Every person who buys a Corvette gets more than just a fine automobile. They also get a little piece of Corvette history. They're all special, each one with its own unique story, each one a little piece of the aura and tradition that is approaching its 50th year of existence. But then there are Corvettes that are extra special-big pieces of history, if you will, such as '53-55s, rare options like the '63 Z06 and L88s, veteran Sebring and Daytona racers, factory one-offs, and, we submit, Indy Pace Cars. Add the Corvette performance legacy to that of the most famous and longest-running American car race, the Indianapolis 500, and you've got a slightly larger than normal piece of history. And that's just what Frank Fopiano of Las Vegas has with his '95 Indy Pace Car Replica.
Fopiano became a Corvette enthusiast as a teenager, when a friend introduced him to Dick Ingalls, a mechanic at Commonwealth Chevrolet in Boston who raced a mid-year at New England Raceway. Those weekend trips to the drag races got young Frank hooked, and after a stint in the service, he went Vette shopping. Given that the LT-1 had been emasculated by 1972, and the fact that he liked the big-block hood, Frank bought a '72 Ontario Orange 454 coupe. Conditions permitted Frank to buy the car for under sticker, but he was disappointed with the car's performance, feeling that it was "toned down" and had no "bite." It was however, a "sharp-looking" car, and drew a lot of attention.
Despite the fact that it suffered from what he saw as a power shortage, Frank enjoyed his '72 for nearly a decade, getting together almost every night with a group of Corvette owners who met for coffee in Winchester, Massachusetts, and cruised to the beach. But as so often happens, starting a family and buying a house conflicts with owning a Corvette. And for almost two decades, family concerns came first.
When it came time to buy another Corvette, Frank considered the wide variety of cars available, and made a unique choice in deciding to go for a '95 Indy Pace Car Replica. Now with Pace Car replicas, there doesn't seem to ever be any middle ground-you either love 'em or hate 'em (this is even more so with '98 Indy Pace Car Replicas). Fopiano obviously falls into the former category. The eye-catching colors and graphics, which inspired some to label these cars, "Baskin-Robbins Specials," appealed to him.
Frank's homework and Internet research led him to a likely candidate located in Florida. The car passed muster with the inspector he sent, and Frank bought the car, sequence number 69, sight-unseen. So Fopiano had re-entered the Corvette world, and he certainly had a nice piece of Corvette history: he owned one of only 527 replicas of the Corvette that had paced the 79th Indianapolis 500 (by far the smallest Pace Car production run). But when the chance came to own a slightly larger piece of the history, Frank didn't hesitate.
Soon after buying his '95, Frank registered with the '95 Pace Car Registry, and started receiving its newsletter. Corvettes of all kind spawn their share of memorabilia, and Pace Cars inspire more than their share. It was a search for Pace Car goodies that caused Fopiano to respond to an ad in the PaceSetter, though he got much more than he expected. The ad was placed by one Colonel Jim Peterschimdt, who had grown up in the Indianapolis area and developed a healthy fanaticism for Indy Pace Cars. And though he was just about out of memorabilia, Peterschimdt was facing a three-year deployment to Germany and had something else for sale: his '95 Pace Car Replica, sequence number 5, Indy Track