Ralph Denuzzio's 1957 Pontiac Safari (from January 2003)

Walking through the rows at a show, some cars just seem to naturally catch your eye. Maybe it’s that perfect paint job, that just right stance, a neat set of wheels, or rare factory options. Sometimes it’s because it reminds you of a car you used to have, other times it’s because you hardly ever see them. For us, it was a combination of many of the above items that seemed to make Plantation, Florida, resident Ralph Denuzzio’s 1957 Pontiac Custom Safari Wagon stand out when we saw it at the Turkey Run.

Ralph spent 6 years looking for a ‘57 Safari, of which only 1,292 were produced, when a friend in Ft. Pierce told him about a person in Texas that had one for sale. Ralph talked on the phone with the owner to negotiate a deal for the car, which was represented as a #1 car in top condition. The owner told Ralph there was another guy who wanted to buy the car that day, so Ralph made an offer and sent him a deposit. As Ralph was leaving to catch the plane to Texas, he picked up a copy of Hemming’s and found a car with the same description listed for sale in the same town. He thought it must be the car he had already put a deposit on, but called to verify just in case, only to discover it was indeed another car. He thought, how strange to have looked for 6 years only to find two Safaris in the same small town, both with the very rare air conditioning option.

Upon arriving in Texas of course Ralph went to see the car he had put the deposit on, only to discover this “#1 car” was a rusted out carcass. The tailgate was help up by 2x4’s, the spare tire well consisted of a riveted in crushed washing machine tub, the floor boards were various real estate signs, and there was major rust around the interior window trim. There was no steering wheel, and lots of engine and air conditioning parts were missing. Naturally Ralph asked for his deposit back, and decided to stop and look at the other car on the way back to the airport. This time, however, he was again overwhelmed with what he saw.....but in a good way. It was a completely rust free car with all the equipment intact, and only 78,000 original miles. So Ralph bought the car, brought it back to Florida, and started a fabulous restoration, which took four years to complete.

On the exterior it is painted deep charcoal metallic and sand silver metallic, which is of course complemented by all the neat factory chrome in perfect condition, and a set of deluxe spinner caps. It has a factory sun visor, fender skirts, and the original Pontiac Indian head fender ornaments with clear lighted tips. Under the hood is the original 347 cubic inch motor, mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Inside you’ll find gray and cream leather upholstery with silver carpet, and full power equipment. Other neat items include the famed Wonder Bar signal seeking radio, power antenna, and a factory compass.

Ralph told us that he drives the car frequently, and when we went for a ride with him it really was a pleasure. It certainly gets lots of admiring looks, and was given a gold medal at the Pontiac Oakland Club’s International Convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2000. Ralph has been a classic car fanatic for a long time now and owns several other great vehicles. They include a 1963 split window Corvette which he’s had for 30 years, a 1957 Thuderbird which he’s had for 27 years, a supercharged 1963 Avanti which he’s had for 24 years, a 1955 Pontiac Sedan Delivery which he’s had for 4 years, and he is currently building a 1958 Pontiac Safari Wagon. Ralph is about the nicest guy you could ever meet, and his cars are equally impressive. Who wouldn’t want to own this neat, and very rare, pristine 1957 Pontiac Safari? I know I would. CN