Style is fickle. Today’s cool cars can quickly turn ice cold. Look at custom cars of the 1950s and 1960s. Remember the Pro Street craze? Some are still cool, others not so much. Customized cars, even good ones, after they fall out of favor can take decades to be appreciated again. Kevin Livering of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, has owned this customized, small-block 1969 Corvette coupe since 1980, when he was a junior in high school. How he came to be the owner of this car is quite a story.
In 1979, when Livering was a junior in high school he got his first car: a white 1973 Monte Carlo with Cragar mags, swivel bucket seats, a sunroof and an eight-track tape player. (Nice first-time ride.) The ownership lineage is a little tricky, but is important to know because it is how a high school kid was able to get a radical, custom Corvette.
The man Kevin got his Monte Carlo from used to buy and sell cars. The seller acquired the Monte Carlo when he sold a custom ’69 Corvette to a local man for cash plus the ’73 Monte Carlo. A short time after Kevin bought the Monte Carlo, he saw the former owner that now had the custom Corvette.
The Corvette had a wild green metalflake paintjob with a one-of-a-kind custom ribbon treatment, deep-dish Cragar mags shod with fat radial tires, flared wheelwells, custom front fender vents, factory side pipes and a big-block hood. The interior featured diamond-tucked green crushed velvet seats and trim. It was a very early ’70s look. Livering was familiar with the car and the owner could tell that Kevin would have loved to have the Corvette.
The man said, “Kevin, my girlfriend hates my Corvette. Would you consider trading your Monte Carlo and $4,000 for the Corvette?” That was a fair price, but Livering was just a junior in high school so he had to pass. A few days later the man called again and asked, “Kevin, how about $3,000 and the Monte Carlo?” Understandably, Livering’s mom and dad were not willing to help him get such a radical car. Livering had to turn down the second offer.
The owner of the Corvette was desperate and came back with two more offers: $2,000 and the Monte Carlo and then $1,000 and the Monte Carlo. This was becoming comical. Livering was just in the 11th grade and had spent all he could on the Monte Carlo, so for the third and fourth time he had to say, “No thanks.” The man came back one last time with a Hail Mary, last-ditch offer. He said, “Kevin, I have to have your Monte Carlo back. How about an even swap?” How could an 11th grader ever get a better deal than that on an 11-year-old customized Corvette? Nowhere. But this is just the beginning of the story.
The Corvette had been at a local repair shop for some time and was on the slow track for some repairs. Much to Livering’s surprise, when he arrived at the shop to get his Corvette, it was outside in the side yard and covered in mud. According to Livering, “The owner was a nice guy, but to him it was just a driver, even in the cold, snowy, salt-slushy Pennsylvania winters. And the interior was in need of some serious cleaning! Fast food wrappers, mud, dirt, you name it, was everywhere. The car was a total mess inside.” It took some work to get the car started and Livering limped the car home. As bad as it looked, the car was otherwise in pretty good shape and cleaned up very well. And who could argue with the price? Livering was still in high school and had a badass custom Corvette.
The 1980s were not kind to early-1970’s custom car tastes, so through the 1980s, Livering regularly got flack because of the Corvette’s outlandish paint. But along the way he met the man that actually did the custom work on the car in 1972. “Stony” Galbach was a local guy from Manheim, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles north of Lebanon. After contacting Galbach, Livering paid a visit to the car’s maker with his Corvette. Galbach was dumbfounded; he couldn’t believe how good the car looked. Galbach built his reputation doing occasional custom work, but mostly painting local midget race cars. According to Galbach, the cost of the custom work came to around $12,000 in 1972; that’s around $74,000 in 2019.
From the factory, the 1969 Corvette was a low-option Fathom Green small-block 350. The custom body parts were limited to an L88 hood and flared fenders from either Motion Performance or Eckler’s. Stony then grafted in ’73 Corvette front fender vents. The paint started with a silver basecoat, several coats of metalflake and then topped with a candy green. The ribbons were real candy-colored paint, not vinyl wrap material. Finishing off the paint was 25 coats of clear lacquer. Another custom touch is that all the factory badges were removed. A local upholsterer was hired to do the diamond-tucked, crushed velvet seats and trim.
Back in the day, almost no one cared about numbers-matching cars. The original 350 engine was blown and replaced with a 350 from a 1972 Impala that lasted until 2000. After 28 years, the 350 was ready for a refresh that included a 0.030-inch overbore, new 10.2:1 pistons, 2.02 aluminum heads, new Hooker header side pipes and a new Holley 650 double-pumper carb over an Edelbrock aluminum manifold. The Muncie four-speed transmission was rebuilt and the brakes, drivetrain and suspension were refreshed. Since Livering doesn’t take the car on long trips and gas mileage isn’t a big concern, 4.11 gears were installed for that old-fashioned muscle car off-the-line acceleration.
The 2000s have been much kinder to Livering’s 1970’s Green Monster, as most know the car by. At a local cruise event, Livering met a man that competed against his car at the 1972 World of Wheels Show at the Harrisburg Farm Show. A few months later the man sent Livering an old Instamatic photo of the car from the show ... angel hair and all.
A typical fate of most custom cars is that after the original owner sells the car, it’s a quick descent to a derelict in a garage under yard tools, a home to critters or worse. Kevin Livering’s custom 1969 Corvette is a true survivor. What good fortune it was that the previous owner was willing to give a high school kid the deal of a lifetime.
Livering says, “I never allowed pressure or criticism to influence my love for the craftsmanship and work that was put into this car. It survived the ’70’s custom car era. I have done my best to preserve the car without making any changes to the work that was done in 1972. Although the paint’s clearcoat is cracking and showing signs of age, it still looks relatively good. I have found that most people either like it or they hate it and they usually let me know right away. No matter where I go in my area, there is someone that remembers the car and has a story about the car from years gone by. I love hearing the stories and all the “back in the day” nostalgia. It makes me happy when I can bring a smile to people’s faces.” All you can say from there is, “Well, far out, man!” Vette
Photography by Kevin Livering