“The first feeling I had was it was a convertible, but the chrome on the pillar appeared to be a LeMans or a GTO because the door was off.”
Staring between boards in the side of a garage, Kenny Orr felt a little like an intruder. He had driven 60 miles north from his home in Canal Winchester, Ohio, on a longshot.
Most people would say, “Ah, forget it. That’s a bunch of bull.”
Orr loves the thrill of the hunt for old cars and couldn’t resist a tip on a midyear Corvette. His son Jason had overheard a conversation in the break room about a Corvette and a 1957 Nomad in a building near a school in the small town of Cardington, Ohio, population 2,050.
“I drove up and started looking for a building that could house a couple of cars. I drove all over and there was nothing around there that would hold two cars.”
Orr called his son to ask for more hints. While cruising neighborhoods in Cardington, Orr told Jason all he could see was a one-car building near a couple of real huge pine trees.
Jason said, “That’s it. See if you can look in the building.”
Apparently, two big pine trees were close to “X marks the spot.” Orr parked in what looked like the driveway to a house and got out, a little apprehensive, to investigate the garage. He peeked between boards to see the chrome and pillar of a convertible. Not satisfied with the view, he walked to the back of the old garage to discover a much larger hole.
Orr could see clearly the vandalized remains of a midyear Corvette convertible. The driver’s door was gone. The passenger side and door was up against a wall. The left rear quarter-panel was busted. The old Vette was in bad condition, but fit Orr’s vision of a restomod project he had in mind.
“I go next door and these people were just renting their house. They had no clue who the owner was. Then, I looked through the trees, there were no leaves on them, and I could make out what appeared to be a car back there in the woods behind the garage.”
Orr walked into the woods to discover the remains of a 1957 Nomad sports wagon. The car was sitting on what appeared to be the concrete pad of a garage.
“The 1957 was toast. I mean it was like total burnout, total rust, roof caved in from a fallen tree. I thought somebody stripped this thing down, which probably wasn’t a bad idea before it caught on fire.”
Orr drove to the courthouse to search property records. The owner of the old garage lived on the outskirts of town.
I knocked on the door. I said, “Hey, you own that 1963 Corvette down there by the school?” And he puts his head down and he goes, “Yeah.” And I said, “That car is just sitting there going to nothing. Why don’t you let me give you some money for it and get it out of there?”
What followed has to be one of the most interesting negotiations in car hobby history, Orr recalls.
The owner said, “That thing is just junk.”
I said, “It’s okay. I’ll give you $3,500.”
“Are you sure?”
“That thing is just junk.”
“Well, how about $3,000?”
In effect, the seller was talking down the price. Orr agreed to the $3,000 price, but he hadn’t even laid his hands on the Corvette yet. The day was Saturday. The two agreed to meet on Monday morning to do the deal when Orr learns more about the owner’s plight.
This guy is telling me the story about the car. He said if “he had had a bomb, he would have thrown it in there if he knew he wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
The owner was frustrated because people kept stealing parts off the car; first the hood, then the door, the rear axle, the heads, and more.
Orr remembers the owner saying, “It’s still my property. I cut the grass over there, so I come over and I cut the grass and hood is stolen. I cut the grass and the door is stolen. I cut the grass and now somebody has stolen the heads.”
Orr brought his son Jason to help pick up the Corvette on a trailer. The old garage had a hole in the roof, which leaked rain and snow onto old newspapers, cardboard, and other debris that kept the Corvette in wet condition most of the time.
“We get ready to move the car. We jack it up. The jack goes through the frame.”
Luckily, Orr doesn’t need a frame. His plan is to put a custom frame under his midyear restomod. What is surprising is the Corvette, a 1964, still has its original steering wheel, bucket seats, console, gauges, Muncie four-speed and numbers-matching block; but no heads or intake, carburetor, or air cleaner assembly.
Kenneth Orr got what he wanted, a project 1964 midyear with a good body and a clean title. He’s now in the process of building a 1964 with a custom frame, C4 suspension, Z06 engine, six-speed transmission, 20x12 inch rear tires on the rear and 18s on the front.
Looking for Rare Finds, “One That Got Away” and “Provenance” stories with vintage photos as seen this issue. Also, significant Rare Finds before they are pulled out so I can be there.