Life-long Wiltonian is a life-long ‘car guy’

Peter Egan, an ex-columnist at Road & Track Magazine, once wrote about the idea of a cylinder count, that if you were a car lover, you could measure your gear-headedness by counting up the number of cylinders you own, including those in the motors of your cars, other vehicles and even power tools.
If Paul Bonomo, owner and founder of Cannondale Generators in Wilton, did that, his gear-head might explode, what with his warehouse full of gas generators and his garage overflowing with vintage vehicles.
Bonomo is an avid “car-guy” and a life-long Wiltonian. His grandfather moved the family to Wilton in 1922, putting their history in town at just under a century.
Bonomo graduated from Wilton High School with the Class of ’64.
His three sons, Bill, Paul and Stephen, also attended the school. Bill and Paul live in Wilton, while Stephen lives in Redding.
Bonomo founded Cannondale Generators in 1990 with his wife, Yolanda, and runs it with the help of his sons, who will be equal partners once he retires, a process that is already underway, he said.
“I just help out and answer the phones now. I’m not here at 7:30 anymore; put it that way,” he joked.

Start your engines

For Bonomo, things changed forever when his uncle bought a Chevrolet Corvette in 1960.
“I loved the sound of it, the ‘sportiness’ of it. They only made something like 8,000 of them back then. Ever since he brought that Corvette home with him, I’ve been into cars,” he said.
Bonomo certainly lived in the right area for his newfound love.
From racecar driver Luigi Chinetti opening the first stateside Ferrari dealership in Greenwich, to Wilton being a mere hour away from New York City, the main import location of foreign sports cars, Bonomo, it would seem, was living in a gear-head’s paradise.
“Back then,” he said, “there were only about 5,000 people living in Wilton. Everyone who lived here worked here. And there was money. There were lots of sports cars, everywhere you looked. As a young kid, I would just look around and say, ‘wow.’”
But now that Bonomo has spent a life in and out of garages, he has much more to say than “wow” when it comes to cool cars.
“I love the mechanics behind them,” he said. “I love the look, the sound, the way they drive; even the history behind them interests me.”
Bonomo has a total of 11 cars besides his everyday drives, including an unfinished 1962 Jeep FC-150 that he is several years into restoring, with several more to go.

Bonomo’s garage

  • 1987 Chevrolet Suburban

  • 1961 Chevrolet Corvette

  • 1965 Corvair Corsa

  • 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster

  • 1976 Jaguar XJ12C

  • 1969 Autodynamics GS Autocross

  • 1966 Volkswagen 21-Window Deluxe Micro Bus

  • 1975 Volkswagen Type 181 “The Thing”

  • 1963 Jeep CJ-3B

  • 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S

  • 1962 Jeep FC-150

“The ’32 Ford Roadster is probably my favorite,” Bonomo said. “It’s the quintessential hot rod. If you looked up hot rod in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of it.”
Bonomo brought the Roadster with him to the Wilton Kiwanis Geeb Fleming Memorial Cruise Night on July 10, along with the Microbus, the Jeep CJ-3B and the ’61 Corvette, and was featured in Wilton Bulletin Cruise Night coverage.

More than a motor

While Kiwanis Cruise Night was a night for car “enthusiasts,” to bestow that title on Bonomo might do him an injustice.
Bonomo’s passion for cars goes beyond simple pastime. He believes in the greater context of the automobile as intrinsically American.
“The car is part of what made the U.S.A. great. It was one of the backbones of our economy,” Bonomo said.
When asked what satisfied him most about collecting and working on cars, Bonomo said “maintaining the importance of the automobile.”
“I would like to see more young men mechanically able,” he added. “This day and age, you see too many guys that don’t know which end of a wrench to pick up. I think it’s a shame.”
But Bonomo does not bemoan the state of the mechanical world from the bench in his garage. He has pursued Wilton High School to ask if Cannondale Generators can come in to help educate students about mechanics and has even donated money to the school for its automobile shop class.
Bonomo is planning to attend the Alden Sherman Classic Car Show in Weston on Sept. 20.
“I’ll probably bring my Jaguar — and maybe the bus,” he added with a smile.
If time were not a limiter, Bonomo would collect and restore cars forever.
He put it like this: “Mae West once said, ‘So many men, so little time’; I say, So many cars.”