March 11, 2010
Petrella creation gets ‘Big’ invite
In the end, this restoration project pulled off by the Petrella Brothers Auto Body Shop in Cortland ended up being too good.
The basic plan hatched by John Groat, who is the owner of the HolyShirts printing shop in Syracuse, was pretty simple stuff and a rehash of past rallies conducted by colleges and high schools alike over the years.
As part of the Big East basketball fever spreading through upstate prior to Syracuse University playing host to Villanova in a first place showdown before a record throng of 34,616 at the Carrier Dome two Saturdays ago — an event that even drew ESPN’s Game Day television crew to town — he purchased a rusted out and run-down 1974 Chevrolet Nova automobile.
“I had that thought to myself for a while, prior to the event, that it would be great to have an old Nova and paint it up and have people take a whack at it for charity, as in beat ‘Nova and beat that Nova,” said Groat. His printing shop has produced memorable shirts for Syracuse athletics, such as Marathon Men (for the six-overtime SU victory over Connecticut in last year’s Big East basketball tourney) and The Devil Wears Orange (for former Duke Blue Devils basketball player Greg Paulus taking over as SU’s football quarterback this past fall) to name a couple.
But the Petrella Brothers crew out on Luker Road in Cortland, Matt Petrella being a brother-in-law to Groat, spiffed up the Nova to the point where the finished product created a change of heart.
“The Nova turned out so nice I couldn’t let myself allow the people to bash it, so instead we paraded in around Syracuse,” said Groat.
So the planned smash-athon transformed into what Groat called a “mobile pep rally.”
After the Petrella Brothers put back all the breakable parts that could have done damage while being smashed with a sledgehammer, like windows and mirrors, the new engine-less chassis was carted around Central New York. It drew honks from passing cars, thumbs up from sidewalk admirers and had to pose for pictures with Syracuse fans. There were also inquiries about buying the dark blue car with the orange and white lettering.
The 1974 Nova made pit stops at Armory Square and Dinosaur Barbecue downtown, and even got some rave reviews from the ESPN Game Day crew that included Bobby Knight and Digger Phelps who unfortunately discovered the car at the Carrier Dome after shooting their “outside” footage that was used for their Saturday program.
The car became so popular, it even got an invitation to the Big East Tournament, with the potential there of a Syracuse vs. Villanova rematch Friday night in New York City in the semifinal round.
The Blarney Rock pub, a hangout for Syracuse fans located a lob pass away from Madison Square Garden, offered the invitation to have the car displayed in front of their establishment for Big East Tournament fans. Transportation and storage costs will probably prevent that from happening, though Groat was headed to the tournament and still pondering whether to make the effort to bring the car along in mid-week.
“Without it sounding like a commercial, they were honestly great,” said Groat of the Petrella Brothers, the HolyShirt owner married to Katie Rocco from Cortland. “If you see the ‘before’ picture, it looked like a rust bucket. They really came through in a pinch.”
The car was purchased on the Tuesday prior to Saturday’s SU-Villanova game on Feb. 28 and was painted by Petrella Brothers on Wednesday. By Thursday the lettering was completed and it was show time.
Even if the Nova does not make it to the 2010 Big East tourney party in New York City, it will be sticking around and avoid demolition.
“We’ll hold onto it and some day we’ll probably display it at a store we hope to have,” said Groat, whose HolyShirts print shop is now located on the east side of Syracuse not far from Le Moyne College. “We think of the car as a great memento of a historic game in Syracuse sports history. When we made the car we obviously didn’t have the final score of the game, and we’d like to paint that on it, too.”
Syracuse won the showdown 95-77 to clinch the Big East title and earn a No. 1 national ranking.
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