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1966 425hp Vette is Handed Down from Family Member to Family Member

Rare Finds: 1966 425-horse Vette goes to family member

Jerry Heasley Oct 24, 2016
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Looking for Rare Finds, “One That Got Away,” and “Provenance” stories with vintage photos as seen this issue.

Tears ran down the face of Steve Press’ mom, Sarah, 99 years old. Her son’s 1966 Corvette had just arrived via transport on Ocean Blvd in Boca Raton, Florida, on September 30, 2013. The car brought back so many joyful memories.

“Can I have a ride?” Sarah asked.

Steve wanted to first clean the Vette he remembered driving cross-country in 1966. But, before he had a chance a car “pulled right in” and a man jumped out and began talking to Audrey, Steve’s wife.

“You want to sell it?” he asked.

“It just got here,” Steve said.

After 47 years, the 425hp/427ci four-speed was finally his. How could he ever sell? Steve’s mind drifted back to 1966.

“We lived in Chicago. My brother Harvey had moved to San Francisco with a new job. He was 22. I was 19. He wanted a new Corvette. I had a classmate, Susan Schmell, whose father was the manager of Nelson Chevrolet. So we wound up ordering from him.”

When the Vette arrived in June 1966, Steve got to drive the big-block for a week. The plan was to drive the car from Chicago to San Francisco. Steve and classmate Roger Barksdale, also 19, planned a cross-country road trip on a delivery mission. Except, their route would be circuitous and fun instead of direct and business.

“We had friends in Phoenix and friends in Los Angeles, and we wanted to see some sights on the way.”

Their route took the teenagers first to South Dakota; then straight south to El Paso, Texas; west to Phoenix; further west to Los Angeles and finally north to San Francisco where Harvey anxiously awaited the delivery of his $4,200 new Corvette. Susan’s father got them a good deal, and now Steve had himself a dream cruise.

Air conditioning was not optional on the 425-horse 427, and early July was very hot. But, to a pair of teenagers the only hot they were concerned about was a certain four-speed Vette.

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Steve scanned this old color slide of the Vette loaded with a suitcase on the luggage rack of the 1966 Vette on the July 1966 trip to California. The background looks very much like they have entered California.

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The 1966 Vette, dirty, but complete, arrived by transporter to Ocean Boulevard in Boca Raton on September 30, 2013.

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This vintage print, snapped in 1968, on another trip to California, Steve (left) and a friend (Elliott Pure), has aged into a beautiful sepia tone that artists try to achieve with different computer programs today. Of course, this one is real and a treasure with the 1966 Vette and people in the foreground of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Audrey captioned this photo “Steve on the road to California, 1966.” Vintage photos like this one really add to a vintage Vette’s provenance.

In Phoenix, friends told the 19-year-olds “not to even think” of driving in the summer across the desert to L.A. without A/C. Steve and Roger turned that admonishment into adventure and departed Phoenix on I10 around 10 p.m.

“We were driving with the top down when we saw a flashing sign that read Sandstorm Ahead.”

They should have stopped and raised the top, but they were 19 and laughed instead. They felt the heat was too intense to be in a closed cabin.

“All the sudden we were in the middle of this huge sandstorm, and all we could do was roll up the side windows and keep going.”

Steve remembers “crossing a ridge” to see a little town with one gas station and lights where they pulled in. They were afraid to step out of the car lest they see damage to the paint on Harvey’s brand new Vette.

“I thought there would be no paint left on the body.” The car’s interior and the air cleaner did “load up with sand,” but the Milano Maroon paint survived “intact.”

In the 1960s, service stations in the desert sold canvas water bags to place in front of a car’s radiator for additional cooling capacity. This big-block Corvette, with no bag, stayed cool and performed flawlessly on this 3,000-mile trip.

The teenagers switched drivers periodically. On one stretch of barren highway in Wyoming, “somewhere west of Laramie,” as the old saying goes; Steve decided to test the top end speed, but “ran out of guts” at 120-125 mph.

“I was just finishing my tour driving. Roger took over and not five miles down the road we passed an officer of the law with radar.”

The pair made their delivery. Harvey was excited to receive his new Vette. Steve and Roger flew back to Chicago on American Airlines.

When Steve went back to California, he “always” drove his brother’s Vette, like to Squaw Valley to ski. Steve recalled another trip when two friends flew to California from Chicago in his brother’s private plane.

“My brother got a private pilot’s license and two of my friends flew back to California with us. My brother didn’t have a second car. So, the three of us tooled around San Francisco in the 1966 Vette.”

In retrospect, he marvels how three people rode in a two-passenger Corvette. But, three riding in a Vette wasn’t so uncommon in those days. The trio rode in the Vette 375 miles south to Los Angeles on a lark.

“I remember they had their shirts off, sun-birding like crazy, and sweaty. We pull up to the Beverly Hillcrest, a high-class hotel back in those days. You wouldn’t think of doing that today. People are coming out of the hotel in their dinner jackets.”

Harvey passed away 14 years ago and willed the Vette to his only son, Stuart. Stuart wasn’t a car enthusiast. He was into bicycle racing. But, he still held onto the Vette. Stuart decided to sell when faced with a move from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The whole family greeted the car’s arrival in Boca Raton with a spirit of awe and wonder. Audrey marveled at how the car “had not changed.” Maybe this is why the Vette brought back so many memories.

Steve couldn’t wait to wash the 1966 model. Then, he took his wife and his mother for rides.

“We will never sell it. My kids are already fighting over it. I don’t know what they’ll do. They’ll kill each other. My son-in-law Dave Pagano tried to buy it from my nephew. Then, my son Jason said ‘I’ll buy it,’ and my husband told me under no circumstances. ‘I drove it cross-country. I used it while I was out there (California). The car is going nowhere’,” Audrey said.

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Easton smiles as he is about to go on a ride with his grandfather Steve Press in Boca Raton June 22, 2016.

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On May 24, 2015, Audrey’s grandchildren, Easton Pagano and Harlow Pagano, pose for a photo in the 1966 Vette. Two kids from the neighborhood look over the Vette and await a ride. Experiences like this carry Corvette tradition from one generation to the next and prove why the Corvette has become America’s sports car.

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This photo is Steve and Audrey in California with the Corvette in the early 1970s. Vintage clothes and hairstyles make this photo a real treasure; for both the family and the Corvette’s provenance.

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The Corvette came with optional hardtop.

1966 Chevrolet Corvette Side 10/13

Harvey also checked off side pipes on the option sheet. Paint is not original.

Stuart Press 11/13

Audrey’s nephew, Stuart Press, sold the Vette to his uncle, Steve Press, further ingraining the car’s provenance into the Press family. Audrey says the car will be in the family for the next 150 years. Sadly, Stuart passed away in 2014 at the age of 39.

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In 2013; delivery to Boca Raton.

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A couple of weeks after the car’s arrival in 2013, Steve had the Milano Maroon convertible sparkling. He says he will not use the hardtop (leaning against the wall) in Florida.



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