It started like so many other Corvette stories begin. A young guy graduates, gets his first real job, saves up a little money, and looks to fulfill the nearly universal desire of young guys in the '60s and '70s-to buy a Corvette. And, as is also so common, his hopes were large but his budget small.
So Rob Sutter scoured the classifieds until he found a Corvette within his limited budget. His find? A '59 basket case the previous owner had disassembled, begun restoration on, and then ran out of money and enthusiasm. If you've been in this hobby for very long, you'll recognize this story has played out repeatedly ever since the earliest Corvettes were built.
Fortunately for Rob, an aspiring welding engineer, he had a circle of motorhead friends, who each had certain talents that could put this ambitious project car back on the road again. Joe Drum had acquired body and paint skills that made him the point man for the fiberglass repair and the application of a new black-and-silver "wardrobe" for the car. Another friend, Bruce Jones, just happened to have a spare small-block race motor for his "slingshot" dragster, and this way-too-radical engine found its way into the engine compartment of the '59. Bob Morgan and other friends chipped in mechanical skills, materials, and more than a few beers, and a year later, the car made its maiden voyage(s), with Rob taking his friends for a ride around the block, one at a time. They all sat on the passenger's side floor since he hadn't quite located a passenger's seat.
And so Karen Ann, as the '59 came to be known (for reasons that will not be revealed in this family-oriented magazine), was reborn.
Each of the others in Rob's original circle of friends came to own Corvettes and musclecars of their own. Bruce bought a '65 big-block roadster that he still owns (originally a 396, now fitted with a 427); Joe bought a '68 427/435 roadster; and a few years ago, Bob, a top wrench at a FoMoCo dealership, bought an '87 coupe. Yet another friend bought a '73 roadster, and still another bought a '58 original dual-quad car. For several years, the group logged miles, burned Sunoco 260, and shared talents, beers, and camaraderie in keeping the fleet running.
Rob married his sweetheart Bonnie and began building his career in engineering. At the same time, they bought a very nice and very drivable, full-optioned '72 coupe. The simple fact was, the dragster race engine in Karen Ann was just too radical to drive on the street, and no amount of detuning could change that. And so the Corvette got tucked under a car cover and was rarely driven.