1962 Corvette Goes From Yard Art to Powerfully Artful

Black Heap of the Family: 1962 Corvette “Yard Art” becomes a driver again

Scotty Lachenauer May 5, 2016 0 Comment(s)
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After his return home from active duty in April 1968, 20-year-old Bill Carman was ready to let loose. With the burden of war lifted from his shoulders, the young car enthusiast needed to blow off some steam, and do it while learning how to transition back to a normal life in his hometown of Park Ridge, New Jersey. Coming back to the “world” from Vietnam wasn’t that easy for Bill, just as it was for many of the young soldiers returning home.

Though there were uncertainties in his life, Bill knew one thing for sure; he needed some wheels of his very own. His pre-war ride, a 1951 Chevy, had fallen into disrepair over the years and was unceremoniously junked by his father before his arrival back home. And that was just fine with good ol’ Bill because he had a much better ride in mind, and he was about to go and scout it out.

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Through a buddy, he heard of a sleek 1962 Corvette for sale at nearby Malcolm Konner Chevrolet in Paramus, New Jersey. The Konner dealership was well known throughout the country for being a high-volume dealer and was a major player in supplying Chevy’s top-notch performance Vettes to the public. Needless to say, young Bill was stoked for the possibilities that lay ahead.

Bill quickly checked out the beautiful black Corvette for sale and was smitten from the moment he gazed upon its car-nal curves. After checking out the car’s condition and option list, there was no doubt about it; this ride had to come home with him. From there he made a deal, and got his dad to cosign for the Chevy. In May 1968, the car was his for the taking.

What Bill bought was one sweet Vette. It wasn’t just a base model plastic Chevy to say the least, as it had a few key components that made it a sought after performance car. Not only was it the highly touted combo of Tuxedo Black with a red vinyl gut, but more importantly, under the hood lived the potent 327ci/340hp small-block for its motivation. This engine option was the highest horsepower combo you could get in 1962 without fuel injection. With a four-speed planted between the buckets, this car was a top GM performer for that year.

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So from the minute Bill picked up the Corvette it was constantly out on the road with its new caretaker behind the wheel. Driving the car was this ex-soldier’s method of blowing off steam and a way of finding peace within. He took it all over the East Coast; from trips to the Jersey Shore to the mountains of upstate New York, Bill and his Vette were inseparable. He had decided from the start not to lock himself down in any way, and he enjoyed his “carefree” lifestyle that the Corvette and his single life gave him.

Since he was a youngin’, Bill has been into cars; and with that a need for speed soon came calling. At just 9 years old, he took on a major four-wheeled project and built a top-notch soapbox derby contender from scratch. On its maiden voyage down his hilly street, he smashed into his neighbor’s brand-new ’56 Olds, taking out the big GM and turning his ride into a pile of splinters. Some would have been swayed away from speed by this; but it didn’t seem to faze him one bit.

At 16, he got his driver’s license and then proceeded to beg his father for his ’51 Chevy hardtop convertible after dad retired it as his own daily driver. After some bargaining, and a two week wait for an answer, Bill got the car. A fire-damaged ’55 was soon purchased just for its V-8 drivetrain, and a neighbor’s swing set came in handy for the ensuing engine swap. That was the ride that served him through his daily grind up to his deployment to Southeast Asia and his stint in the U.S. Army.

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Bill enjoyed his time as a single guy driving a hot car. Some crazy times were had by man and machine, especially during his days of street racing. There were several locations close by that offered the thrill of one-on-one unsanctioned street competition. The Parkway/Thruway extension between New York and New Jersey proved to be one of those great spots to bust out a quarter-mile run against other muscle rides. At times traffic was even stopped long enough to get a flagman out there on their temporary dragstrip.

It was all fun and games for Bill until a fateful day when the Corvette’s health took a turn for the worse. On a run back from Middletown, New York, the car spun a rod bearing. He then towed the ailing ride back home and pulled the engine for a teardown. Next up, he ordered a new crank to help get the car back on the street. Unfortunately, that’s where the Corvette leaves this story, as from that moment on the project went stagnant and the car was pushed aside.

It wasn’t long before Bill settled down and started raising a family. He also started a new career and got involved with motorcycles. The Vette was an afterthought at this point and was soon banished to the yard to make room for his bikes and workshop in the garage. His job overtook his life as well, as he started putting in heavy hours, and eventually bought into the business. Needless to say, Bill was busy.

