Bob Shetler is no one-man show. He trailers his '62 to events with a crew that wears black polo shirts stitched discretely with "Xtreme Vette." The crew ranges from older guys to women to teenagers like Brian Fike, whose everyday ride is a Z51 Chevy half-ton.
"But if I had a car? It'd be an older, muscle Corvette like this '62," Brian claims.
He extolled the tire-smoking badness of this '62 with the hot L98 under the hood. The entire crew loves Old School, as the car is nicknamed.
"We grew up together," Bob informs us, with a twinge of urgency in his voice. He wants us to connect the fiberglass and steel with the people and events from his glory days of the early '60s.
"Old School" is the title of this script, and the Tuned Port-topped 350 is Chapter One. Since dinosaurs roamed the earth, Corvette people have routinely dropped hotter V-8s into their early model cars. They'd do almost anything to make their cars go faster and handle better, adding blowers, turbos, nitrous, fatter wheels and tires, subframe connectors, digger gears, Posi-traction-you name it.
The difference today is there are so many off-the-shelf, hot packages to modify, no junkyard dogging is required. Bob shared with us what Old School means to him.
"Old School means you go to a junkyard to find parts," he says, "and you bring home a pile of stuff and pick the best parts that seem to fit."
Those unfamiliar with such parts-gathering missions should realize how different the terrain was in those days. "They had a lot of classics back then," Bob adds. "You'd walk along row after row of them. Now, you look at all this front-wheel-drive stuff and [I] can't get the parts I used to get."
Perhaps the current restomod packages came into the market in recent years more by necessity than invention. Bob has owned this '62 since 1968. He turned 24 that year, which puts him at 60 today. Of the 25 or so Corvettes he's owned, the '62 was his first.
"It was a wreck," he recalls. "I bought it at a service station in 1968. The right front and right rear quarter were damaged. The engine was lunched and the transmission was gone. I bought it for $375. I always liked the '62 body. That's my favorite year of all the Corvettes."
Old-schoolers worked on their Corvettes in their spare time. Most had one or two strikes against them.
Strike One was a lack of money. "I was a state trooper," Bob says. "We didn't make much money."
Strike Two was a lack of car-building skills. "I loved the '62, but it had some body damage and I didn't know how to fix it," he continues. "So I went on my own to a body shop and parts suppliers and bought a lot of mat, fiberglass resin, and all that stuff. I started learning, using it as my test piece; then it turned out there were a lot of Corvette owners who didn't know how to work fiberglass. They started asking me to work on their cars. It got to be such an enormous part of my life [working on their cars] that I started buying Corvettes."
In those days, you could find an older Corvette for $400 to $500. Bob bought them, fixed them up, and sold them. The '62 was his favorite, so he held on to it. Mike Burger, the painter, has stored this classic straight-axle in his garage for most of the last 20 years. It was an on-again, off-again project. Burger is much more than the painter on this project, though today he is outstanding with a spray gun.
"We worked on it through the years. I'd find something in a junkyard I thought would fit and I'd make it fit," Bob says.
The brake system is from an S-10 pickup truck. The steering is from a '72 Corvette, and the tilt steering column is off a '75 Chevy van. The cruise control is from an '84 Corvette, and the five-speed from an '88 Pontiac. The list of pieces is long, and the list of backyard-engineering feats that made the parts fit is even longer.
"It's a conglomeration of parts," Bob admits. "We used things I could find at a junkyard 'cause, when I started working on this thing years ago, you didn't have all the kits available now. I might have done that if I had been able to buy kits, but I couldn't back then."
Through the whole process, one vision remained clear: Bob kept the original looks of the '62. Decades have passed now, and the '62 is finally done. Its first outing was the huge Chevy Vette Fest at McCormick Place in Chicago this March where the Xtreme crew received high honors.
"We took what's called a judge's choice-Top Gun," Bob says, proudly. "I'm reading right off the trophy. It says "Best Custom or Modified Corvette, McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois."
Bob's dream is realized. He's retired and having fun traveling. Whoever wants to come along, does. Old School is in session, in eternal recess with the '62.