A practical single woman, Lael did the math and realized her monthly payments would take a bigger toll than putting a roof over her head. The sticker price was more than her annual salary.
She bought the car anyway.
For the next 10 years, she drove the stock 327cid 300hp with air conditioning, power steering and Powerglide transmission, and enjoyed every minute. Then she got wind of how cars of that vintage were appreciating, and decided her baby was becoming too valuable to keep on the road. The ´67 went from daily driver to show car. She began restoring it, and gives credit to Jimmy McCutcheon of Birmingham for being, in her words, "a superb engine technician."
The day-to-day efforts involved in showing the car, however, are hers alone. Retired now, she does all repairs (except the engine work), all the detailing and trailering (she hooks it up to her Ford RV), and has probably lost track of all the shows she's been to. Without cataloging them, it would be easy to see how she could lose track of all the awards the car has collected since she started showing it in 1989. She and "Blue Wind," as she has named her pride and joy, have won dozens of trophies and awards nationally and throughout the Southeast, and have even appeared on national television in a 1993 CBS "48 Hours" segment.
Success didn't come without some early bumps, though. At Lael's first NCRS Regional, the car still sported an eight-track tape player with four extra speakers, air horns and -- to solve the problem of a recalcitrant fan belt -- a piece of sheet metal wrapped around a hose! The judges were not merciful. But Lael was a quick study, and went on to win numerous awards, including several Top Flight Awards. Still, the award she most deeply coveted was the highest honor bestowed by the NCRS -- the Duntov Mark of Excellence. After four long years of preparation, she captured that one, too, and proudly accepted the award from Zora himself at the National NCRS Convention in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1995. (At the time, there was only one other Duntov car in all of Alabama -- it belonged to her good friend, restorer Jimmy McCutcheon.) Before that heady event, she and Jimmy had worked very hard to get everything on the car perfect, and she felt confident going in. So confident, she says she spent "a fortune" on a dress for the awards banquet. She told a Birmingham Post-Herald reporter, "Nobody at NCRS has ever seen me in a dress ... I'm going to show them I have legs and that I really am a girl."
She could afford to joke a bit by now, but in the beginning, she'd had trouble breaking into the world of car shows. "It was a man's world," she remembers, "and believe it or not, it was the pits gaining their respect -- it took a long time. I think a lot of them resented a female doing it by herself. But I don't have that feeling anymore. I pretty much hold my own. I've earned their respect, and I'm pretty proud of that." After all those awards, we should think so! You've come a long way, baby.
In addition to being a founding member of the National Corvette Museum, Lael claims membership in the Mid-Alabama Corvette Club, the Birmingham Sports Car Club, and both the Southeast and National chapters of the National Corvette Restorers Society. These days, she is preparing her car for the NCRS Founders Award, and taking formal training to become a judge herself!
While all of the awards she's earned are meaningful to her, after all this time she says philosophically, "When I go to a show, I don't care if I come home with a trophy or not. It's nice -- and I sometimes come home with two -- but that's not the objective of showing the car anymore. It's the camaraderie. I enjoy going and seeing everybody. I've never met nicer people than the folks at the shows. They're all special people."