Judy and Bert Bernardi, of Shelby Township, each own a Corvette. For Judy, it’s a 2016 model, and for Bert, it’s the 1974 Stingray.

Judy and Bert Bernardi, of Shelby Township, each own a Corvette. For Judy, it’s a 2016 model, and for Bert, it’s the 1974 Stingray.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Behind the Wheel: Owner has a long history with his Corvette

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published September 24, 2021

 Bert Bernardi paid $7,035 cash for this Chevrolet Corvette when it was brand new at a dealership in 1974.

Bert Bernardi paid $7,035 cash for this Chevrolet Corvette when it was brand new at a dealership in 1974.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Bert Bernardi was 23 years old when he purchased his dream car: a 1974 Chevrolet Corvette.

He saved up enough money to pay cash for the Vette, which he bought fresh off the showroom floor in ’74.

“The Corvette was the thing to have,” the Shelby Township resident said. “We used to cruise Woodward, and we used to cruise Gratiot. We were kids.”

The 1969 Hazel Park High School graduate still remembers the day he brought home the dark brown metallic sports car. The day before he purchased it, Bernardi and a few pals headed over to the dealership at 12 Mile and Telegraph roads to window-shop.

“We were dirty and gruffy in ripped T-shirts and old jeans,” recalled Bernardi, who at the time lived with his parents and worked for Ford Motor Co. “The salesman came up and said, ‘Stay away from the car, guys.’ I looked at the sticker on the window: $7,035. I go home that night and I tell my dad, ‘I’m going to buy a new Corvette.’”

The next day, Bernardi’s father, who owned a 1974 Lincoln Continental, drove him to the dealership. Bernardi had two requests when buying his new Vette.

“I wanted a car that had no air conditioning, and I wanted a four-speed,” he said. “I got dressed up in a suit and tie, went to the dealership and found the Corvette in the showroom. I had this brown paper bag with enough cash to buy the car.”

The same salesman from the previous day — who shooed Bernardi and his friends away from the Corvette — approached him, but the young car buff asked for a different salesperson to help him. Before Bernardi knew it, the new sleek set of wheels was his.

“I bought the car in the morning,” he said and then headed to work. “My supervisor called me in his office and said, ‘But you work for Ford. Why did you buy a Chevy?’”

“I could not afford to buy a Pantera, so I bought a new Corvette,” Bernardi told him. Two months later, Bernardi was laid off “because of the oil embargo.” The car enthusiast eventually hired into General Motors, working 10-12 hours a day.

Bernardi, who attended the auto body design program at Macomb Community College, takes the car out for drives two to three times a month. To date, it has less than 60,000 original miles on it.

“Even in the winter, it comes out once a month,” said Bernardi, who gets thumbs-up from others when on the road. “People love it, especially the body style. That’s called a Stingray. That’s the original paint. It’s got a leather interior and exhaust pipes on both sides.”

Since his first name is Bert, Bernardi has an ornament of the character Bert from “Sesame Street” hanging on his rearview mirror. Not long after Bernardi purchased the Vette, he and a pal drove out to Colorado on a 10-day camping trip.

“We had two sleeping bags, a pup tent and a pocketful of money,” Bernardi recalled. “We drove to the summit of Pikes Peak. We drove through Texas. We met a lot of people on the road. We’d pull into gas stations, rest stops.”

The 1974 model is not the only Corvette in the family. Bernardi’s wife, Judy, who grew up in East Detroit, which is now Eastpointe, owns a 2016 Corvette.

“This is her baby,” Bernardi said. “The color is ‘night race blue.’ When the sun hits it, it’s got a little turquoise in it. It’s a beautiful car. The technology in the new cars is amazing.”

The couple’s son, Tony Bernardi, and daughter, Andrea Baldwin, have owned Corvettes, among other classic car models. Bernardi also has owned a 1932 Ford sedan and a 1961 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.

“I’ve been into cars all of my life,” the Corvette owner said.


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Do you own a vehicle with an interesting history? Email Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com and you could be featured in an upcoming Behind the Wheel.