Time marched on and the years passed. Bill got divorced and remarried, and with that, a new household with kids. But still the Vette sat on the side of the house. Over the years Bill can’t remember how many notes were left in the mailbox or at his door from people inquiring about the car under the tarp. The telltale signs of a first-gen Corvette were there, and people were more than interested. But Bill wasn’t ready to part with his favorite play toy.

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Bill figured retirement would give him ample time to restore his favorite ride. But as the years passed, the idea of retirement became more and more out of the question. There wouldn’t be any sort of retirement in the near future so the question came up; what to do with this “ornament” out on the lawn.

Bill often took motorcycle rides out to the Delaware Valley, near the Tri-State area where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania converge. On one of his jaunts with friends, the group stopped at a diner for breakfast. Their waitress happened to be from Shohola, Pennsylvania, and chatted the guys up about the Early Vette Shop, a Corvette restoration shop based in the rural town. Bill was intrigued and decided to pay the shop a visit.

Mike Walsh runs the facility, aided by his brother Joe Erven. Mike’s been wrenching on early Vettes since he was 16, the age he pulled his own 1962 out of a swamp in Jersey. Bill knew that Early Vette Shop would be the right place to help him get his Corvette back on the road, and so he hired the shop to bring his “heap” back up to OEM standards.

Mike and Joe towed the partially sunken treasure off of Bill’s property and back to Shohola for a ground-up restoration. What they found when they tore down the ’62 was typical deterioration caused by long-term outside storage on the East Coast. Luckily, it was nothing they hadn’t seen and tackled before over their years in business. The twosome then dug in and separated the 1962’s parts into two piles: salvageable and dumpster filler.

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The original 327 powerplant, which had been removed three decades earlier and kept inside by Bill, was sent to Saaf Engines in Rowland, Pennsylvania, for a complete overhaul. Saaf Engines has done multiple engines for Mike over the years, and the small-block couldn’t have been in better hands.

The block needed a minor 0.030 overbore to clean up the cylinder walls. A solid lifter 365hp cam was added to the mix, and TRW slugs fill the cylinders. Stock heads and aluminum intake were used, and a Carter AFB sits up on top. The original headers were also reused for the project. As far as the engine bay and its components, anything made of metal was replaced due to extensive corrosion from nearly 40 years of sitting outside. Hood latches, radiator support and fan shroud were among the items that were scrapped for used OEM or repro parts.

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Most of the metal parts, including the frame, were found to be unusable. Mike ordered a brand-new piece from Vette Products of Michigan to begin the reassembly of the Chevy. He also handled the bodywork, bringing the weathered fiberglass back to shape, and making it laser straight. He then laid down a new skin of Tuxedo Black to the flanks that to the trained eye looks a mile deep.

Joe worked on bringing the mechanicals up to snuff. The original Borg Warner T-10 was freshened up with new gaskets and installed behind the small-block. The suspension was kept factory stock, with non-date-coded pieces being replaced with both reproduction parts and also some good used OEM pieces that Early Vette Shop had in stock.

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A dual master cylinder and a set of 9-inch disc brakes up front were added as a precaution due to the congested traffic conditions in Bill’s immediate area. Original drums remain out back, and the Vette’s power is sent to the car’s original rear, which was given the once over by Early Vette Shop. A set of 15x7 Cragar Super Sports were put back at the corners and shod in BFGoodrich rubber: 215/65R15 up front and 255/60R15 out back. Even though this is not a totally correct stock rebuild, Early Vette Shop still put all the original inspection marks and stencils in their proper places, as it would be an easy procedure to bring this car to OEM standards.

Bill’s yard art 1962 is now back in commission and out on the road tearing up the blacktop. He recently took it out to the newly renovated train station in Waldwick, New Jersey, for a quick photo op with the top down. He’s a proud member of the alliance involved in restoring the landmark back to its original condition.

So what does the future hold for the 1962? More road trips, more screeching tires and more shenanigans for sure … they are always a definite possibility while Bill’s at the wheel. This drop-dead gorgeous ’62 has gone through a metamorphosis of the highest level; transforming from a yard art, “heap” of an eyesore to a divine, garage-kept dream car, all in one fell swoop.

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