1959 Chevrolet Corvette - From The Land Of Oz

Restored '59 Has Its Own Tales To Tell

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We call the home of this restored C1 "The Land of Oz" for three simple reasons. The first one is obvious—owner Marc Osmun's home in Fulton, New York is located a short drive north of Chittenango, the hometown of Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum.

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The second is the story that Marc told us about the '59's history, one that even the imagination of L. Frank Baum never dreamed of when he wrote about yellow-brick roads. For openers, Marc says that much of the '59s ownership history is difficult to trace until the time that his friend, Larry Barnes, bought it from Ronald Ajemian, owner of the Liverpool Country Club at the time. Ron had owned it for 20 years and purchased it from David Niles Rosen in March of 1977. "I received a box full of receipts, registrations, and restoration photos with the car that took me a while to sort out and categorize," Marc says. "I traced it back to the guy who he bought it from. My best guess is that there have been four to five owners, including myself." Outside of the frame-off restoration that it received in 1982, its build date at St. Louis Assembly (November 21, 1958) and its original selling dealer (Marsh Hallman Chevrolet in Albany), little else was known about the car's history.

What was apparent, when Larry bought it, was that this car had been well-preserved, given Central New York's harsh climate—and that Marc wanted it if Larry didn't. "It wasn't bad, but it needed a lot of cosmetic work," Marc recalls and adds, "I was with Larry when he bought it, and I told him, 'I'll tell you this. If you're not buying it, I'm buying it!'" At that time, Marc's friend had another C1 (a '62), which he later sold—before selling the '59 to Marc. "One day, I was catching a ride to work from a mutual friend of ours, who said that Larry told him at dinner the night before that he was selling the '59, because he'd been bitten by 'The Harley Bug'.

As soon as I got to work, I called Larry and said, 'What's this about you selling the '59?', and he said 'Yeah, I'm going to buy a new Harley—I have one all picked out, and I need the money from the Corvette.' I told him, 'We have a deal, you always promised me first refusal,' and he said, "Yeah, but you're not going to want to pay me what I want for that car.' I told him, 'We're going to negotiate—don't you sell that car, I'll be over after work!' I went over, and we struck a deal, and that's how I ended up with the car."

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What he ended up with was a Corvette that had something big going for it—an undamaged, uncut frame. Marc says, "I saw that it had the frame-off back in '82, and when that was done, they had the frame all sealed and dipped, so this frame had never been welded on. It was in great shape." Between those frame rails, however, was not the original 230-horsepower 283. That was in a crate that came along with the car, as the '59 had a later 350 in it when Marc bought it. But that engine stayed in as the cosmetics were attended to. "When I bought it, I had it repainted," says Marc. "Another friend of mine who does body work, Fred Bidwell, gave me a good deal on it, but I had to wait three years for him to finally get to it. I also put some tires on it, and some other things, but Larry freshened the interior up while he had it. Since the frame of the C1 is one of the few big metal parts of the car, Larry wanted to undercoat it all for further peace of mind."

After Marc purchased his new black C6 coupe (plated "OZS 06", of course), it was time to pull the original 283 out of its crate, rebuild it, and swap it back into the '59. "Now that I had the C6, and figured it would be unlikely I'd take the '59 on many long trips, it was time to put the 283 back in," Marc says. "I was very happy to get it when I purchased the car, but I had it bumped it up internally to around 300 horsepower. Once I did that, I found that there's not a lot of difference in power from the larger 350—that 283 is an amazing, high-rpm machine with lots of torque." A .060-inch overbore and an L79 327-grind hydraulic cam were additions made to the 283, whose casting numbers turned up some interesting history. The block was apparently a leftover '58 casting that was in Flint Engine's inventory when the '59 model run started, while the cylinder heads had 1960 casting codes on them.

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