You've seen this Corvette. Not just here, in print, but in person. Especially if you've been in and through California's Central Valley over the last 45 years, or wherever Pat Garrahan's driven it. That's how long it's been his daily driver. A C1 that's covered (as of this writing) over 711,000 miles!
Pat bought the Vette from its original owner in October 1963-it had been sold new at a Chevy dealer in Dinuba, a short drive from Pat's hometown of Fresno. It was a clean, well-maintained, one-owner Vette, but it wasn't quite the beauty you see here.
Under the hood, a different induction system resided than what's atop the original small-block V-8 today. "Originally it was a 283 with 270 hp, with two four-barrel carburetors on it," Pat says. "It had the two fours on when I got it, and after about a year, I put the fuel injection on it." Lest you think that he salvaged a Rochester mechanical fuel-injection setup from one of the 1,040 '57 Corvettes that were built with it, he didn't. Instead, it's off one of the 940 fuel-injected '59 Vettes, possibly salvaged from a totaled car or one that was taken off by an owner frustrated over its failure to run right.
Pat's a mechanic by trade, and regular maintenance of every system and component on his '57 helped him pile on the miles over time. That holds especially true for the fuel-injection system. "I've worked on it about three or four times," he says. "I just maintain it." Also different: the transmission. A three-speed manual went in on the line at St. Louis Assembly, but now it's gone. "I put a Tremec five-speed in it about five or six years ago," Pat says. "I always did cruise OK on the highway with the three-speed. It was just that I had high revs-at 60 mph, it would be around 3,000 rpm or better." That made for a healthy sound to some Vette lovers, but not to others. "People said, 'Man, you're going to blow it up!' Well, I proved them wrong-I'd been driving it that way all the time." Now, with two extra forward gears, Pat says his 283 turns around 2,000 rpm at 60, which also helps his fuel mileage "a bit."
Three speeds or five, Pat's Corvette has been around. Exactly where has he-and does he-drive it? "Everywhere," he says with pride. "I drive it to and from work. I drive it basically every day." He adds that it has traveled far afield from Fresno. "I've been to 10, 12, 15 different states [with the '57]. I've been into Canada with it-never been to Mexico. We took it on trips, weekend trips, that sort of stuff." Lest you think he only drives it in mild weather, think again. "I've driven it in the rain, in the snow-I drove it across a river one time, right though a river when I was about 20 years old," he says. "I've taken it everywhere, but I don't beat it anymore like I used to."
He has, however, replaced items that wore out, such as seat covers and carpets, more than once. "I don't know how many sets of seat covers or carpets I've gone through," he says. "You get a hole in them; you just replace them. A lot of times when I bought seat covers, I'd buy two for the left and one for the right."
Nowadays, the '57 stays close to home. "Up until the last couple of years, everywhere we've gone, we've taken it," says Pat. "Finally, it just beats you to death. I ended up buying an '03 Corvette to take on trips. I guess the older you get, the more it beats you up."
There's no secret to this Vette's long life: regular maintenance, a devoted owner, and luck in avoiding crashes that would have written it off. Pat says that, if you're looking for a Corvette to own as a daily driver, maybe a C1 might not be the best choice for you as it was for him four and a half decades ago. "It depends on what they're looking for," he says when asked if he has any advice for prospective first-time Corvette owners. "If they're looking for an old one, I don't think they're going to drive it as a daily driver. Almost any Corvette, I think, is in good shape-most people take care of 'em. And, naturally, with the newer ones, you can find a high-mileage or a low-mileage one, and they're still about the same price. The price doesn't change much, from what I see."
And time doesn't diminish a Corvette's beauty, no matter how many times the odometer's been around.