NINETEEN EIGHT TWO IS A SPECIAL YEAR FOR JOE PICCA. Not only is it the year he graduated from high school, but it also happens to correspond with his favorite Corvette model. This goes a long way in explaining why he has not one but two ’82 Corvettes parked in his garage. And not just any ’82s, but two of the most well-preserved examples that you’re likely to ever come across.
He happened upon the first one in 2004, while working a few cities from his home in River Edge, New Jersey. It was parked inside a garage with the door open. The car’s bright white color caught Picca’s eye first, then, as he got closer, he noticed that it was in perfect, and seemingly all-original, condition. “It was stunning,” remembers Picca, who describes 1980-82 models as having “the most refined shape” of all third-generation Corvettes. A peek inside revealed an immaculate Camel-colored leather interior, a load of factory options and an odometer reading just over 19,000 miles. At that point, Picca did what anybody would do when coming face to face with his or her dream car: He asked if it was for sale. The owner wasn’t present, but the person in charge of the Corvette said he would make an inquiry.
Six months later, Picca heard that the Corvette’s owner was interested in selling the car. As it turns out, that owner was none other than Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine, who had bought it new but not driven it much during the 22 years his name was on the pink slip. A deal was made, and the keys were soon in Picca’s hands, along with a signed copy of Penthouse. Apparently Mr. Guccione wasn’t the most ardent of Corvette afficionados, as he signed the magazine: “To Joe, Enjoy the Vet.” This Vette had been given a more knowledgeable custodian, one who had been immersed in the model’s lore since he was a boy.
The Corvette did not, however, inherit an owner interested in driving it a lot. Eight years after purchasing the car, Picca has logged less than 2,000 miles, which means he’s driving it about a third as much as Guccione (or his handlers) did. But Picca was not looking for a road-trip machine, he was more interested in buying a piece of Corvette history, lovingly preserving it—right down to Guccione’s vintage car phone—and sharing it with his wife Stacey and son Nicholas, as well as the public at local car shows.
Picca is even more hesitant to put miles on his second ’82 Corvette; that’s because it has less than 500 on it. No, there are no missing zeros in that figure. When he bought the red Corvette in 2010, it had a mere 320 miles on it. By comparison, his white ’82 is a “driver.”
Six years after buying his first ’82 Corvette, Picca wasn’t necessarily looking to buy another, but when he came across the listing for the red car in Hemmings Motor News it pretty much stopped him in his tracks. If you are interested in preserving Corvette history, you can’t do better than acquiring a bona-fide time capsule. The original owner, after buying the C3 with every available option from Mike Savoie Chevrolet in Troy, Michigan, put the car in climate-controlled storage for the next two decades. The Vette was periodically brought out of hibernation to warm and circulate its fluids, and keep its various lines and hoses from gunking up, but over that 20-year period it only accumulated 131 miles, which works out to a mere 6.5 miles per annum.
Gino Burelli bought the car in 2002 and proceeded to run it up the National Corvette Restorers Society flagpole, winning nearly every award those doyens of Corvette originality have to offer. Most impressively, it passed the NCRS’s rigorous Performance Verification test, which means it ran exactly like an ’82 Corvette should run—something that can be difficult to achieve with a car that has seen so little use.
Picca doesn’t have the time or money to keep the red ’82 on the national NCRS event circuit, but he does enter it in local cars shows, transporting it on a trailer if much distance is involved. After all, the car is still rolling on its original Goodyear Eagle GTs—sized P255/60R15, these were a pricey $542 option—though Picca says the tires have no dry rot or any other obvious signs of age.
Despite the fact his two ’82s are accumulating very little mileage, Picca is a stickler about their maintenance. He has their vital fluids changed on a yearly basis, and has an experienced Corvette mechanic inspect them regularly. Trickle chargers keep their batteries charged and fuel additives keep the gasoline in their tanks stabilized.
As would be expected, he has accumulated very few repair bills. Fortunately, the gremlins that sometimes haunt Cross-Fire Injection have never visited the 200-horsepower V8s in these two Corvettes. “I’ve been lucky,” says Picca. He did, however, need to have the brake calipers on the white car repaired after having problems with them sticking. That car’s original tires had already been replaced (with Eagle GT+4s) when Picca bought it, and have a lot of life left in them.
We wondered why Picca didn’t target a Collector Edition Hatchback, as it is generally seen as the most desirable ’82 Corvette. “I don’t like its appearance,” he says. Picca has no problem with the hatchback design, which greatly improves access to the rear storage area; it is the model’s color scheme that he doesn’t appreciate. He describes its unique Silver-Beige exterior and interior colors as looking “dated,” and also isn’t fond of the decal package.
To Picca, an ’82 Corvette simply looks best in red. Apparently, Chevrolet felt the same way back in the day. It put a red example on the cover of its ’82 Corvette sales brochure. That cover car, according to Corvette expert Mike Vietro, may actually be Picca’s. There’s no way to be certain, but even the possibility adds a certain luster to the car’s already well-burnished image. Obviously, Picca wasted no time in tracking down a copy of that ’82 brochure. He keeps it together with all the other documents that came with the cars, including that signed Penthouse.
In case you’re wondering, Picca says there will be no other ’82s in his future. Part of it comes down to space: His four-car garage is already full, with a ’96 Grand Sport coupe and an ’03 Anniversary convertible parked next to the C3s. The rest comes down to desire: “Right now, I’m pretty satisfied with what I have,” says Picca.