‘Car guys’ step up to help Smithton theft victim
In the classic cars world, aficionados have each others’ backs.
After reading about the theft of two doors and the seats from a South Huntingdon man’s long-coveted 1968 Pontiac Firebird in the Tribune-Review on Tuesday, several fellow car buffs offered to help.
Joel Ribniscky was shocked and disappointed Friday morning when he discovered the damage to the cream-colored car, which he’d bought for $12,000 only six weeks earlier.
By Tuesday morning, three self-described “car guys” had reached out to Ribniscky, offering him free or inexpensive replacement parts.
Scottdale construction company owner Larry Newcomer said he has a collection of antique and classic cars, including parts from a 1969 Firebird he used to own.
The 1967, ’68 and ’69 year models are all the same, he said.
“I have two original doors. I told (Ribniscky) he could have them. You hate to hear it (theft), especially to happen to someone who waited that long to buy one,” Newcomer said.
Ribniscky had put aside small sums of money for 30 years to buy the car, which is similar to one he owned as a teenager, and he looked forward to showing it at classic cruises.
Ribniscky, Smithton’s volunteer fire chief, believes the car was stripped between 1 a.m., when he returned home from a fire call, and when he rose at 6:30 a.m. for work at his business, Andy’s Tire and Auto Center in Smithton.
State police at Belle Vernon are investigating.
Ribniscky hadn’t yet insured the car and feared replacement costs could amount to half the price he paid for it.
Bob Paouncic, owner of Slickville Auto Body and Truck, said he has a customer willing to sell two doors and two bucket seats from a 1968 Firebird.
“I feel so bad for him,” Paouncic said. “I have a ‘74 GTO that I drive to car shows. It’s my big boy toy.”
Sonny Snyder of SOS Auto Service in Donegal offered to connect Ribniscky with someone he knows who wants to sell a motorless ‘79 Firebird.
“I really feel sorry for that guy. I’d like to help him out,” he said.
Snyder believes he can find replacement parts at a significantly lower cost than Ribniscky anticipated. Snyder said he bought a 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Indy pace car last year and drives it every day.
“That (theft) would have made me totally sick,” he said.
Ribniscky, who said the theft took him from shock to anger to sadness, was surprised that customers, friends and acquaintances have called or stopped by to tell him they were sorry about the damage.
“There are people dying out there. This is very important to me, but it’s not tragic,” he said.
Still, the offers of help “are awesome,” he said.
“I still want my dang doors back. If somebody wants to give me some car parts cheap, that’s good,” he said.
Calling himself “sentimental,” Ribniscky said he’s not sleeping well after the damage done to his “favorite car.” But the calls of sympathy and offers of help are uplifting, he said.
“It’s actually amazing how many nice people called me. The world is more full of good than bad,” Ribniscky said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or [email protected].