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A "Second Career" Garage Nestled In The Woods Of North Carolina

Alan L. Colvin Dec 29, 2009
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Well here we are again with another killer garage as promised in our last installment as we are soundly resurrecting this popular component of Corvette Fever. Again, if you haven't responded to the call I put out before asking for more cool garages to run in this same space, please drop me an email to let me know what cool garage you own or you have located in your own neighborhood. Now, let's visit The Harper family garage in Raleigh, North Carolina!

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After a lifetime of admiring Corvettes, retired accountant Bob Harper's "second career" evolved into Corvette restoration to the delight of his wife Sharon and son Rob, both Corvette enthusiasts as well. It wasn't until Bob's retirement in 1990 that their involvement in the hobby really began. Since that time, they have restored several cars, acquired some very unique and special Corvettes, and have met many friends in the hobby. Their love of the Corvette began in 1994 when they purchased a fully optioned '72 Targa Blue LS-5 convertible that was in dire need of a complete frame-off restoration. This car has become one of the very special cars in their collection and really ignited their passion for the hobby.

Active in local and national Corvette clubs, NCRS and NCCC, their passion quickly outgrew the small attached two-car garage of their existing home. The new garage was originally designed as an add-on to the home, but those plans changed several times. The decision was then made to build the new garage detached from the original house, angle and shift it 35 feet to allow for the addition of a side garage door on the work side of the garage, and then also provide ample room for a drive and parking pad between the two structures. Additionally, an external stairway from the parking area was added to the back of the new structure to provide access to the open multi-purpose room upstairs without compromising space at the garage level. Initially set up as an office and parts storage area, the upstairs also now accommodates a modular HO model train layout, which has been another passion of Bob's for many years. The second floor was designed with the unique feature that there are no supporting structures, walls, or columns on the floor space and it has created a massive area for multipurpose use now and in the future. Both floors have full bathrooms and additional comforts such as a kitchen and sitting areas for guests.

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Another unique feature of the garage is the division of the "work area" for some of the cars from the "clean" show area for restored and Survivor cars. This feature was one of the focal points of building the garage and it was designed to have one side displaying several of their very special cars in their collection, and then there would be a space on the other side for working on current projects and routine maintenance of their cars. The two areas are divided by a wall with 42-inch-high glass windows and were installed just above the proper height for the work bench area and these large windows, one of which is over nine feet long, running the width of the building straight down the middle of the garage space. There is a door with full length glass that provides easy access between the two sides. This feature provides great visibility between both sides of the garage.

Another unique feature includes separate air handling systems that protect the restored and original Survivor cars on the show side from any fumes and dust of the work side. Each of the air systems on the garage level also utilizes electrostatic clean air filters to keep the dust in the air to a minimum around the cars. The open upstairs area also has its own air handling systems which makes for four separate air units on the outside of the building.

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A lot of additional thought and preparation was put into the functional aspect of the building. They added hot and cold water outlets throughout the structure and have internal shut-off valves for each water outlet. This allows for hot and cold water at almost every corner of the garage, inside and out. The hot water is fed by a tank-less hot water heater that resides in the first floor storage room just off the work area side. In addition to the plumbing for the water, they also added copper plumbing throughout the structure for compressed air at several points. With an air compressor installed in the first floor storage room, they have easy access at almost every wall for compressed air to run many types of tools and equipment.

Additional thought was put into having easy access to electrical power. There are many power outlets installed on each wall, both close to the floor level at about two feet, and then additional outlets at four feet off the ground. The thought was in a garage, you can't have too many outlets for easy access to power.

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Along with the electrical access, a lot of thought was put into the lighting for the structure inside. Dual tube eight-foot florescent lights were installed throughout. These provide excellent lighting in each space. Some additional track lights were added in the ceiling of the "show" side so that they could be moved and positioned on certain cars and memorabilia that are on display there. In the work space, a 7,000-pound capacity Stinger four-post lift was installed. The optional castors were purchased with the lift and allow for easy movement of it throughout the garage.

