"I was blown away to find a '70 Corvette 454/four-speed with factory air—a pretty darn special combination," Billy Syester said. The old Vette was sitting in a real barn outside of Woodbury, Tennessee. Syester got the lead during a breakfast bull session with "three or four" of his buddies at Hardees early one morning. As Syester told it, "They knew I was into Corvettes. Sometimes I drive my '66. One of the guys mentioned seeing a Corvette in a barn."
He really got interested when one of the guys revealed this Corvette had chrome bumpers. So, it had to be pre-1974, but nobody knew the model year. Given this, he pushed for more information and wondered if the hood had a bumper in the middle. Sure enough, it did and the hood bulge suggested a big-block.
Although Syester forgets who first mentioned the old Vette, he does recall Mike Smith telling him the car was about three miles up the road. It would be simple enough to take a drive up there and see if his friends were just pulling his leg. He found a phone number on a sign for the farm and called up the owner. Oddly enough, the farmer, who also shoes horses, wanted to sell his Corvette.
Syester drove out to the farm later and remembers, "When I pulled that door open, I about had a heart attack." What you see in the pictures is what Syester saw, the rear end of an old Vette, a '70 model with chrome bumpers, and dirty tires sunk down into the dirt, and raccoon paw prints running up and down the body and windshield.
The dust and dirt are what likely turned off a couple of other potential buyers who beat Syester to the old Vette. However, Syester says he's been buying stuff out of old barns for years and apparently was savvier. He took the liberty to run his finger through the dust on the Corvette body in a couple of spots to reveal what appeared to be "gorgeous paint." He looked under the car to rub dust from what he guessed to be a painted frame and "shiny" (under the dust) suspension pieces. "It was crazy. It looked like a show car that he parked in the barn and walked away from," recalled Syester. Under the hood, the 454 looked "intact." However the big-block would not start. Syester went on to explain, "We went to start the car, but we could not get it to turn over. I told Jim that I was scared to give you much for the car."
Jim understood. Although he did not know Syester, the two of them lived in the same small town where "everybody knows everybody," in a manner of speaking. Jim had seen Syester working around town many times. Both were very prosperous. So, in a gesture of trust, Jim offered to let Syester take the '70 convertible home to try to get it running. Then, if Syester wanted the car, he could buy it for the asking price.
"I paid the guy, brought car home, and by time we went to car wash, even the guy driving the tow truck—I said look at this, and we could see underneath the car that it was perfect. It was sitting not in mud/mud, but this place where he stored his tractors."
Then, when Syester hosed off the old Vette at the car wash, he said, "My jaw dropped again." The Donnybrooke Green paint shined like a new car. Cleaning the engine bay revealed an "unbelievable" 454 that had been restored at one time. The A/C belt was off, but the motor appeared "perfect" and did not smoke.
The LS5 was the top dog engine in the 1970 lineup, with 390 horsepower. Production figures were low for this model, just 4,473 units.
Syester went on, "I got the car home, filed the points down, hit the ignition key, and the engine fired up and sounded perfect. I was thrilled." The interior cleaned up like a recently restored car, as well. Syester was charged up reading 454 cubic inches, 500 lb-ft of torque, and 390 hp on the plaque by the shifter on the console. All the gauges worked.
Syester had discovered what was essentially a '70 model Corvette that had once been restored and wasn't that much worse for sitting in the dust. The car had been restored right before Jim bought it about 10 years earlier. The '70 model even had an original tank sticker and the engine was numbers-matching. "It was quite a car. But, the thing that turned Jim off was no power steering and no power brakes. It didn't have a tilt wheel and was a handful to drive," Syester said. Syester got the car at a very good price (which he wants to keep private) for essentially a restored car that all he had to do was clean up. We wonder what else is out there hiding under a layer of dust and dirt?