Nickey Chevrolet, a local dealership located in Chicago was owned by Mr. Nickey. Mr. Nickey decided to sell his dealership due to the financial crisis caused by the great depression. This dealership was purchased by two brothers. Edward J “Ed” Stephani and John “Jack” Stephani. The brothers divided the workload, Ed was running the business and all the related things while Jack was looking after the showroom.
Something happened in 1957 that changed their fate forever. While on a vacation in Florida, Jack did notice a local business that had inserted a backward letter in its name. He noticed all the attention he gets, and he returned to Chicago and contracted a sign company to paint “Nickey” on the sidewalls of the dealership with the K reversed.
Immediately, people have begun to respond to the sign with the backward K on it. Many came to the dealership to inform the owners about the spelling mistake, then these people were told about the products that they are promoting. Soon
In the late 1950s, Nickey Chevrolet got into racing and sponsored the 1958 “Purple People Eater” Corvette, which won the B category Production car Championship in 1958.
Nickey Chevrolet sponsored a wide range of race cars at both drag racing and NASCAR events. They even sponsored a Genie MK X car for an actor called Dan Blocker, a famous TV show star, who in return did commercials to promote Nickey Chevrolet.
In 1965, Nickey vice president Don Selieg asked the parts manager Don Swiatek, if he thought a performance shop would be successful. Son Swiatek was given 30 days to make it work, or he’d lose his job. The former repair shop was converted to a performance shop and due to the success of sponsoring the racing events, word spread through the Americas like wildfire that the people at Nickey could handle any performance upgrade.
People who would be looking forward to buying a serious speed machines were dealing through the regular salesman, and then the specification catalog order would be handed to Swiatek, who would work with the customer to have the car outfitted with a wide range of performance options to make it one of the most powerful as well as personalized to the tastes of the customer.
Nickey Chevrolet also had another way to get customers into their showroom. Nickey would pay for a one-way ticket from anywhere in the United States for a potential customer who’s interested in a performance car unlike anything in the market.
Bill Thomas, a Southern Californian mechanic, who had built the 377 cubic inch Cheetah race car, ended up joining Nickey Chevrolet to become their West Coast service provider to reach a wider audience. According to the deal, Dick Harrell, a legendary drag racer and a mechanic, was supposed to be sponsored by the Nickey Chevrolet in the races to come. Dick Harrel was hired to be the full-time driver behind Chevrolet Chevy II drag racing car.
Dana Chevrolet, a dealership in Southern California had installed a 427 cubic inch V8 from a Corvette into the Camaro with successful results. The engine compartment of the Chevrolet Camaro was designed to house the 396 V8 as the top-of-the-line engine. 396 V8 was not much different from the 427 V8 and allowed ample space for the engine swap without much trouble.
Don Swiatek at Nickey, heard about this and used his mechanical prowess to swap the stock 396 V8 with 427 V8 in one of their Camaros.
Nickey didn’t brand its Camaro with much ornamentation or graphic decals as the Yenko or Baldwin Motion did. They included a few decent-looking emblems here and there. They didn’t come with custom seat covers like those used on the Yenko cars.
A Camaro with the stock 396 cubic-inch V8 engine wasn’t dull at all. It was a capable machine both on-road and track. But, a Camaro with a 427 cubic-inch V8 engine is a fighter jet when compared to the stock. It was fast enough to consider as a Muscle Super Car by its own rights. The 427 V8 engine delivered 435 horsepower.
The Camaro was offered in three stages. The stage III 427 Camaro costs $5992, which is $1500 more than the price of a brand-new Corvette. The Stage III Camaro delivered 550 horsepower.
Nickey Chevrolet also had a thriving mail-order business that was run through a special mail order catalog system. The special parts catalog by Nickey came with a cost of $1 to handle the transaction mail fees, but even that was refunded with the first order. Every performance part made by the Chevrolet was available through mail order that delivered the parts to your doorsteps. In the mid-1960s, Nickey Performance Shop was selling spare parts and performance parts to make more than $60000 per month. In the basement of the dealership was a cinder block named the vault. Inside were valuable crate engines, waiting their turn to get installed on a new car.
Though the Nickey Chevrolet was making money faster than printing, by 1967, they were on troubled waters. The reason for this was an employee theft ring, tax evasions, financing issues, and some decisions made by the Stephani brothers that almost ended the union between them and Thomas.
By 1973, General Motors declared that the Nickey Chevrolet is out of trust, which means that they were selling cars and parts but not paying GM its due. In December 1973, Nickey Chevrolet closed its doors in retaliation
Nickey Chevrolet had a big foothold and fame than any other performance dealer at the time, due to its involvement in many successful motorsport events from NASCAR to the local drag strip.