As a boy, Jim Salanitri’s family owned gas stations on New York’s Long Island. This gave him the opportunity to start working after school pumping gas and washing windows instead of delivering newspapers. It was in these gas stations where his interest in cars first came about.
Jim has owned a variety of “muscle” cars through the years, but none were so special as his beloved 1960 Chevrolet Corvette. He purchased the car from his cousin Mike Longo after it was put into storage in 1973. In 1999 Jim began its extensive restoration. He was fortunate that most of the original parts (including the original engine) were still with the car, as original parts are often difficult to come by for such a special automobile.
Now a restoration of this magnitude doesn’t come cheap and it takes time. Even still, early on in the process Jim had made an important decision regarding the restoration. “I guess with age I had a different perspective on how I was to restore my Corvette. My decision was to do a complete restoration to the original factory specifications, as it would have come off the assembly line in June of 1960.”
The restoration was completed in 2016, and Jim had the Corvette shipped to St. Augustine when he and his wife moved here. Once settled, Jim’s cousin Ron Leone introduced him to the Ancient City Auto Club where he met “some of the greatest car enthusiasts I’ve ever known.”
In May of 2017, Jim was invited to an event in Crystal River, held by the Florida chapter of the National Corvette Restorers Society. Jim and cousin Ron loaded the Corvette onto a trailer and hit the road. “We weren’t familiar with NCRS events, so we thought it was a typical event with cars and vendors.” What Jim didn’t know was that his car was about to be judged by Master Judges from NCRS. The judging, he was told, would be intense, and it would be held outside the public eye. When the judging was completed, the Corvette scored 98.5 out of a possible 100 points. Jim and his Corvette were bestowed the coveted “Top Flight Award,” which is given to any car scoring over 94 points.
Following such a prestigious showing, Jim was contacted by the editors of Corvette Magazine, and his 1960 “Fuelie” (so dubbed because of its use of fuel injection as opposed to a carburetor) was featured in a four page spread in the June 2018 issue of the publication, once again telling its story.
The awards, accolades, and press the Corvette has received are all well deserved and are a testament to not only the car but to the man who felt compelled to give this wonderful piece of history a second chance – St. Augustine’s own Jim Salanitri.
Photography by Steve Parr