All Mike Britten wants for Christmas this year is his dad’s long lost black 1968 Chevelle.
It’s not an easy wish to grant. Even Santa would be hard-pressed delivering a vehicle whose last known whereabouts were somewhere inside the Bayport apartment complex at the corner of Nicolls Road and Montauk Highway — in the mid-1980s.
Britten, 46, of Smithtown, and his older brother Wally Jr. began a quest in 2018 to locate the souped-up vehicle that their dad raced and their family came to know and love as “American Pie” in the early 1970s.
Now on the search alone, following his brother’s death in 2019, Britten wants a chance to re-acquire the car and restore it to its former glory.
“This car was like a super hero to Junior and I as kids,” said Britten, who now lives in Smithtown. “It has been a thing of legend in my family. I can remember going for rides in the car as a kid.
“There was no backseat, so Wally and I would hold on to the roll bar,” Britten continued. “The car was a true beast. It would shake windows as it went down the road.”
Wally Sr., now in his 70s and living in Rocky Point, bought the Chevelle back in 1970, with intentions to make it the family car.
“The 307 engine it came with was burning oil. Pop was a car guy and he couldn’t have that,” Mike Britten explained.
“Pop” found a 427 Chevy big block engine that only needed a little work. It was a cheaper way to go than repairing the 307, Britten said.
“Mom and Pop started work on the engine, and rebuilt it together,” he said. “One thing lead to another, and more love was put into the car and the engine.”
In 1971, Wally Sr. started racing American Pie, named after the Don McLean classic that a young Wally Jr. would wander around the house singing. Britten’s “Uncle Rick” pitched in by painting the stripes on the car.
Britten said that in 1974 his father, while racing American Dream at the old National Speedway in Center Moriches, set the Class 12C record for speed. Soon after, American Pie gave way to Wally Britten’s pursuit of the American Dream.
“Pop sold the American Pie in the late 1970s to buy the first family house,” Mike Britten said. “That car was pretty much the last thing he ever had for himself. He’s a very dedicated family man and gave it up for us.
“As Wally Jr. and I grew up, we always dreamed about finding the car and somehow getting it back to Dad,” continued Mike Britten, who grew up primarily in Huntington. “We never gave up the dream of finding the American Pie.”
Britten began tracking down the Chevelle by posting about it in a couple of Facebook groups, along with placing an ad on Craigslist.
They received a response that helped them find the man that had bought American Pie from their dad. Their dream started to seem more like reality.
“Sadly, Wally passed away on June 2 last year, before I had the chance to speak with Richie — the guy Pop sold the car to,” Britten said.
Richie told Britten that he needed to sell the car in the mid-1980s because he was going through a divorce and he believed that his wife was going to want to keep the car.
“Richie couldn’t remember the guy’s name that he sold the car to — only that he lived in the apartments on the corner of Nicolls Road and Montauk Highway in Bayport,” Britten said. “Richie had run into the guy a while after he sold the car — that’s when the guy told Richie that the car was too damn fast! He put the car up on blocks, and it hasn’t been seen since.”
Britten is determined to continue his search as long as it takes.
“If I was ever able to find that car, I would want to return it to the American Pie that my parents built together,” he said.
“I’d like to try to keep as much of it the way he built it as possible. The paint can’t be duplicated. Uncle Eric passed away last year. Ultimately, I’d love to go for a ride in it with Pop! And I would put custom Wally Jr. plates on it to always have him with us.”
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