Some people know Long Islander Tony Garofalo as a retired New York City Police Department sergeant. Others know him as a Douglas Elliman real estate agent. Still others know him as the talented John Lennon impersonator/vocalist/guitarist from The Beatles tribute band he founded in 1991, “Strawberry Fields.”
But up until now, only a few insiders knew of Garofalo’s lifelong passion with the movie musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” starring Dick Van Dyke, after first seeing the premier of the film in 1968 with his mother, Anna Garofalo, at Radio City Music Hall.
“The car was parked outside of the theater,” said Garofalo, “and I told my mom, ‘I’m gonna build that car.’”
And now, the stars have aligned so that, with a lot of “sweat equity,” as he calls it, and a little help from his friends, Garofalo, a car buff himself, is the proud owner of not one, but two Chitty cars — one that took him 5 years to build himself, from scratch — as he told his mother he would do that night outside the theater.
Anna died of cancer in 2005, the same week that Tony retired from the police force, after a 20-year career and with 700 arrests to his credit after working in the central robbery unit, narcotics division, detective division, and internal affairs bureau.
That combination of events was the impetus that he needed to begin his quest in earnest — to find out how to build his beloved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, circa 1914. “It was always in the back of my head,” he said. “And now, the time was right.”
“It had to be right-hand drive,” he continued, “and I didn’t want to buy anything too beautiful, because I’d have to tear it apart. I looked around a lot, and I found what I was looking for from a guy in New Jersey who was selling a 1914 Overland that was essentially saved from the scrap yard.” Garofalo said that the car had most of what he needed to start.