1953 Chevrolet Corvette - Kool Kustom

Collector John Goodman Now Owns A True Piece Of Custom-Car History

Iain Ayre Apr 9, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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The Lincoln headlight surrounds are mounted at a more aggressive forward-facing angle compared to their vertical angle in the Lincoln, while spotlights have replaced the original conventional headlights.

Much of the research on the early part of this car's life was carried out by Byron Cooper, who, as an awestruck kid of 14, watched it being built. He finished up promoting the Corvette Expo in Knoxville, so the car obviously made a huge impression on him. The custom-car scene was primarily happening in California, so Buster was rather out on a limb in Tennessee and kept in touch by reading customizing magazines.

In 1963, Buster sold the by-now 10-year-old Corvette for $1,000 to Stanley Stevens, who had just come back from serving in the U.S. Army in Germany. At that point the Corvette was running an injected '57 Corvette V-8. Stanley already knew the car, as he'd previously worked at Rogers Cadillac in Knoxville, across the street from Morris' service station. He had sat in the '53 as a kid, caressing the steering wheel and gazing down the long bonnet at distant imagined horizons, then admired it rumbling down the street on many occasions, and finally he owned it. It would've been a moment of pure joy for any gearhead.

Stanley drove the '53 to Florida and used it daily for a couple of years, changing the injection system for a single two-barrel carb when it became troublesome. In 1966 he moved to Atlanta and sold the car in Charlotte for $1,200. At this point the car's history comes to an abrupt dead end-nobody knows what happened to it between 1966 and 1989, but none of it was good. It finished up wrecked, stripped, and abandoned with a bashed-in right-hand door and only a few remnants of its blue paint job still adhering to it.

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Can't help but think that this side view looks a lot better than the stock '53 Corvette, but of course another six years of progress in dramatic body styling had taken place by 1959.

As early Corvette values rose, Ted Harris of Harrisburg, North Carolina, rescued the remains and offered it for sale. East Tennessee Corvette Club member Wayne Pope went to look at it, but decided the $10,000-plus asking price was too high for a wreck. The word spread, and finally Steve McCain of Greensboro bought it with the intention of restoring it to stock. However, the car's character got to him, and he spent 6,000 hours restoring the car back to Buster's version of it. Steve probably put many more hours of work into the car than Buster, so he was entitled to rename the car "Harerazn" and to add a period-permissible caricature of Bugs Bunny on the trunk lid. Steve's months of labor paid off as the car won many awards and magazine articles, including Chip's Choice at Carlisle, Boyd's Pro Pick at Indy, ISCA Best Radical Custom, and Top 25 Customs of America.

The car then was sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction to Terry Michaelis of Pro-Team Corvette Sales. Terry in turn brought the car full circle back to the Knoxville Expo, just a few miles away from Beaty Chevrolet's original Knoxville location. Buster wasn't there to see it, as sadly he died in a car crash in Alabama in 1999. However, his daughter Tracey was presented with the three awards the car won at the Expo on its 50th birthday. She hadn't yet been born when the customized car was first sold.

The '59 V-8 engine and mechanicals were long gone, as the car reappeared in 1989 as a stripped wreck. The current engine is a 283 with three two-barrel Rochester carbs, which look absolutely right and make full use of the hoodscoop. The gearbox is a Muncie four-speed, and the axle is a '56 Corvette posi. The rest of the replaced missing parts are a mix of rebuilt original pieces and restoration replica parts. The interior in Shoreline Beige is brand-new, and as the car has only been driven a few miles since restoration and will only be driven a few miles a year from now on, it should remain that way. The Kustom and the other cars in John Goodman's collection are all started up at least once a month, although the fact that he races several of them means that concentrating on prerace maintenance and prep work cuts down the time available to be spent on the road cars.




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