Beauty’s Got Muscle: A true love story between woman and car

By Tara Hurlin / Originally Published December 16, 2015 / Hagerty /

When Katie Poletti was growing up in Long Island, N.Y., she immersed herself in the best of both worlds by playing with Hot Wheels and Barbie dolls; she loved to wear flowing dresses but was commonly seen in dirty overalls. Her father had a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle, so her love of cars could have been instilled in her since birth, but it didn’t consume her until later in life, and now the petrol in her veins only grows richer.

Katie has been with Ned, her Chevrolet Nova, for nine years, and she loves him more and more every day, but to say their romance was love at first sight would be a stretch. “When it came time for me to get my first car, I knew it would be a Chevy; I’ve always loved the bowtie and always will,” Katie said. “Novas caught my eye, and I liked the looks of the third generation, but most were either rust buckets or out of my price range.”

While searching online, Katie and her dad came across Ned: a fourth generation 1978 Chevrolet Nova with a straight-six engine, automatic transmission and 34,000 original miles. “The first time I saw a picture of him, my eyes immediately drifted to the nasty crockpot-like hubcaps stuck to his wheels,” Katie said, “Little did I know that this car would be the love of my life.”

“I believe every car enthusiast forms a special bond with their first car,” Katie said, “But to me, Ned means so much more; he is my freedom, my happiness, my ambition, and my hopes and dreams. I feel like the person that I believe I can be when I’m with him – the best version of myself.”

Ned was by Katie’s side during her most formative years, and they both evolved together. “When I was upset I wouldn’t chat with my friends; I would take Ned for a drive to a destination to nowhere,” Katie said. “Sometimes we wouldn’t even drive at all; I would just get in and sit, but somehow I would always come back better from it, an incredible feeling.”

Ned always has Katie’s back (Ned Before overhaul).

Ned gets a facelift

Katie is a hands-on gal who learns by doing, so she approached Steve McCorory and Peter Colasanto, owners of SP Classicsin Amityville, N.Y., about an apprenticeship so she could learn more about working on classics. They counter-offered with a huge opportunity: They would take time to help Katie work on her own car. “It was truly a gift from the kindness of their hearts,” Katie said.

Katie was overwhelmed by the opportunity to be part of Ned’s overhaul. “There are defining moments in our lives that imprint on our soul, and this was one of those moments,” Katie said.

Katie working on Ned during the overhaul.

“To say I was heavily emotional during the morning of the reveal is an understatement,” Katie said, “I found myself reflecting back on my entire relationship with Ned in disbelief; we had such a long journey together so far, and I always dreamed of doing something like this for him because he has given me so much. Being reunited with Ned brought about the most overwhelming combination of emotions that I have ever had.”

“Standing before Ned, my knees were made of jelly …” Katie said. “I don’t think my body knew which emotion to send out first, so it pushed them all out at once. I was hysterical, and I was like that for a while; I’d be laughing, which would then evolve into a cry, over and over again, and I had to sit often from almost passing out.” As Katie walked around Ned, she fell in love all over again, reunited with her other half, profoundly proud and overflowing with gratitude, joy and tears. “It was one of those moments that you’re very aware of how lucky you are and how your life is forever changed,” Katie said, “I was just your standard ginger in love.”

First time hearing Ned with new engine.

Even two weeks later, Katie would spontaneously start weeping. “I cry every time I watch the video,” she said. The overhaul was so much more than just material changes; it gave the idea of “Beauty’s Got Muscle” more power, and it gave Katie a reservoir of strength and courage – it gave her hope.

High five between Katie and Steve from SP Classics.

The beginnings of “Beauty’s Got Muscle”

Katie had been going to car shows with Ned since she got him in 2006, and the main thing she noticed is that she stuck out like a sore thumb. “It wasn’t just because I’m a redhead, or that I was driving a fourth generation Nova, but I never saw any women who were classic car owners,” Katie said, and with that, she decided to investigate; she knew she wasn’t alone.

During her senior year of college, Katie was assigned a thesis project that was to be a full year’s worth of work dedicated to one concept of her choice, and she titled that project “Beauty’s Got Muscle.” Because of her desire to work with video, Katie made her thesis into a film project, and over the course of that year she filmed Ned Nova and herself for a video series that she titled “Beauty’s Got Muscle: A true love story.”

At the time of filming the series, Ned was still a straight-six with only 60,000 miles, and Katie wanted to set out across the country with Ned to find other women in the car world like herself, while filming the entire adventure. “It was a pretty grandiose idea, but after graduation, like most, I fell into line,” Katie said. “I began looking for a job to start the career that I had just earned the degree in, and I figured when I was older and hand more money and time I would revisit the idea.” We have all heard stories about folks having big dreams, and then missing their window of opportunity to pursue those dreams; Katie was almost one of those victims.

A few months after college graduation, a very good friend of Katie’s passed away from brain cancer; she was only 21 years old, the same age as Katie at the time. “I still have trouble explaining how much of an impact this had on me; it changed my entire life,” Katie said, “She had been fighting for four years and told no one. She refused to let it control her life; she was going to continue to live by her standards, not the cancer’s. It wasn’t until the last few months that she told anyone; she waited until the doctors could no longer help and it was physically difficult for her to leave her house. She was an inspiration. Her name was Theresa Durso, but everyone called her T.”

The Challenge Ahead

One day while driving Ned, Katie noticed an SUV in her rear-view mirror gaining on her. When the car came up along side of them, the lady was all smiles and she was saying something to the passenger while pointing at Katie driving Ned. “When I looked over at them, there in the passenger seat was a little girl bouncing and screaming with excitement,” Katie said,  “I cried from being so happy. It was the promise of a future with ‘Beauty’s Got Muscle.’”

“The idea that we are so heavily defined by the exterior and not by the context of our hearts is something I have always wanted to change about the world,” Katie says, “but one of the great things I have to say about the car community is that they’re all passionate people and if you share the same passion they do, for the most part gender stereotypes don’t exist.”

“As I’ve traveled to meet the wonderful people in the car world, I am continuously inspired and motivated to keep going for all of them, for my friend who passed and for myself. I am forever grateful because in a way, I believe my friend saved my life.”

With the mission of “Beauty’s Got Muscle,” Ned has given Katie’s life a purpose that she can truly be proud of. “He’s a part of me to the point where I’m not sure what I’d do without him,” Katie says, “I would be lost; that’s scary, I know, and probably crazy to some, but that’s love, real love.”

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