This Month Alfio Previtera graduates from McPherson College with a bachelor's degree in Automotive Restoration Technology. Previtera is excited, and his parents, Cathy and Alfio Sr. are delighted. However, there was a time when college wasn't a certainty for Previtera. That changed, thanks to a very tired 1969 Camaro and a newsletter from Hagerty.
For as long as Alfio Previtera could remember he loved machines of all kinds. "I was always making things and I loved building stuff. Growing up on his parent's South Jersey farm, from which Alfio Sr. also ran a trucking business, the younger Previtera admits "I was always around mechanical things." When he discovered BMX bike racing at age 11, riding competitively wasn't enough. "At the end, I was buying every part and building my bikes myself."
The Car Search
Working with his father on farm equipment and trucks taught Alfio basic mechanical skills. Even though his driver's license was months away, by the time he was 15 he was looking for his first car. But rather than look for a late-model car, Alfio knew his first car was going to be old. "Those cars appealed to me because of their simplicity. Plus, my Dad-who once had a 1964 Chevelle SS -- knew about them and I wouldn't be on my own." Before long, he settled on a Camaro because parts were readily available and much of Dad's experience would easily transfer. He hadn't made up his mind on which year to choose when he came across a magazine picture of a first generation Camaro. Thanks to a single glimpse, he knew that's he'd have to find a 1967 through 1969 model.
As part of the search, Alfio, his father and his father's friend, Anthony Garozzo, attended the Fall 2002 Carlisle meet. While there he spotted a white 1969 Camaro which had started life as an early production Dover White V-8 car with a manual transmission and red vinyl interior. Although it was far from pretty, it would be an excellent candidate for restoration. After a test drive, Alfio bought it on the spot. Equipped with temporary tags and Dad behind the wheel, they started on their 125 mile journey home. With father and son leading the way eastward, the Camaro backfired constantly, sending out a steady stream of "fireballs" from the exhaust.
At first, Alfio drove the car around the farm, teaching himself to drive a manual transmission. When the 30 day temporary tag ran out, he started tearing into the Camaro, which he described as "pretty much a mess." Off came the front clip, the non-original 350 V-8 and the front suspension. The worn out interior, which combined some original parts, homemade door panels and incorrect seats, was quick to go.
Alfio assisted as much as he could as his father and mechanic Mike Rodgers tackled the engine and transmission. The 350 V-8 that came in the car was completely rebuilt with a mild cam and other gentle tweaks similar to what his father had done to his Chevelle more than 30 years earlier. Meanwhile, he cleaned, painted and rebuilt all the small components, including the suspension and braking system. All the bodywork was subcontracted to a local shop called Pete's Rod Nest in Elmer, NJ. He may not have worked on the body himself, but the shop was so close to his summer job that he was able to visit every day during lunch and keep an eye on the progress. The result was a truly fine looking LeMans Blue '69 Camaro rolling on period aftermarket wheels. After two years of steady work, the car was registered, insured with Hagerty and Alfio had the coolest car of any senior at Kingsway Regional High School.
Looking to the Future
As he entered his senior year in the autumn of 2004, Alfio wasn't sure of a career path. He didn't much care for school and wasn't thrilled with the thought of four years of college. According to Cathy Previtera, "we were encouraging him to apply to colleges, but he had no direction until we received a Hagerty Newsletter [Protection on Wheels]. There was an article on McPherson College and the Automotive Restoration Technology Program." After a little research, Alfio and his parents visited the college and "realized it was the perfect program--technical training for him and a Bachelor of Science degree for us."
Alfio agrees that McPherson "was the solution that would make everyone happy." Having grown up in southern New Jersey he admits Kansas, " was different than anyplace I'd ever seen before. " Although there was a bit of culture shock, he was "very excited by the shop. Big, clean, lots of tools. It was very impressive and I was pretty much sold."
It took a bit of adjustment to being so far away from home, which Alfio admits was his least favorite part of the college experience. However, going to Kansas was worth it because for the first time in his life "I really liked school and the classes." The course he most looked forward to was engine building, where he felt that his prior experience gave him an edge. But the class that most surprised him was Upholstery, taught by instructor Richard Dove. "Interiors never interested me and I was almost dreading taking the class. But as soon as I started to learn upholstery I found a new respect for it. It was fun and I learned a lot. Now I can sit down at a sewing machine and make a seat cover."
With his senior year coming to an end, Alfio Previtera isn't exactly sure what comes next. He really enjoyed modifying a damaged 300ZX to take a small block Chevy and he's having the time of his life building a hot rod completely from scratch, so he'd consider joining a hot rod shop. Then again, he's never done much work on pre-war race cars, so that appeals to him too. All he knows for sure is that thanks to Hagerty and McPherson College his options are wide open and he's headed back to the Garden State.