Car projects range from simple repairs to a frame-off restoration of the previously mentioned '72 454 convertible, which has won numerous trophies and NCRS Top Flight status. A recently completed project was the frame-on restoration of a Marina Blue '67 big-block coupe that is now a recreation of one of the few 67' L89s ever built. This last project in the garage became the source for many great evenings and days spent working on the car with family and friends. Their son's wife, Anna, helped out on it as well and completes this family affair. Rob also credits the help of friends like Kyle Wilson, Dave Hitchens, Tom Buddy, Mark Shellberg and many others that came by the garage for the success on the car. Many evenings and weekends find the Harpers and friends pursuing their hobby in the garage. The Harpers are enjoying seeing old cars reborn and new Corvette enthusiasts created!

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Corvettes in the Harper collection include:
1956 - Current project undergoing a frame-off restoration. Black/ Silver cove/Red interior car. 225 HP dual quad car with manual three-speed. It is now at Rick Osborne's shop, Coastal Corvettes in Ash, NC and is receiving paint and body work.

1960 - Red/White cove/Black interior four-speed car. Car was a high horse car, with the 6,500-rpm redline tach. Nice driver and used for local cruising.

1967 - 427/435 Marina blue Coupe, "Project L89." Rob built this car from a NOM '67 coupe after buying a motor/intake/carbs off a '69 L89 and the goal was to build a fairly accurate recreation of a '67 L89. Rob had a relatively small budget in mind and he really wanted to feel what it was like to drive one of the rarest Vettes ever produced. The paint and body was recently finished by Scott Lawrence at Phoenix Restorations in Kernersville, NC.

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1967 - all original 427/390 horsepower Marina Blue convertible. This car has 33,000 unrestored miles and still has its original paint, interior and drivetrain. It has received several Top Flight awards and is currently still being shown and judged.

1972 - Targa Blue LS-5 convertible that is fully loaded and received a complete frame off nut and bolt restoration. This Vette has the standard blue interior, four-speed, air conditioning, and a complete list of additional options. Upon completion of the restoration, this car has received numerous awards that include many NCCC "Best of Shows" and NCRS Top Flight awards. This is the car that began their passion for the hobby.

1972 - Targa Blue LS-5 frame-on restored convertible that is the "twin" to the above mentioned frame-off restored Vette. This car is almost identical to the one above with the exception of an automatic transmission and a black deluxe interior. Both '72 Corvettes were built only 18 days apart.

2001 - Navy Blue Metallic convertible that is fully optioned.

By The Numbers Garage Specs
• Lower Level: 40' x 60' x 12' ceiling, plus 6' x -12.5', storage room. 9'x 5' bathroom in garage area
• Upper Level: 40' x 60' x 10' ceiling at apex. Bathroom 9' x 5'.

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• 2 x 6 framing
• Insulation = Walls R19; blown-in ceiling R30 12/4 and 12/6 Pitch
• Fully finished walls and ceiling painted off-white
• Double-hung ultra-tilt low-e argon windows (Ten 32" x 74" (lower level) and Ten 32" x 62"and three 32" x 74" (upper level)
• Doors: three garage doors 10' x 10' with windows in top section installed as "high-lift". Two garage doors on front of building, one on side. Three 3/4 HP Lift-Master electric garage door openers.Entry doors from front, rear, and storage room.

Concrete Floor
• Per code, poly moisture barrier, steel mesh, 4-inch concrete.

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Floor Coating
• Sherwin-Williams Tile Clad High Solids Epoxy applied to concrete floor.
• Surface prepared according to label directions.
• Upstairs: Glidden Porch and Floor Polyurethane oil applied to T4 flooring.

• 8 foot long fluorescent lights consisting of two rows of two 4' lights
• Nine lights on work side; Eight on show side; Twelve upstairs; bank-switched in groups.
• Six adjustable track lights on show side.

