As Phil Bozek proudly displays the sixth award he’s earned for the classic Corvette he’s restored, he recalls a time when, as a child, poor and hungry, he only dreamt of owning such a magnificent automobile.
That “American dream” as he calls it, seemed far out of his grasp at the time. Still, he didn’t lose hope that one day it might be achieved and the 1960’s Corvette that nine-year-old Phil fell in love with would one day be his.
“It’s the great American sports car,” the Nuangola man related. “A lot of people dream of owning one. I dreamt it. I worked hard and now I consider myself blessed.”
Phil and his wife, Lisa, are both Corvette enthusiasts and have been attending the popular Corvettes at Carlisle car show for the past 12 years. In that time, Phil has brought home six awards, judged not just on the look of his cars, but on his emotional story of dreaming to be a Corvette owner and making it a reality.
In 1968, when Phil was nine, he sometimes visited a Wilkes-Barre car dealership with his older brother. There, he marveled at the beauty he saw in the shiny new vehicles. He could spot the makes and models of different cars, as well as the years they were made, instantly.
As one of seven sons of a struggling coal miner, in a family so poor they sometimes went to bed hungry, Phil only aspired that one day he’d rise out of the trenches. Of the fancy hot rods he saw, Phil had an instant favorite –the Corvette –and his ultimate fantasy was to one day grow up and own one.
He was lucky to meet and marry a woman who shared his admiration for the classic car. “The Corvette was always my favorite, but I never thought I’d ever have one,” he remembered. When he met Lisa in the early ’90’s, he told her of his Corvette dream. While the couple had been saving money for a wedding, Lisa encouraged Phil to use the money to buy a Corvette.
His first one was a 1980 model. Over the years, he’s owned five Corvettes. His current, a ’63 Corvette roadster, comes from his favorite era of the car. “Some people like the newer ones, but I like the mid-year, ’63 to ’67,” Phil related. “This is what I think of when I think of Corvette.”
He went on of why he loves Corvettes from the ’60’s, “For a car to last that long and stay true, and to be the only American sports car, that’s something…It always seems to turn heads wherever we go.” He described many instances where people have admired his car or have flashed him a thumbs up when he’s driven by.
The Corvettes at Carlisle show is one of the biggest Corvette events in the country. Phil and Lisa attended for the first time in 2004, winning the Celebrity Choice Award, and have won five more times since, including this past August. The achievement is impressive given that out of over 4,000 entries, only 145 award recipients are chosen.
Phil and Lisa drive their Corvette, a distinction that the judges appreciate. Some participants have their cars brought in on trailers, as they don’t want any wear or dirt to come upon their vehicles.
Phil finds it hard to understand those who maintain their Corvettes but don’t drive them. His philosophy is that, life is short and no one knows if tomorrow will come. While he loves his vehicle, he’d rather enjoy the feeling of driving it rather than simply preserving it for aesthetics. Every few weeks the couple takes a weekend joyride in one of their Corvettes and plan soon to drive Lisa’s ’05 model to Ocean City, Maryland.
The judges at Carlisle also come to their decision after reading essays that the Corvette owners write. In Phil’s, he tells the story of his childhood and his gratitude in achieving the American dream. This resonates with the judges, who seem to value Phil’s emotional attachment to the Corvette over other contestants who may have poured thousands of dollars in their cars, but have invested far less heart.
Phil has been around cars his whole life. He was a truck driver and
See Corvette page 4