The years came and went. Joe built his career, bought a house with the fianc he moved for (now his wife Tami), and brought a daughter into the world. The '67 was long gone, but when it came to Corvettes, one thought stuck in Joe's mind. "I always knew I'd buy another," he says. It would also have to be the "right" car. For Joe Nietupski, that meant finding a Vette that would never lose its value, it meant finding one with all the options, and it meant finding a six-speed. Another idea that appealed to Joe was the chance to own another Vette that was the last of its kind. Taking everything into account, Joe decided to go looking for an LT4-equipped '96 Vette. His search was extensive-and fruitless. Joe describes himself as "fussy" when it comes to Corvettes, and nothing that he turned up was the "right" car.
As it turned out, the right car found Joe instead. Frustrated in his search, he finally placed an ad in the Arizona Republic, and got an answer from Jim and Sandi Cole of Peoria, Arizona. The couple's '96 Collector Edition convertible was for sale, and Joe went to take a look. His reaction upon seeing the Vette was "Wow!" It didn't take long for Joe to decide that this was the "right" car, and a deal was quickly struck.
What Joe got was an immaculate Collector Edition with only 15,000 miles on the clock. Almost every option was present: full power, Bose CD player, tinted windows, the new Selective Real Time Damping system, sport seats, the matching hardtop, and plenty more. The exception is RPO Z51, the Performance Handling Package, which Joe doesn't miss, given the option's reputation for delivering a rough ride.
The Vette also sported two minor modifications, both of which Joe decided to retain. The 17-inch ZR-1-style wheels, which came from the factory with a silver painted finish, were chromed, and two charcoal gray Grand Sport hash marks were added to the left front fender. The subtle alterations serve to accentuate an already stunning Corvette, and meld perfectly with the Collector Edition Sebring Silver Metallic paint.
Just as he did with his '67, Joe Nietupski takes his '96 out on nice weekends and sunny days, though these days his 13-year-old daughter Stacy is most likely riding shotgun. It's a head turner to be sure, and the enthusiasm in Joe's voice when he talks about his car affirms that he's one happy guy. He knew he'd own a Vette again, and there's no doubt in his mind that his wait for the "right" car has paid off. Just don't ask him to sell it; the Collector Edition and its brethren are the last-and best-of their kind, and this one isn't going anywhere.