On any given Sunday morning, when the weather is nice, people passing through Cos Cob can spot a row of gleaming vintage cars parked outside M&T Bank.
Mostly American models, the beautifully preserved cars draw the curious. And envious!
The Cos Cob Cruisers, a group of true car guys with deep ties to Greenwich, gather with their cars to swap stories and reminisce.
The weekly informal “show” is fixture in Cos Cob – as long as it’s not raining.
Originally the car enthusiasts held their gatherings at Mill Pond, but moved their recurring gathering to the M&T Bank parking lot a few years ago. The property, originally home to Friendly’s, is set to be redeveloped for a mixed use commercial and residential building, so the group will be seeking a new home.
This past Sunday, before Henri was on the horizon, the car afficionados arranged their folding chairs in a spacious circle for a reprieve from masks and isolation.
Luigi Ceci said the last year Chevy made the Impala convertible was 1968, the year his father bought one brand new as a gift for his wife.
Ceci, whose family moved to Cos Cob in 1968, said the gift was not received as anticipated.
“My father bought it brand new for my mother. When he pulled in the driveway, my mother looked up from the porch and walked back into the house,” he recalled. “It was too big.”
“The next week my father went and bought her a Vega,” he added, referring to the compact car made by Chevrolet.
Ceci’s father wound up driving the Impala himself. But, he said, “He worked in construction seven days a week and didn’t have much time to drive it.”
Today the car is pristine, not only because it’s been garaged for decades, but because it has only been driven 13,000 miles.
Jim Pucci was a Greenwich Police officer for 24 years, but in 1988 he lost his leg after he was struck by a car while on duty on I-95. He was able to work light duty, but ultimately retired in 1991 on physical disability.
Mr. Pucci said the Cos Cob Cruisers have been connected to one another for decades.
“We all grew up together. We went to school together,” he said. “My brother and Carmen Moretti went into the Navy together. They were very good friends.”
“I’ve had Corvettes all my life,” Pucci continued, gesturing to his Stingray.
Pucci said the first year the Corvette Stingray was made was 1963, and his was one of the originals.
He said the car had belonged to his wife’s niece.
“Her husband unfortunately passed from cancer. He had this in a collection. (His wife’s niece) said she wanted to keep the car in the family,” he said, explaining how he came to buy the car.
Pucci also has a 1982 Corvette Stingray, which was the last year the Stingray was made.
“The two cars are bookends,” he said of his Corvettes being from the first and last year the model was built.
“The lines are beautiful,” he continued, adding that he told his wife’s niece that if they were interested, he’d be prepared to return the car to her daughters, with the goal of keeping it in the family.
Pucci said that he planned to bring a couple of his vintage cars to the Greenwich Police Car Show on Saturday, Aug 28 (9:00am to 4:00pm) to benefit the Greenwich Police Scholarship Fund. (GPDscholarshipfund.org).
Carmen Moretti shared the story of his vintage red Mustang.
He said he used to run a boxing program for teens at the Pemberwick Community Center.
“I was recovering from chest surgery and I was walking with the boys from my street,” he recalled. “Mr. Taracka’s house was across the street, right next to one of my boys, Joey Whelan. This car was out front with a for sale sign. It was rusted real bad. I said, go ask Jules Taracka how much he wants for this car.”
“They knocked on his door and asked him how much he wanted for the car,” he recalled. “He said, ‘Tell him to make an offer.'”
Moretti didn’t make an offer, but, he said, not long after that day, Mr. Taracka did come up up with a price: $100.
“The car didn’t run, so they pushed it down the street and put it in my driveway,” he said.
As for the vintage red Mustang, Moretti said he originally intended it to be a gift to his daughter Sue Moretti Bodson.
“In 1981, she was 15 years old,” he said. “She was about to get her license. I had it in my head that I was going to restore this car and give it to her – except not paint it. I had everything done, but it was going to be in primer – it was high school and she was a new driver.”
Moretti said the plan didn’t pan out.
“We were planning a trip to St. Thomas. I had the car in the body shop – I took the engine and the transmission out. They did all the metal work on it. The day before we were supposed to leave for St. Thomas, they called me to say the car was ready, but I had to put the engine and the transmission back in. They said if I couldn’t come pick it up, they’d have to go ahead and paint it, and they did.”
“I said I can’t have her drive this car, but this was always her car,” he said. “Now she’s finally taken it.”
Moretti said he had a collection of nine vintage cars, all Fords, with one exception.
Moretti, who worked for Cadillac for 43 years, also has a 1993 Cadillac Allante, which was the last year that model was made.