When I first read an e-mail sent to Corvette Fever late last year from someone saying they had a friend who owned a Corvette that had almost 400,000 miles, lots of ugly Corvette images flashed through my head. You know what I am talking about: very ugly Corvettes in junk yards without engines, faded and peeling paint, broken fiberglass all over the place, with interiors ripped apart and doors left wide open to the elements. The kinds of images that make you want to go throw up somewhere. As I read the e-mail further, the friend shared that this was a one-owner Corvette that was still seriously sharp after all these years, but had been driven relentlessly since day one. Any car with 400,000 miles usually isn't a pretty sight, but a Corvette, worthy of being in a magazine? Jest you say! I just had to investigate this anomaly a little more just to make sure we didn't miss a great Vette. Boy, am I glad I did!
Barry Caparotta of Cream Ridge, New Jersey, relates, "1978 was a year of major change in my life. I had always wanted to own a Corvette. Since my favorite motto is 'life is no dress rehearsal,' I decided to go ahead and buy one. I went to a local dealership where a friend of mine sold cars and ordered a brand-new '78 Mahogany Metallic T-top. A few months later, I changed careers and entered the life insurance business with Northwestern Mutual. In August 1978, I married my lovely wife JoAnn. I'm proud to say, 27 years later, I have the same wife, the same job, the same car, and I plan to keep all of them."
Since Barry drove the Vette the first 365,000 miles with the original engine (engine was stock except for a set of valve guide seals and a timing chain replaced), you can bet the bank that he didn't just buy the coupe to drive it only on Saturdays and Sundays. He drove the Corvette almost exclusively and enjoyed every minute of it. He continues, "My customers have grown up with the Corvette and rarely a day goes by when someone doesn't ask me about it. Knowing how much I drive it, the main question is: how many miles are on it? After passing 100, and then 200, and then 300,000 miles, it makes for some fun conversation, and I love to talk about it."
After this many miles on a stock Corvette, the complete car was looking a little less desirable and in need of some TLC. Skip Pardi, a customer of Barry's and a very good mechanic who has worked on his Corvette over the years, asked Barry what his plans were for the car. He wasn't exactly sure, other than he wanted to keep it. Skip suggested if Barry wanted to continue to drive it, he should consider upgrading the motor to a tuned port for better efficiency and performance. Barry immediately liked the idea and went to see Ron Nowacki, owner of Corvette Paramedics. Ron was also a customer of Barry's, and he began to look for a new engine for the car. He eventually found a low-mileage '88 Corvette Tuned Port powerplant, CPU, and the matching 700 R4 transmission. The package was purchased and the resto project began. Skip then installed the complete new powertrain.
The original steering also needed to be rebuilt, and Ron suggested changing over to a rack-and-pinion setup, since the car was no longer completely stock. Barry thought this improvement was a great idea, so an aftermarket rack-and-pinion was installed. Barry says the steering now feels and drives great. At that time, Barry decided to forgo the paint and interior restoration and just drive the car the summer of 2004, making sure everything mechanical was going to "cut the mustard."
In the fall of 2004, while driving home from a customer's home one evening, Barry encountered a deer that ran into the front of the Corvette, practically ripping off the headlight assembly; then it slid across the hood and the windshield on the passenger side. With the T-top off and traveling approximately 40 mph, this made for a very traumatic moment. Luckily, he wasn't hurt, but this little adventure expedited the final phase of the restoration.
The Corvette was then taken to Friends Collision Center for the new bodywork and paint. They replaced the front bumper cover with an original spec reproduction and changed the rear cover with a '82 reproduction for a different look. Barry kept the original color scheme, which is Mahogany Metallic with a doeskin interior. After the accident, most all the necessary parts were provided and the interior restoration was completed by Corvette Paramedics. Barry conveyed that he would like to commend their staff and technicians for all the technical support and excellent service they have provided throughout the restoration process, particularly during the final phase.
Barry shares, "My 27 years with my Corvette has been a lot of fun, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I suggest to anyone who doesn't currently own a Corvette and would like to, just remember, life is no dress rehearsal." We couldn't agree with you more, Barry! CF