• Stinger ET four-post 7000 pound capacity with 110V power unit, caster kit, drip trays, jack bridge, aluminum ramps, and drive-through capability

• 200 amp service with separate breaker box for each level. 220 V for compressor. 120 V circuits for lighting and wall outlets. Ceiling outlets switch controlled. Phone and cable outlets in work and show garage areas and upstairs. Wall-mounted TV and DVD/VCR in work area. Standby Power: None

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Heating and Cooling
• Four 2-ton capacity heat pumps, 12 SEER; Evaporation/Air handler units mounted in ceiling/attic; thermostat controlled; electrostatic air cleaners

• Interior and exterior hot and cold water spigots at garage corners; wash up-sink, bathroom. Tankless hot water heater.
• Floor drain: None

• NorthStar Electric Stationary Air Compressor - 5 HP, 80 Gallon, 15.9 CFM At 90 PSI, 230 Volt, Located in storage room to reduce work area noise, In-wall compressed air outlets in work and clean areas as well as upstairs

Tool Storage
• Craftsman and Suncast tool chests, fixed and rolling benches.
• Wall Storage: None

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• Award plaques, framed photos, Corvette automobilia. Working stoplight

• Stacked washer/dryer; under-counter refrigerator; 6-ton hydraulic press; 20-gallon parts washer; 2-ton engine lift; three 1,500 pound engine stands: Mixed media blast cabinet; 5 gallon adjustable oil catch pan; floor jacks and stands.

'72 Bryar Blue Coupe Spotlight
One of the prized Harper Corvettes is a '72 Bryar Blue metallic LS-5 454 CID 270 horsepower two-door sports coupe with automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, and power windows. Built on June 6, 1972, as one of 1,059 coupes with Canadian base equipment, this coupe was shipped to Central Chevrolet Oldsmobile LTD in London, Ontario, Canada. After being purchased on June 21, 1972, it was driven less than 1,000 miles by the Canadian owners and then spent the next 25 years wrapped in blankets in their living room. The car is unusually well preserved with currently only 1775 actual miles.

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The masking tape on the shims, which was placed on them at the factory, are visible today along with grease pencil markings on the body. It has the original battery with the 1972 date code. The original air and oil filters are still on the car and the original tires have the different colored marks for the various size weights placement on the inside of the wheels. Additionally, an extensive amount of original paperwork has been preserved. Among the documentation obtained with this vehicle are the original receipts and bill of sale from the dealer. Several pieces of the documentation are in both French and English as required in Canada.

The car was brought to the US in late 1997 and has since earned many awards and certificates. The National Corvette Restorers Society' Top Flight awards were earned in 1998 and 1999; the NCRS-Zora Arkus-Duntov Mark of Excellence and the NCRS-Chevrolet 4-Star Bowtie Award were earned at the 1999 NCRS National Convention in Sun Valley, ID, August 8-13, 1999. In June 1999 at Bloomington Gold Corvette USA, it was Bloomington Gold Certified by the National Corvette Certification Board (Certificate Number 2989), earned the Bloomington Gold Survivor Certificate of Historic Preservation (Certificate Number 1546), and the Bloomington Gold Benchmark, just one of 70 Corvettes to have received the honor at that time.

The car was invited back to Bloomington in 2000 to be in the Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA "Special Collection XVI- Benchmark 2000" held June 22-25, 2000. At the 2000 NCRS National Convention held at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, July 23-27, 2000, the car received the NCRS-Chevrolet 5-Star Bowtie Award. In November 2000 at the Chevy/Vettefest Nationals, the car earned the Gold Spinner Concourse award and the Triple Crown award as well as being an invited participant in the Chevy/Vettefest Nationals "Chevrolet and Corvette Showcase." It was chosen to be on display at the National Corvette Museum to represent the 1972 model year for the Corvette 50th Anniversary celebration. Subsequently, it was an invited participant in the National Corvette Museum's 10th Anniversary displays and it was on display there for over two years. Additionally, in recognition of its originality, it has been used at chapter, regional and national NCRS meets as part of judging schools.



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