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June 30, 2001

Growing Up Camaro: A passion dating back to the Swinging 60s equals one trader's love of trading.

By Sanford Wexler

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  • Growing Up Camaro: A passion dating back to the Swinging 60s equals one trader's love of trading.

Chris Cappillo spends hours on the road as a sales trader for Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Capital Markets.

The well-traveled pro has another, less-known reason for hitting the road: He's the proud owner of a black 1968 Chevy Camaro SuperSport - one of the all-time classics of the Swinging 60s.

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"It gives me a great sense of freedom," said Cappillo, a 38-year-old Brooklyn transplant living in the suburb of Manalapan in New Jersey.

"The car gives me a release," added Cappillo, as he showed this reporter its fancy interior and the well-tuned eight cylinder engine.

On the Road

Cappillo is well acquainted with car engines, transmissions, carburetors and almost anything else that keeps a car on the road. His father and his uncle were in the car repair business.

"When I was a kid I worked as a mechanic at my uncle's transmission center," Cappillo said. "I was always around cars and mechanics."

His love affair with Camaros began before he knew how to drive or could even barely walk. And it was a wonderful family affair.

"When I was about three years old my brother Victor had a brand new, gold 1967 Camaro," he said. "I just loved that car. I wish I had it today."

The pleasure Cappillo gets from driving fast cars equals his passion for the trading world. In fact, this marks his 19th year at Jersey City-based Spear, Leeds & Kellogg.

Cappillo joined the firm back in 1982 as an assistant trader when it was called Troster Singer. Back then there were only about 15 traders and assistants on the desk. Today, the firm is staffed with over 400 trading pros. "I've seen a couple of different markets," he said.

As a sales trader, Cappillo has spent a great deal of his time on the road. Not driving his '68 Camaro, mind you, but traveling from airport to airport en route to client meetings and conferences.

Cappillo hooked up with his Camaro through pure chance. "The car really found me," he said. About eight years ago, he was in the market for a used Camaro from the 1960s. Sure enough, a handyman who did work around his mother's house was selling his '68 Camaro.

Cappillo will never forget the day he discovered the trophy he had waited for. "When [the handyman] took the cover off the car I was absolutely floored," he recalled. "This is exactly the car that I had always wanted."

The night before Cappillo was to buy the car -- for a cool $8,500 -- he was so wound up he was unable to sleep. "I was like a little kid," he said.

Today, Cappillo is like a virtual, walking encyclopedia on most aspects of the Camaro. "Like the Ford Mustangs of that era, you can play with the engine types," Cappillo said.

"You can put almost any size engine or transmission into this car," he continued, in his walking encyclopedia manner. "These cars appealed to the general public because they were like the poor man's racing car."