A little more than a year ago, Strati-Padawer was introduced to the show scene by her long-lost childhood friend, Bobby Zajicek, after reuniting with him at an elementary-school reunion. “One thing led to another,” she explains, “and before I knew it, a routine we called ‘midnight oil’ was born. Bobby would show up at my doorstep at midnight, sleeves rolled up and ready to work on my car. He was intent on getting it ready for the spring car-show season. We did a little minor tweaking here and there, shot hoops at 1:00 in the morning, blasted the radio in the garage and fought a lot about what needed to be replaced and what had to remain stock. Since we are from two different schools of thought, it was often a challenge. Bobby would say, ‘The paint is peeling on the block, let’s just spray paint it’ or ‘Let’s put chrome tips on your tailpipes.’ After many hours of my insisting, ‘No, the car has to stay just the way it is, it’s a survivor,’ he finally got it. This was like déjà vu, reminiscent of my high-school years with my brothers, but in my garage this time.”
All of the time and effort spent prepping the car paid dividends when it earned a Top Flight award at its very first NCRS event, a Long Island Metro Chapter show. Strati-Padawer plans to continue showing the car in 2010, including at Bloomington, where she’ll have it Survivor judged. She would have made the pilgrimage to Bloomington in ’09, but the dates conflicted with her son Luke’s high-school graduation. Luke offered to skip his graduation ceremony and go for the Gold, but mom vetoed that move. She did, however, let him drive the car, an experience that brought her equal measures of joy and stress.
“He was 16 with a learner’s permit when I gave him my keys and let him take her out for a spin,” she recounts. “Talk about a white-knuckle ride, but it was well worth it. I had a reason for this temporary insanity; I wanted him to see just how much I trusted and believed in him. As we pulled back into the driveway—I was looking very gray and ghostly by this point—Luke turned to me and said, ‘Mom, I’ve been waiting to do that since the day I was born.’ I did have to draw the line this year when he announced he would like to borrow my wheels for his high-school prom. Ah, I don’t think so.”
Though he’ll have to rough it to the prom in a more ordinary car, the future looks bright for Luke. He and his mom will get to Bloomington this year, and along with Strati-Padawer’s daughter, Lindsay, the family will continue enjoying their remarkably well-preserved Corvette for many years to come.