In 1961, I had my first ride in a Corvette. It was my Uncle Bally's car, a Roman Red '60 with white coves. When we hit the main road, my Uncle flashed the chrome shifter through the gears. We could really appreciate the sound of the exhaust with the top down. As the speed increased, I was mesmerized by the big, half-moon speedometer with its needle sweeping higher and higher. "Can you make it go 100, Uncle Bally?" I remember that we got pretty close! I also remember keeping a pretty tight grip on the big grab bar in front of the passenger seat. Whenever I could, I hung out with Uncle Bally and the Vette.
By the time I was 12, my family was living near Detroit. A close family friend who worked for General Motors had just taken delivery of one of the first 1968 Chevy Corvette coupes. Knowing that I loved cars-Corvettes in particular-he stopped by to give his little buddy a ride, one I'd never forget. Looking at the photo taken right after we got out of the car, that ear-to-ear grin tells you the hook was set! It was only a matter of time before I'd have my own Corvette!
This family friend had other nice cars-a '66 Jaguar XK-E, a '48 MGTC, and others-but none made the impression on me that this Shark did. It was a musclecar and a sleek sports car, all rolled into one. The view out the windshield of the fenders arching sharply over the front wheels, the throaty exhaust note, the fresh air and sunlight streaming through the open T-Tops and removable rear window, all made a long-lasting impression. Throughout my childhood, I made models of Corvettes, cut pictures out of magazines, and pointed out every Corvette I saw on the street. Finally, the time was right. I studied issues of VETTE and Corvette-related books. I developed charts comparing the performance figures, features, and market prices of the Sharks by year and model. I scoured the classified ads for months, looked at lots of Vettes for sale, and made a couple trips to Corvettes at Carlisle. Surprisingly, I ended up finding the car of my childhood dreams only five miles from home, sitting in a yard with a "For Sale" sign on it. It was a '69 coupe. The car had been garaged for years. Generations of spiders had made their webs under this car. But it looked ok, ran well, and was almost entirely original. I looked it over carefully, then bought it!
I traced the car's background and found the original, and most notable, owner. When I called him, he told me he'd purchased the car just days after returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam. Flush with his service pay, the guy bought the car right off the showroom floor. He had some great stories, including how he'd once run the car over 150 mph! He sold the car when family and financial responsibilities required more practical transportation.
As the restoration began, the car required more work than I'd expected. Just about every part on the car was checked, cleaned, repainted, replated, or replaced. Even parts that looked pretty good weren't close enough to perfect, so off they came. I did most of the work myself, but got help from a local shop when it was time to rebuild some major components and pull the body for framework. A nearby body shop, run by a retired tug boat captain who only works on Corvettes, repainted the car, returning it to a slightly updated shade of its original Riverside Gold. Two-and-a-half years later, with a file of receipts from almost every Corvette parts supplier in the country, the restoration of my Shark was done.
As is the case with many beautifully restored cars, I ended up investing more in the car than I'd expected. But I have no intention of selling it. This wasn't a "cosmetic resale job"-I intend to grow old with this Corvette! I drive the car almost every sunny weekend. During the week, and all winter long, my Vette stays snuggled in on the top "bunk" of a double-park hydraulic lift.
So, perhaps the Corvette of your childhood dreams is out there, just waiting for you. Mine was!
Editor's Note: This series spotlights reader experiences with their own Corvettes, described in their own words. To be considered for publication, submit 20 vertical-format 50-100 ASA slides and your own typewritten Corvette experience in 500 words or less to: Me & My Vette, Vette Magazine, 774 S. Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870. Please send your submission on computer disk when possible. If we use your story, we'll pay you $75. Be sure to include your Social Security number.