Trumbull woman raises $12,000 to restore husband’s Trans Am after cancer diagnosis

TRUMBULL — Eddy Jean Pelak said she loves surprises. She bought her husband a 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Firebird two years ago after he found and gushed about it.

“I bought the car as a surprise for him,” Pelak said.

Steve Pelak planned on restoring the car but a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2020 took him on a detour, as he faced multiple rounds of chemotherapy.

Little did Pelak’s husband know that his wife had another surprise for him on Friday evening when she took him to the dining room of their home in Trumbull and told him she raised $12,000 through a GoFundMe to restore his car and handed him a novelty check.

He said he couldn’t believe it.

“You did all this,” Steve Pelak told his wife.

Eddy Pelak had managed to keep him from finding out about the months-long fundraiser, telling family and friends to keep mum on the grand reveal. Steve Pelak isn’t on social media so that made it easier for her to keep her husband from finding out.

When he finally learned about the fundraiser, he said he wasn’t sure if he was going to jump for joy, or cry.

The car, Pelak said, was rusted, but Steve plans to restore it to approximate the model from the 1977 action film “Smokey and the Bandit.” It’s his favorite film, she said. He estimates it’s going to take two years to complete the restoration.

Pelak said her husband is beloved in the neighborhood, often fixing up neighbors’ lawn mowers. He’s a member of a local car club but his wife was apprehensive when she made the reveal. Her husband, she said, doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him.

She gave him the check, but there was a pregnant pause she said as other members of their family were there, waiting on him to say something. They didn’t know what to expect, she said.

The guessing was over once Steve Pelak got up and hugged her, as she cried.

But Pelak isn’t just a supportive wife. She’s also a gearhead.

“I am a car girl. I love Mustangs. I love Camaros. I used to go to drag races with my ex-husband. I love cars. I love speed,” Pelak said.

So when she met Steve at a church picnic more than 11 years ago, she knew he was the one. He also loved cars, and that’s what they talked about during their first encounter. Now married, the two maintain their shared love, going to car shows often before Steve Pelak was diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer on Christmas Eve in 2020.

He underwent grueling chemotherapy, losing 80 pounds in the process. Eddy Pelak said she wanted to do something to lift his spirits and the restoration was something he had been eager to do since he received the car.

Right now the car is still on jacks after Pelak took the car apart. His wife said he meticulously stored nuts and bolts in labeled small bags. He already is starting to paint parts for the car on his own, but the raised funds will allow him to finish the project.

Steve Pelak said he already knows what parts he’s going to buy first.

“Two rear springs, so I can put the rear end back in the car and then we’re going to go to the front of the car and do the brakes and put all the front end back together,” he said.

He’s also going to rebuild the motor, get a new transmission and paint the interior.

The big reveal also came around the same time he got good news regarding his cancer treatment. He said he’s feeling better, and his wife said he’s gained back some of the weight he lost. He’s scheduled to get a CT scan in January to see if the tumor has shrunken enough for him to have surgery.

Pelak said he’s in awe of his wife.

“She's an awesome woman, my wife, and I would be lost without her. She’s the best,” Pelak said.