Remarkable. That's the very first word that came to mind when I initially laid eyes on this car about seven years ago. The odometer indicated that a wee bit more than 1,800 miles had been traversed. But the car told a different story. It looked as though it had even fewer miles. In short, it looked absolutely, utterly brand new. The brightly colored 1975 Chevy Corvette Stingray was then 18 years old, and the only component out of roughly 16,000 odd bits and pieces that had been changed was the battery. That's it! The tires, hoses, belts, spark plugs, soft top, exhaust system and so on were the very ones installed by the ladies and gentleman working on the assembly line in the St. Louis Assembly Plant. And they were in virtually perfect condition, with no wear or symptoms of old age visible anywhere. Fast forward to the present, and little has changed other than the owner. The previous owner substituted new tires and wheels for the originals, which were put into storage, and added 1,200 "maintenance" miles to the clock in the intervening seven years.
Current owners Bruce and Ken Silber possess an uncontrollable affinity for low mileage, pristine, unrestored automobiles and have many examples in their collection. This one, however, was the easiest purchase they ever made. "I looked at it for literally 10 seconds before buying it," recounts Bruce. "The seller made it clear that his asking price was firm, I thought it was fair, and the integrity of the car was apparent immediately." Besides the low mileage and impeccable condition, which by themselves would have been enough to induce immediate purchase, there were also several other factors that attracted the Silber brothers. Chief among them was the fact that the car is a convertible, one of only 4,629 built in 1975. And as most Corvette enthusiasts know, '75 was the last year a drop top was offered until the body style was re-incarnated in 1986.
In retrospect, it seems borderline ridiculous that starting in 1976 Chevy chose not to offer an open-air version of its flagship car. After all, for the first 10 years of production a convertible was the only body configuration offered, and after nearly a quarter-century of production, open-air Corvette motoring was a tradition as firmly entrenched as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. Adding to the seeming irrationality of dropping the ragtop was the fact that everything needed to build it was already in place. It wasn't as though GM had to invest millions in development and tooling to bring something new to market.
In reality, however, it wasn't really Chevrolet that chose to kill the convertible. Instead, it was the well-meaning but hopelessly clueless bureaucrats in Washington, as well as market forces, that did away with it. Only 4,629 roadsters were produced in 1975 because only that many buyers wanted one. This was the lowest production of any model Corvette since 1956, when a total of 3,467 cars were built.
Adding momentum to the movement away from open cars were the increasingly stringent safety demands emanating from federal legislators and regulators. Such demands grew out of the overall sentiment held by many, especially those in the insurance industry, that open vehicles were simply less safe than closed ones.
When the last convertible Corvette rolled off the assembly line in July of 1975 many believed we would likely never see another one. As a result, '75 roadsters were immediately accorded a special status among collectors that has not diminished in spite of the re-introduction of the body style in 1986. While that special status among collectors led to a significant number of '75 convertibles being put into storage when they were new, most have seen significant use in the intervening 25 years. People had delusions that the cars would be worth a fortune in the future, but as with '78 Pace Car and '82 Collector's Edition, the "investments" didn't pan out. After many years of essentially stagnant selling prices, a lot of people asked themselves why they were devoting space and money to insure, store, and maintain a car that was not increasing in value. It began to look a whole lot more sensible to either sell the still-new '75 roadster sitting in the garage and put the money into something that would produce a return, or get it off its blocks and drive it once in a while. A lot of people chose the latter, making low-mileage, unrestored examples rather unusual today. The fact that this car was rarely driven is all the more remarkable when one considers the way it is equipped. Older cars frequently don't get used because they are so uncomfortable compared to more modern rides. The Silber brothers' pristine roadster is loaded with options however, including air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, power windows, both hard- and soft-tops, and custom leather interior. All of these conveniences, in concert with a silky-smooth-running L48 mated to a Turbo 400 automatic, make this a phenomenally comfortable grand touring machine. As with all of the cars in their collection, the Silbers use the '75 infrequently enough to keep the miles down and preserve its originality, but often enough to give it the exercise it needs. "This is a fantastic car to drive," reports brother Bruce. "It runs and handles like a new car." That's not the least bit surprising when you consider that in spite of the intervening quarter-century, this car is indeed new.