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1973 Chevrolet Big Block Corvette - Philanthropist

For this big-block '73, it's all about giving back

Wade Cassels Dec 1, 2004
Corp_0412_01_z 1973_chevrolet_corvette Front_right_view 2/1

In 2003, Mike McIlwee and his son, Todd, found this '73 shark at the Corvettes on the Isthmus show in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A year later, they returned to the scene of the crime-so to speak-and the yellow T-top was one of the most popular cars on the field.

"We had been looking for a Corvette for about a month, and we spotted it from a distance," Todd says. "The color really caught our eye." The McIlwees, who live in Waunakee, Wisconsin, met Ron from Corvette Perfection, who was selling the car after it had been restored by a previous owner. They had recently joined Mad City Vettes to tap its knowledgeable members, so after an appraisal and inspection, Mike confidently made the deal.

For Dad, Corvette enthusiasm began when he purchased a brand-new '68 427 car upon his college graduation. It was his baby. But when the responsibilities of a wife, home, and a real baby superceded, Mike and the '68 parted ways. When he decided to buy a Corvette, a '68 is what he pursued.

"Dad was looking for a chrome-bumper car because that was one of the things he really liked and remembered about the '68," Todd says. "But someone in the club said he should broaden his search a little."

This early, chrome-bumpered shark fit the parameters, and has been restored to stock condition. The automatic gives orders to the stock LS4, 454ci engine. Only about one in seven '73s was fitted with the LS4, making this Corvette not only well done, but also rare. The paint, which is the car's original color, is less than three years old. The McIlwees haven't been able to learn much about the car's history, but it has held up so well, it hasn't really bothered them.

"It's a 30-year-old car, but nothing serious has gone wrong," Todd says. "The starter went, and we heard some pinging from the shocks on a cruise. We've had to replace the usual wear parts on the engine, but otherwise, it's stock."

The Corvette has over 77,000 miles and Mike and Todd have added to the total by cruising it around southern Wisconsin. The winding roads near the Wisconsin River are a favorite spot. Todd even gets to drive. "It's my payment for detailing the car," he says.

At this year's Corvettes on the Isthmus, the Corvette was one of 10 chosen by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to be displayed at the entrance to the convention center. Patrons voted for their favorite car by placing money in its jar, which was donated to the foundation. Mike's Corvette finished seventh, but it was for charity, after all. Todd says it is probably his best memory in the short time they've had the car. "There were over 1,000 cars there this year," he says. "We were very proud that [our] '73 raised money for the kids."

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