Do people park vintage Corvettes in their home driveways for decades without moving them? Apparently so, according to this story. An original owner actually parked his Corvette, a ’66 convertible with removable hardtop, in his driveway in 1990. Years later, he added a car cover, which cut down on the buy inquiries. Still, the mid-year Vette remained in the same driveway until a few weeks before Thanksgiving 2015.
That’s when Tip Graham drove by, not a Corvette thought in his head. “I’m constantly rubbernecking when I’m driving through neighborhoods.” Tip looked to the east while driving and spied in the back of a home on a corner the shape of an automobile under a car cover. “I knew immediately what it was.”
Graham admits he had never owned a Corvette, but he does own a ’69 Camaro with a ’95 Corvette engine. Graham resides in Allen, Texas, a suburb on the north side of Dallas. But he still maintains a shop 185 miles north in his hometown of Marlow, Oklahoma. There, he was about to begin restoring a 1968 Triumph TR250 he “staggered upon” a few months earlier. Curious as to the specific Corvette hidden under the cover, Graham turned around to go back to the house and write down the address. His plan was to look up the owner’s name in the city directory.
“Then I thought, well I’m here. I might as well knock on the door now.” The owner, a man named Troy Herndon, asked Tip to come back later when he was through eating lunch. Graham has the gift of gab. After a few minutes, Troy agreed to pull the cover off his old Vette.
Graham took the pictures (with his cell phone) seen here on that very day. Tip was “shocked” at how good the ’66 was in some ways. In other ways, he was disappointed. “When I opened the door, there was an inch of water in the floorboard and moisture had deteriorated the instrument panel’s chrome and plastic.” But, the car was complete and the body looked in pretty good shape. The paint was original. The car still wore its original wheel covers, looking good except for one missing center cap.
Graham discovered Troy bought this ’66 brand new in 1966. The build wasn’t highly optioned. The white convertible has a removable blue hardtop, white seats and door panels and a blue dash, powered by the base 327 backed by a four-speed manual transmission.
When Texas Instruments transferred Troy to Houston in 1969, the Vette pulled the family’s loaded U-Haul trailer south. “The Corvette was the only car we had. We just got married and that trailer held all our worldly possessions,” Troy told us. In 1990, when Troy and his wife returned to Dallas, the Vette would not start, so they hoisted the classic onto the moving van.
“And when they got to Dallas, they rolled the car into the driveway right where it is sitting where I took pictures,” Tip said. Apparently, the Vette did not move for 25 years. Troy had turned down offers, some ridiculously low, like $2,000!!! Tip Graham, however, was serious to buy and said, “I’ll make you an offer, but first I’d like to figure out the car’s value.”
Tip asked a friend in Oklahoma who had recently bought a 1963 Split-Window coupe. “He advised me to check the frame to see if it had any rot. He said that car being in Houston is subject to rust in the frame.” Tip crawled under the car and could see the frame was sound. Most of the car’s problems were mechanical. The gas tank was “absolutely rotted out. You literally could just push your finger through the bottom of the fuel tank.”
The two made a deal. Troy had wanted to give the Vette to his daughter, but she didn’t have the resources for a restoration. Tip hauled the ’66 to his shop in Oklahoma. He rebuilt the four-barrel carburetor, installed a new fuel pump, filed the points in the distributor, replaced the master cylinder and did a brake job with new calipers and pads, and ran a fuel line into a bucket of gasoline to see if the 327 would start.
“We didn’t just want to go to cranking on that dude, so I was just going to bump the starter until we had kind of rotated the engine a couple revolutions. We bumped it over until we had rolled it over 2-3 times, and then we put the fuel to it. We cranked on that dude and it fired right up.”
With over 100,000 miles and sitting for 25 years, Graham was shocked. He found out Troy rebuilt the 327 small-block 5,000 or so miles back. For now, Tip’s plan is to replace the interior, install new tires, new weatherstripping and replace the black vinyl on the removable hardtop.
The white paint is original. Tip scraped off the flakes of original lacquer with Scotchbrite, followed by wax. “I don’t think I will even go to the trouble of clearcoat because at some point in the future I’m going to restore the car,” Tip said.
Graham is having fun driving the car, as is. First time out, in December 2015, he said, “It was pretty cold. I thought, hell, I wonder if this heater works. I pulled the little lever out and cranked the knob and the dude blew hot air and all three speeds on the fan worked.”
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