There’s no doubt where Debbie Strati-Padawer’s passion for performance cars comes from. “My affinity for cars began in high school,” the East Coaster recalls. “Growing up with two older brothers in the ‘muscle car’ days, there were hordes of guys with their cars in the driveway at all hours of the day and night.”
Strati-Padawer’s brother Steve had a 427-cid/435-bhp 1967 coupe while her other brother, Ken, had an LS7-powered Chevelle. “Weeknights were spent getting ready for weekends at National Speedway, Dover or Raceway Park, or drag racing the quarter-mile strip at Westchester County Airport,” she remembers. “Transmissions were pulled out and changed, engines were rebuilt, headers put on, scoops installed in hoods and so on.” Her brothers even went so far as to hop up their grandfather’s Ford Galaxy 500 one night.
All Strati-Padawer’s memories of the good old days are not good, however. “It used to irk me no end that I was not allowed to even sit in my brother Steve’s ’67 Corvette,” she recounts. “On the flip side, my other brother Ken would let me drive his 1970 454 Chevelle with a Hurst 4-speed and cowl induction to high school. That was hot! I was a 17-year-old girl driving this loud, powerful machine through the high-school parking lot and I did not stall it once, not even over the speed bumps!”
Complete immersion in the car scene led to Strati-Padawer’s desire to get her own set of cool wheels, and brother Steve’s refusal to let his kid sister anywhere near his beloved Corvette made her determined to get, you guessed it, a Corvette. In 1977, she pulled the trigger even though it meant spending every dime she had and then some. She was still about $2,000 short of the $9,600 total needed. Her parents understood how much the new car meant to their daughter and generously covered the shortfall. “They put a check in a cute little card with a turtle on the front holding a gas can with ‘Happy Traveling, Love Mom and Dad’ written on the inside,” recalls Strati-Padawer. “The card remains an important piece of the history of the car, and a part of its original documentation and paperwork.”
Strati-Padawer ordered her ’77 Corvette from Byrne Brothers Chevrolet. The color she chose was Corvette Light Blue, which was essentially the same color as her brother’s ’67. “Coincidentally on purpose, I ordered the car in the same color as Steve’s 1967,” she says with a grin befitting the cat who just ate the canary. “In my own way, I was telling him that I no longer felt a need to sit in his car because I was buying one of my own!”