Chevrolet Corvette Trio Sailing Through San Diego

How the harbor's loss became a boon for Corvette touring

Steve Temple May 7, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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Originally, Los Angeles was supposed to be in San Diego. But it didn't happen, and that's a good thing, because it preserved the pristine character of a spectacular Socal destination for cruising around in a Corvette.

By way of explanation, San Diego was initially eyed for its potential to become the main commercial seaport for California, thanks to its large natural harbor. But Los Angeles won out, in part by building a two-mile-long breakwater back in the early 1900s. The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach eventually passed San Francisco as the busiest port in the United States. But what was good for commerce was bad for tourism, turning those cities' waterfronts into an eyesore, with extensive arrays of dock cranes for unloading container ships.

In contrast, while San Diego is still a major port, it hasn't been sullied by excessive waterfront industrialization. Which makes it a much more pleasant place for touring in a Vette, with clearer skies and cleaner water, better beaches and far less traffic congestion.

San Diego also doesn't have the same urban sprawl. Instead, it features more tightly knit, defined neighborhoods, such Little Italy, the Gaslamp Quarter, and Old Town. The latter is regarded as the birthplace of California, at least from the standpoint of the first European settlers in 1769. (The indigenous peoples likely had a different perspective.) Today, this historic site recreates the feel of California in the mid-1800s, with scores of restaurants, galleries, museums, artisans, and other attractions located in a tree-shaded area near the intersection of the 5 and 8 freeways, a couple miles north of the harbor.

Chevrolet Corvettes Front View San Diego 2/12

Our San Diego tour guides George Marks, Dave White, and Robert White pose with their Corvettes at our initial rendezvous site near the Salk Institute.

Our tour, however, started well north of San Diego in the tony area of La Jolla (pronounced "la-hoya," possibly a mistranslation from Spanish for "the Jewel"). We then wound our way south to downtown in a trio of cool Corvettes, with George Marks, Robert White, and Robert's brother, Dave. All three of these guys are San Diego residents, and they were quite accommodating for our drive.

Owned for 25 years and showing less than 60,000 on the odometer, Marks' '63 roadster is a numbers-matching San Diego car with classic black-and-yellow California plates. This long-time runner has a 300hp 327 with a four-speed, along with a Wonderbar radio and clock that both still work. Although not restored, the car was repainted five years ago with the original color, and the bumpers were just re-chromed as well.

As for the White brothers, the immaculate '65 red coupe was purchased by Robert and wife Kim for their 30th wedding anniversary. (To be precise, he bought it from a military officer deployed in the Middle East and kept it in storage for three months until their anniversary party).

After purchasing the coupe, Robert upgraded it quite a bit with Steeroids power steering, a Tremec TKO-500 five-speed, Baer disc brakes with drilled rotors, Vintage Air HVAC, and an intake manifold, carb, valve covers, and shocks from Edelbrock. American Racing Wheels and a Custom Auto Sound stereo system provide the finishing touches. The non-original engine is a 350hp 350 SBC, while a "stinger" hood makes room for the tall Edelbrock manifold.

Robert and brother Dave (who joined us in his C6 convertible) recently attended the Detroit International Auto Show to see the unveiling of the new Z06 and C7.R race car. At the time of our shoot, they also planned to head to Sebring for this year's TUDOR race, as well as to Bowling Green in mid-2015 to pick up C7s together.

"We still have the '78 coupe that was my father-in-law's [and which] has been passed on to my older son, Ryan," Robert adds. "My younger son, Matt, has an '03 Z06 that he and I track together with my '10 ZR1. As you can tell, there are loyal Corvette lovers throughout the family."

Chevrolet Corvettes Side View San Diego 6/12

Ascending Mount Soledad, our Corvette trio pauses at a spectacular overlook facing the city to the north.

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