During 30 years building his Texas-based company into the largest manufacturer of picture frame mats in North America, entrepreneur Chris Piscitello lived with an addiction he didn't try to hide.
The retired 56-year Mettawa resident says he doesn't drink or do drugs. His compulsion is collecting cars.
It started when he played constantly with Hot Wheels as a kid.
"I still own my first car," Piscitello said.
On Friday, he'll be parting with one of his best: a Tuxedo black 1967 L71 435-horsepower Corvette convertible. It's expected to sell for as much as $500,000 at auction.
"It's not a typo," Sam Murtaugh, vice president of marketing and presentations for Mecum Auctions, said of the price.
Piscitello's Corvette will be among about 2,000 vehicles up for auction through Saturday at Mecum's spring classic in Indianapolis.
"This is the muscle car and Corvette auction in the country," Murtaugh said.
The auction estimate for Piscitello's entry is $400,000 to $500,000, Murtaugh said.
Why so much? Given the combination of color, certified original engine and equipment, condition and other factors, it's one of fewer than 10 of its kind, and the only one that has not been altered.
"It's a '67 Corvette, which is the pinnacle year for collector Corvettes," Murtaugh said. "Biggest engine, highest horsepower, convertible, (and) the biggest fact is it's unrestored."
That means original paint, interior, Soft Ray-tinted glass, engine, spark plug wires, belts and hoses, pre-federal standard blackwall tires and more. Four-speed manual transmission, off-road suspension and original soft top and auxiliary hardtop are other features.
Of the 22,940 Corvettes built in 1967, only 815 were Tuxedo black. Other added features dramatically drops the number that ever existed.
"This car was special ordered," Piscitello said.
Bob Olderog, whose family owned Olderog Tire Service in Davenport, Iowa, bought the car at Bob Eriksen Chevy Center in Milan, Illinois, for $5,681.85 -- $1,000 in cash and the rest financed. Piscitello became its seventh owner in 2002.
"Somebody along the way in its 50-year history has recognized it as a collectors' item since the beginning," Murtaugh said. "It's the original everything."
The car has been driven 23,800 miles. Piscitello has logged 48 miles in 15 years.
"I like the way they look," he said. "I don't have to drive them."
Piscitello's business acumen helped fuel his lifelong passion for restoring and acquiring classic cars -- a hobby many people can't afford.
He keeps 20 collectibles in a 7,200-square-foot garage that he won't enlarge so as not to get carried away with his hobby.
His routine has been to buy a car when he sells one.
Among his collection is his first car, a 1968 red Camaro Rally Sport, which he sold and reacquired 26 years later. Some vehicles he has acquired, like those owned by his friends growing up in Morton Grove, have sentimental value and are untouchable, Piscitello said.
With this year marking its 50th anniversary, Piscitello said it was time to part with his prize Corvette. He knows whoever buys it will treat it well.
"You can buy a Ferrari for half the price," Piscitello said. "All we really are caretakers."
Corvette: 50-year-old car has only 23,800 miles on it