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News: Stray fireworks destroy Bensenville man's restored Corvette

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    Jun 2007

    Exclamation Stray fireworks destroy Bensenville man's restored Corvette

    Stray fireworks destroy Bensenville man's restored Corvette

    By Hafsa Naz Mahmood | Staff Writer
    Daily Herald - Suburban Chicago

    Richard Szatkowski of Bensenville bought his 1989 Corvette in 1990 for $27,000. At the time, it only had 4,000 miles on it. When it was destroyed by illegal fireworks, it had 47,000 miles on it and his "baby" was worth more than $25,000.

    Richard Szatkowski of Bensenville spent 18 years restoring and customizing his 1989 Corvette. That all came to a flaming halt on the Fourth of July when errant illegal fireworks shot off by somebody in the neighborhood, landed in his car.

    Richard Szatkowski shows some of the illegal fireworks he collected in his Bensenville yard. The fireworks are similar to one that destroyed his prized Corvette on the Fourth of July.

    Richard Szatkowski's 1989 Corvette was the hottest car around on the Fourth of July.


    The Bensenville car guru spent that day making thousands of dollars worth of improvements to his beloved car's interior, including new seats, carpeting and a steering wheel. He even videotaped footage of the project's progress for his weekly cable access TV show, "Wild World of Classics."

    When Szatkowski finished, he washed the car and left its removable top off to let the carpet's corners dry.

    Then around 10 p.m., a neighbor told Szatkowski his black Corvette was on fire.

    Apparently, someone's errant fireworks landed inside the car, which Szatkowski spent the last 18 years tinkering with and restoring.

    By the time firefighters extinguished the flames, shattered glass was everywhere. All that remained of the carefully restored interior was the frames of the seats and the steering wheel.

    The car's Fiberglas body had been turned into something tan and fuzzy, and the aluminum side mirrors had melted and splattered on the ground.

    Days after the incident, the smell of the burning car still lingers over Szatkowski's driveway.

    "It's gonna probably stink forever," he said Tuesday.

    The only usable parts of the vehicle are the suspension and engine.

    "The interior's completely destroyed," Szatkowski said. "(The car's) garbage, and it'll go to a junk yard."

    Szatkowski said he's devastated about losing the car he's been decking out for nearly two decades.

    "Guys like to dress up their cars like ladies like to decorate their homes," he said. "That was my baby, my toy."

    He even made his basic Corvette look like a speedy 1994 ZR1 by putting in special bumpers, wheels and a nameplate.

    "Since this happened, I'm walking around like I lost my best friend," Szatkowski said. "I can't cry, but my heart's so heavy right now."

    Szatkowski says the car had about 47,000 miles on it and was worth more than $25,000 when it went up in flames. He spent $27,000 to buy the car from a private seller in 1990.

    He had been upgrading its features ever since.

    Despite his loss, Szatkowski said he's thankful the situation wasn't worse.

    "What if this (the fireworks) hit somebody's home?," he questioned. "Somebody could lose their life."

    And though he doesn't think the incident was intentional, he's frustrated with people who shoot off fireworks willy-nilly around the holiday.

    "People don't understand what they're doing," he said. "They think they're just having fun. I'm hoping by seeing this and reading this story, they will think twice about using things like fireworks."

    As for the show, which Comcast broadcasts weekly in about 80 suburbs, Szatkowski says he's not sure when his special episode will air.

    "I gotta clear my heart a little bit," he said. "I don't wanna be crying on camera."

    In the meantime, Szatkowski says he's doing the best he can to deal with the situation.

    "My heart probably will never recover," he said, "but getting a new Corvette would help me."
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Stray fireworks destroy Bensenville man's restored Corvette-80288-jpg   Stray fireworks destroy Bensenville man's restored Corvette-80289-jpg   Stray fireworks destroy Bensenville man's restored Corvette-80290-jpg  

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