“When we rolled up the dirt road where the barn was, my jaw dropped. I was thinking ‘Who am I, Wayne Carini or something?’”
The dozen or so cars, mostly from the 1950s, were all covered. Edward Chaisson wanted Richard Rowe to pull the covers off all the cars so he could see them. Of course, he was most interested to set eyes on a little red Corvette he drove when he was 19 years old. Almost two decades had passed. Would his old Vette still look the same?
Chaisson was pretty sure the car in this barn was his old Vette. While rummaging through paperwork in boxes in his house, he had been very surprised to run across an old Massachusetts registration slip revealing the VIN of the 1984 Vette he bought in 1996.
Could he track this car from its VIN? Chaisson typed the VIN into the CARFAX website and discovered his 1984 Vette had been registered a few months earlier in Bennington, Vermont.
Chaisson called the local tax office in Bennington, but they would not reveal the owner’s name due to privacy laws. Likewise, neither the police department nor the sheriff’s office would “tell me anything. I was just a guy with a Boston accent on the other end of the phone.”
So, Chaisson decided Vermont is a pretty area, why not drive up there and go to the same places he called? Maybe he could get the info in person. Once again, he struck out.
“Nobody gave me anything. So, I made up flyers with my email address and the picture of me from 1996 with my Corvette and put them in coffee shops and cafes.”
Monday night, on the ride home, Chaisson was elated to open an email revealing the name and phone number of the Corvette owner. The sender wanted to remain anonymous.
“I didn’t want to call a total stranger. What would I say? Hey, my name is Ed Chaisson. You own my old Corvette.”
Instead, Chaisson Googled the owner’s name, Richard Rowe, and found three different addresses. Then, he typed out three letters and sent them, along with a copy of the flyer, to the three addresses.
“The next Monday I got a phone call from Richard Rowe. He said, ‘I think I have something you might want.’”
Rowe turned out to be a car collector and was very interested in Chaisson’s history with the Vette. It’s no wonder that first phone conversation lasted 45 minutes.
“I told Richard my dad passed away when I was 2 years old so I don’t know much about my biological father. But, back in 1996 when I pulled up to my uncle’s house in the 1984 Corvette he almost fell over. He said, ‘You never knew this but your dad had a red Corvette. You look like him. You act like him. And then you come pulling into my driveway with a red Corvette. You got to be kidding!’”
Although Rowe was not trying to sell the 1984, he agreed to sell the Vette to Chaisson. The Vette just held so many memories, going back to the days when he was a “troubled city teenager” in Boston.
“I had dropped out of high school and was driving a tow truck. I came across the Vette as a trade-in at one of the dealerships where I did odd jobs. In 1996, the 1984 wasn’t an old car. It had a paint issue and they decided to wholesale it. Winter was coming. They put it in the wholesale lot. My mom co-signed a loan for $7,600.”
Chaisson believes the Vette helped him get his life on track. He drove the 1984 back and forth to the other side of Boston every day to go to night school to finish his diploma.
With this success, Chaisson signed up for the Air Force and stored his Vette. Eventually, he lost storage and had to sell the car. But, he became an aircraft mechanic, a job he still holds today.
Rowe’s collection included 13 cars, many of them from the 1950s and 1960s and only one a Corvette, the 1984. Chaisson was shocked at how the car “smells and rides the same” and “everything on the car that was broken 20 years ago is still broken: the power antenna, the dashboard.”
Negotiations were “completely honest,” Chaisson recalls. Chaisson paid Rowe $800 over the $6,800 he had in the car, $7,600 total, an identical figure to the price Chaisson paid in 1996.
Paisley shirts, hot in the 1970s, have been making a comeback in the last few years. David Etienne, pictured here in May 1973 in his mother’s front yard in Loretto, Tennessee, would like for his yellow 1973 Corvette to make a comeback, too.
Etienne was in his late 20s when he bought this 1973 convertible brand new from Bobby Mitchell Chevrolet in Lawrenceville, Tennessee. He remembers ordering his dream Vette with an LS4 454 big-block, M21 four-speed transmission, Positraction rearend, A/C, PW, PS, and tilt/telescopic column.
Etienne would like to buy back his old Vette. He hasn’t been able to find the VIN to this car, which would make his hunt much easier. He did track down the person he sold the car to in 1974, a Jerry Wilkens that owned Jerry Wilkens Corvettes of Jackson, Tennessee.
“He followed me home and drove right into my carport and said he’s been trying to get one of those cars for several months.”
Etienne sold the 1973 to Wilkens and then waited until 2011 to buy his second Vette, also a new one. He’d been looking for the old 1973, and finally decided, “I better get one. It’s on my bucket list.”
If anyone knows where this car is, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If Etienne manages to buy back his old 1973 convertible, maybe he can find the Paisley shirt and re-take this same picture today.