. “It was Marlboro Maroon with a black hood ‘stinger,’ and I was instantly hooked on that particular car, so my begging and groveling began.”
To the dismay of Carbone, Tara didn’t want to sell the ’67. Making matters worse in a way, it was an original L71 427/435 car, and by the late 1980s the value of original ’67 435-horsepower Vettes had skyrocketed to the point that Carbone didn’t think he could afford it even if Tara were willing to sell. Still, he didn’t permit that minor inconvenience to dissuade him from frequently reminding Tara he was interested in buying the car. This went on for years, and though Carbone eventually resigned himself to the likelihood that his friend would never sell, he didn’t stop asking. Then one day the phone rang, and all of his tenacity paid off.
“Unbelievably to me, one day in 1996 John decided to let go of a couple of his cars, and he was kind enough to offer me the 1967 before he brought it to market,” Carbone relates. “The only [question] was, how could I afford it? I haggled with him for days over the price, eventually convincing him that his lack of paperwork for the car negatively impacted its value. So I ended up buying it at a very discounted price, which I was able to afford after selling my ’68.”
The “very discounted” price reflected the fact that there appeared to be no documentation accompanying the sale, a major impediment to establishing the value of any old Corvette with highly desirable options such the Tri-Power 427. But as it turned out, that documentation was actually right there under Carbone’s nose—he just needed to look for it. Not long after he got home with the car, he located the original owner’s manual and Protect-O-Plate, still in their original plastic bag, stashed underneath the passenger’s seat. At which point he received another pleasant surprise.
“The very next day…John called to tell me he found a folder for the car that he had forgotten about in his file cabinet. It had loads of great stuff, including service receipts, the first transfer of ownership from the original owner to the second owner and an original dealer invoice from Malcolm Konner Chevrolet, signed by Malcolm himself.”
All of a sudden, the ’67 435 with no paperwork had quite a lot of paperwork, which of course increased its value significantly, a fact that weighed heavily on Carbone. “I realized the deal John gave me was too good, and because he is my friend I wanted to remedy that,” he says. “I had no more money to offer him, so I gave him my prized set of American Flyer Standard gauge trains in their original boxes from the late 1920s. They were very rare and valuable, but I knew that John priced and sold his car to me based on him having no documentation, when in reality he had loads.”
After Carbone received the files tracing his Corvette all the way back to its selling dealer, his interest in the car’s history intensified. He learned that Tara had purchased it at a Corvette show at Malcolm Konner in 1981, where he and his friend Vinny Pasquale met a show judge named Don Nicida. Nicida had several cars on display, including the ’67 Tri-Power coupe and two small-block convertibles that really caught Tara’s eye. Tara specifically wanted a convertible and was ready to buy one of them, but his pal Pasquale convinced him to buy the maroon big-block car instead. He agreed, even though it was a hardtop.
Tara owned the car 15 years and shared a lot of information with Carbone, including one particularly memorable story. “One day, on a routine outing with his Corvette, he stopped in at the Tony Nero Hair Salon in Maspeth, Queens for a haircut. While Tony was cutting he casually asked John, ‘Who’s that waiting in your car for you?’ John jumped up out of the chair, knowing he’d left the keys in the ignition and [that] whoever was in the car was up to no good. Sure enough, the ’67 took off.”
Tara and his barber tried running after the car, but of course couldn’t keep pace with it. Luckily, an NYPD patrol car happened upon the scene, at which point the policemen recognized what was happening and gave chase. The young man who’d helped himself to Tara’s Corvette ran up onto a sidewalk and hit some plastic garbage cans before coming to a stop and getting cornered by the cops.
“The whole thing didn’t sit well with the police,” Carbone explains, “and back then it really wasn’t the smartest thing to resist arrest after a high-speed chase in New York City. By the time John arrived at the scene, he saw that the fender was scuffed up from the garbage cans, and he also noticed that there was blood splattered on the car’s hood. He was so upset he drove the car home and parked it in his garage, planning to bring it to a body shop at some point to see if they could clean up the mess. Unfortunately, what would have likely been only a paint repair to one fender turned into a complete re-spray when they realized that every little splash of blood had ended up eating through the paint.”
What made the repaint a little more painful for Carbone was the fact that the car was extraordinarily original in every other respect when he bought it. It had traveled fewer than 40,000 miles since new, and still had a completely original interior and engine compartment. It even had its original hoses, belts, F41 Special Front and Rear Suspension shocks and N11 Off Road Exhaust system.
In the 20-plus years Carbone has owned this beautiful Corvette, he’s shown it several times, earning many trophies as well as two NCRS Top Flight awards, with the first coming in 2001 and the second in 2015. To help maintain the car’s stunning original condition, and keep everything working as it should, he drives it with some regularity. He also relies on the crew at Benchmark Corvettes—a Lindenhurst, New York, firm specializing in Corvette restoration, repair and performance modification—to help keep the car in working order. Carbone’s love for the marque even led him to partner in the business with renowned Corvette expert Chris Tucci, who has more than 30 years of experience restoring many NCRS Top Flight and Bloomington Gold award winners. Tucci has also built some of the baddest hot-rod and restomod cars around.
Carbone gets as much enjoyment from his prized 435-hp Corvette today as he did 20 years ago, and he’s forever grateful to his friend and business associate John Tara for selling it to him. He’s also indebted to Tara for something else. “I’ve remained close to John for all these years, as we really have a lot in common. Besides our work in the construction industry and our love for classic cars…his daughter, Shannon, became my wife about 10 years ago.” Then he adds, laughing, “I guess you could say that I traded him a 1967 Corvette for a couple of grandkids!”