M.L. Young of Laurelville, Ohio, drives a classic Pennant Blue 55. Hes added the last 29,000 of its 73,568 total miles, enjoying every one of them.
Mr. Youngs a bit of a classic himself. The lively 86-year-old claims to be retired, but we found him at the grocery store he owned for 45 years, now run by his son and grandson, at 6:30 p.m. when we called to clarify a few points about the car. Hes seen many, many cars come and go, and has driven a 54, a 67, and a 78 Pace Car, among others, over the years; but the 55 seems to be his favorite. After 19 years he still enjoys the ride. This elder statesman, known simply as M.L., claims NCRS membership No. 16 and has logged more than 100,000 miles driving his Corvettes to the groups events over the years. We met him at the National Corvette Museum this past Labor Day, and learned the car had been driven from Ohio to Bowling Green with nary a problem. He also owns an 82, but made it clear that he prefers driving this classic.
Mr. Young has seen the USA in this Chevrolet with a 5,000-mile round trip to Reno, Nevada, and trips to places as far flung from his home as Florida, Virginia, and Lake Placid, New York. But this classic driver has also collected its share of honors. With his sons help, Mr. Young restored it himself, and the car has claimed no fewer than 20 NCRS Top Flight awards. This Corvette is, of course, stock, with its 265ci, 195hp V-8, an engine that debuted in 1955. Note the gold V designating this on the front fender.
A mere 700 Corvettes came to life in 55, making Mr. Youngs driver a rare classic indeed. Chevrolet started out marketing to the wrong crowd, and the Corvette was struggling for survival by 1955. More than 1,000 54s had gone wanting for buyers (especially significant when you remember that only 3,640 were produced in that year), and if Fords hot little Thunderbird hadnt been tweaking GMs corporate ego, the Corvette might have disappeared. As we know, this didnt happen, but 1955 offered the fewest number of Corvettes ever, except for the 300 produced in 1953.
This is one of an estimated 45 Corvettes produced in Pennant Blue and, like most 55s, has the Powerglide automatic transmission. It is estimated that only about 75 Corvettes had manual transmissions in 55, and those came only on V-8s, and not until the second half of the production year.
That the Corvette survivedand went on to prevailis a joy to us all, but few of us can cherish a 55 the way Mr. Young can. Hes preserved this icon, and apparently its preserved his youthful zest for driving it. Seems like a fair trade.