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Uncovering an original-owner 1956 Corvette is reason enough to rejoice, but this ’56 is one of 111 built with option codes 469, 2x4 carburetors on a 265ci, and 449, Duntov special high-lift cam that raised output to 240 horsepower. This complete and original Vette would probably still be hidden away in Jennings, Missouri, in the basement of Harold Pohlmann, the original owner, except for unusual circumstances.
“I had to buy the whole estate to get the car,” Bob Kunz said. Kunz, who is famous for rebuilding carburetors says he “got a pile of paperwork” with the Vette to document Chevrolet’s famous option code “449” of 1956. “I’ve got the order sheet, invoice, title and warranty paperwork.”
Chevrolet introduced #449 “for racing purposes only,” priced at $188.30 plus the $172.20 cost of the 225-horsepower, 2x4 265ci V-8. The sum of $360.50 was more than 10 percent of the base cost of a ’56 Corvette; not small change in the mid-1950s.
“The guy parked the thing in his basement garage in 1983 for some reason, and I have no idea why,” Bob Kunz said. Harold Pohlmann ordered and bought this ’56 brand new from Paul Luehrs’ Chevrolet in Mascoutah, Illinois. The Vette, no doubt, was a big deal to Pohlmann. “He kept a record of every gas purchase from the time he bought the car new until the day he stored it in his basement garage in 1983 and never drove the car again,” Kunz said.
Tragically, Pohlmann, in his 80s, suffered a terrible beating during a home robbery of his gun collection. “In order to take care of him in a nursing home, they had to sell everything he had.”
Kunz got a call one day from a fellow Chevy friend Dennis Roth about a ’56 Corvette that was going to be for sale. Roth gave Kunz the contact information for David Schurmpf, whose wife worked at the attorney’s office handling Pohlmann’s estate. “The court said the home had to be sold through the title company and the two cars put on eBay.”
The other car was a 1947 Crosley body on a channeled Ford Model A frame fitted with a flathead Cadillac V-8. “He never finished the Crosley and the whole house and basement were full of stuff, like old Hot Rod magazines he hadn’t even opened from the 1940s, a McCullough supercharger, antiques, and all kinds of stuff. He was a tool and die maker for Emerson Electric.”
Pohlmann’s estate might have been a mixed bag of “stuff,” but in that stuff was a real gem, perhaps the one ’56 Corvette with option #449 with a numbers-matching engine and paperwork to document heritage. When Kunz went to see the car, the estate had already extricated the ’56 from Pohlmann’s basement and parked the Vette in “a big storage building on Lindburg for safekeeping.”
Kunz found an unrestored ’56, white with red interior and two tops, some paintwork done, motor never cleaned, intake never off, undercarriage filthy as the engine compartment, but everything “unmolested” on a “real nice, original car” with 41,000 miles on the odometer. In place of the original three-speed and rear axle was a four-speed and a 4.11 Positraction, plus Traction Masters and a fire extinguisher under the dash.
Kunz was the right person at the right time for this car. After 50 years of marriage his wife had passed away suddenly in 2010. With his investments “going backwards” he was looking for “a little car or something I could drive because, like I always tell my customers, you can’t drive a CD.”
Kunz tried to buy the ’56, but the attorney said the Pohlmann’s estate was going through probate and the two cars had to be put on eBay. Kunz kept calling the attorney’s office and talking to Shirley Schurmpf. He figured there had to be a way he could buy the car. The more they backed off selling the old Vette, the more Kunz wanted to buy. Finally, Kunz got radical and made an offer for the entire estate, house and contents and both cars included. The house was worth about $7,000 and the Crosley wasn’t very valuable either.
“I threw $100,000 at them. It was actually a little more than $100,000. That was a Tuesday morning.” To Bob’s surprise, when he got home the next day he found a message on his answering machine. The court had accepted his offer. Bob was in for a bigger surprise when he paid for the estate. Shirley handed him “all this paperwork.”
“I said what’s all this?”
“Oh, that’s all the history of the Corvette.”
Apparently, Pohlmann was a super enthusiast of Duntov’s racing activities. Bob found “all the times for Duntov and (John) Fitch and whoever drove these cars at Daytona and Sebring.” Most important provenance for Kunz is the original paperwork Pohlmann kept that documented option #449.
Now in his 70s, Bob Kunz still rebuilds carburetors for clients. A multiple carbureted ’56 Corvette was a perfect match for him. And now that match has really turned into something special. Bob sold the house, the Crosley rod and the rest of the estate except for the old Hot Rod magazines. He has decided to hang onto the ’56 to drive and enjoy.