Of the first-generation Corvettes, the '62 is the one that's likely been raced the most, Vette-rodded the most, and restored the most. That's thanks in no small part to the '62s highest-of-all-C1s production total (14, 531) that rolled out of St. Louis Assembly during its thirteen-month-long model run. Some Vette historians say that long run resulted from frustrated would-be Jaguar XK-E and Studebaker Avanti customers going with America's Only True Sports Car when they'd had enough of the competitors' production and delivery delays.
One Indiana Corvette lover is fond of those '62s, especially Vette-rodded ones. John Irvin owns the black beauty you see here, and he's got another '62 in the works. He says, "We've had more fun with that car. We are building another one right now that's going to top this one. It's going to be a sister to it, and it's going to be in red. It should be done in August."
In the meantime, John and his wife, Chris, are enjoying their black C1, which John first laid eyes on at Mid America Motorworks' Corvette Funfest and bought from fellow enthusiast Bob Shetler a few years ago. John is a long-time Corvette enthusiast, with a particular fondness for one year. He says, "I love the new Vettes, but I'm a lover of the old ones, especially the '62s-the last year of the C1s. That was the year that I graduated so I have always been fond of the '62s."
John's black '62 ventured down the Vette-Rod route long before many other Corvettes-in this case, before the '60s ended. in 1968, Bob-then an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper-bought it as a wrecked stocker with heavy crash damage to the right front, a torn-up interior, a broken transmission, and a missing engine. He intended to rebuild it, but first he needed to learn how to repair fiberglass. Which he did, and in the process, gained a reputation for quality fiberglass work that turned into a side business, keeping him busy for the next couple of decades and also keeping the '62 in storage. When he could, Bob sought out parts to use on the '62 some day.
Finally, in 1988, Bob set to work on his car. He added a ducktail to the rear body, much like the one seen on C3s. he also added rear fender flares and a hoodscoop, plus he trimmed the rocker panels 2 inches to clear the side-exhaust system that he had in mind. (That's along with the crash-damage repair he did in order to have an intact body to modify.) For a powertrain, he transplanted an upgraded L98 TPI small-block V-8 out of a wrecked '88 Firebird, which also donated the ECM, wiring harnesses, sensors, and other parts needed for the swap. A same-vintage Camaro yielded a Borg-Warner T-5 five-speed manual transmission that was swapped in along with a Hurst shifter, but not before a custom-machined '82 Corvette bellhousing went in to enable the newer engine and transmission to fit and work in the C1 chassis.
Plenty of attention went into the interior, along with later-model GM and aftermarket parts. That includes a restored stock '62 Vette steering wheel, a Sun Supertach in the trimmed-to-fit stock tach housing in the dash, a tilt steering column from a Chevy van, cruise control from the same Firebird that yielded the engine, an AM/FM stereo radio/tape player from a Cavalier Z24, and a pair of restored stock '62 Vette bucket seats upholstered in Lipstick Red leather.
This black '62 has the look of a car that was upgraded not long after delivery to its first owner. The slotted Billet Specialties Legacy wheels look like they came from Halibrand's Wheel Works in the early '60s, and the huge side exhausts are simple and straightforward, not the twist-into-one-big-tube style that hit the market in the '70s. The hoodscoop, ducktail, and rear fender flares are so subtle-and well-executed-that they look like they were Regular Production Options back in 1962, not items added later. That's a sentiment that John echoes, "Once the back was finished, we wondered why it wasn't done that way at the factory!"
The updates and upgrades all added up to one distinctive C1, which saw its license plate change from Ohio to Indiana when John bought it from Bob. that meeting at Mid America Motorworks' Corvette Funfest resulted in more than a Corvette changing hands. John says, "When we bought this car, we became good friends with Bob. It turns out that they're our best friends now. It's really fun going to these shows."
What's it like to drive? "With all the upgrades on it, it rides as good as the C5s," John says. That's especially true after John did one modification that Bob had looked into, but hadn't done: a Heidt's front suspension. "When I first got the car, I redid the whole front end, and that made the ride completely different. Bob said that was the only other thing that he would've done to it. So I went ahead and got it done, and it changed the ride completely," John says.The new front end makes for a lot smoother ride, especially on the roads of the Midwest. "You can hit a chuckhole with that thing now, and you'll hardly feel it. In the older '62s, you'd feel all those in the road."
John's advice isn't just for folks looking to go the Vette-Rod route. "You might die tomorrow. Live today, and if you can afford it, enjoy it. That's what my wife and I are doing. I'm in my early '60s. I've had a heart attack, and I just live for those car shows. "
Data File '62 Corvette Convertible
Owned by John and Chris Irvin, Crawfordsville, IndianaOne of 14,531 Corvettes built in the last year of C1 production