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The Time Machine

A "One-Driver" '69 Corvette.

Richard F. Newton Feb 1, 2001
0102_VEMP_01_z_TIME MACHINE AC86 2/1

We've all heard of one-owner cars. This Riverside Gold '69 convertible isn't a one-owner Corvette, but it's essentially a one-driver Corvette. Of its several owners, only one person ever really drove this car-a little, and not-so-old, lady from Alabama we know of only as Mrs. Rose. She took delivery of this Vette on January 3, 1969.

Mrs. Rose drove her convertible around Alabama for seven years, then traded it in for a new model, and from the time it left her garage for the last time, it's hardly been used at all.

If you take a close look at this totally original Corvette you'll suddenly realize that this is a Corvette for the female gender, or at least the type of female that lived in Alabama in the '60s. It's pretty much a base '69 Corvette-standard vinyl trim (black), base 300hp small-block, automatic trans. It has the usual assortment of options: Positraction rear with 3.08:1 gears, air conditioning, power steering and brakes, AM/FM radio, and tilt/tele steering column. There are two options of interest. The first is that Mrs. Rose ordered her convertible with the hardtop only, no soft top. This leads to a second interesting option. This Stingray is one of the few convertibles ever built with a rear window defroster. When you consider that there's no convertible top, just the hardtop, it makes a lot of sense. The lady obviously knew how to order a Corvette that would suit her own specific needs.

Fortunately, right after Mrs. Rose traded in the '69, a collector ran across it and immediately put this unique piece in his controlled storage area, where it resided for the next 20 years. Hey, if you're going to survive you may as well do it in comfort. This is one reason you might even call this Corvette a time capsule.

During those two decades, only 805 miles were put on this Corvette. After this long hibernation, the car resurfaced in January, 1996 in a Pro-Team ad that read "'69 Corvette convertible, Riverside Gold, with complete documentation and only 7,900 miles . . .." This was when Barry Lash of Sanford, Florida, first ran across the car. Barry's quest to own the gold Vette was about to start.

When Barry checked on the car he found that not only did this Corvette have complete documentation, but it also had an absurd price tag. Barry had finally found the Corvette of his dreams, but the current owner was having dreams about how much money people would pay for an old Corvette. When your daily business is buying and selling cars you do have a certain sense of reality-even if you're truly lusting after a car.

Then one Tuesday morning in March 1997, Barry was at a wholesale auto auction in Orlando, purchasing cars for his dealership when he fell into shock over a mystery gold Corvette being run down the auction lane-a low-miles and very original gold '69 Corvette convertible with a factory hardtop. How did the car of his dreams end up in a dealer auction?

It turns out that a gentleman in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, had purchased the '69 Corvette with the intention of using it as a daily commuter. He had started negotiating with Pro-Team in January 1996 and finally, eight months later, they reached an agreement. Then the new owner moved his business.

All of the plans about driving the car five miles back and forth to work became just one more unrealized fantasy. This gentleman was not into large garage decorations so he decided it was time to move the '69 out of his house. He drove it down to the local Chevrolet dealership and traded it on a brand-new Corvette.

Very few new car dealers have any interest in old cars. They're not the type of car you place on your used car lot and hope that someone with a decent credit history comes along. There was only one thing to do with the gold Corvette-wholesale it. This was where Barry and his dream car would meet again.

When Barry Lash looked over the old convertible at the wholesale auction, he noticed the odometer was at 8,200 miles. At this point he still didn't realize it was the Corvette of his fantasy. Finally, the light in his brain went off and he realized that this was the very car he'd seen advertised in the Pro-Team flyer.

The good part was that none of the dealers were willing to meet the reserve on it, so it was taken out of the auction lane and parked out back in its numbered spot. This was where Barry wrote down the VIN number, then checked with Pro Team to see if it was indeed the same Corvette he'd lusted after. It was!

After a conversation with the wholesaler, it was obvious that the reserve price wasn't going to change. In fact, the broker was intending to run it back through the auction again. If you don't succeed at first, try again.

This time Barry was prepared; he was not about to be surprised. He even called the auction and found the gold Corvette's run number. This gold survivor was brought up the lane and in a matter of seconds the bidding was over. (Remember, dealer auctions go a lot faster than the kind we see at Carlisle and Bloomington.) When the dust settled Barry had gone $50 over his budget and was high bidder. There was only one problem-his high bid was way below the reserve. He knew the Corvette was going to elude him one more time.

The auctioneer turned to the wholesaler and said, "That's the best I got ya." At this point Barry started to walk away with a broken heart when the wholesaler picked up the envelope with all the original records, turned to Barry, and said, "You bought it."

Barry Lash had finally become the custodian for the car of his dreams. He drives it once a month, about 10 miles, and even has an extra set of wheels and new tires for this exercise.

They just don't get any more original than this gold '69 Corvette, right down to the balancing marks on the tires. This was one Corvette that not only survived, but did so in perfect fashion.

What's A Survivor?A couple of decades back, many of us went crazy restoring every Corvette we could find. In a way, we destroyed a lot of perfectly good Corvettes doing this. Think about what you do when you restore a Corvette; you take the car apart and refinish every single part in the car. Every bit of original paint, chrome and vinyl gets replaced.

Restoration of a nice original car is, in a way, destruction. After you remove every bit of originality you try very carefully to put the car back together. As you reassemble the Corvette you'll take every single precaution to match the finish that you destroyed in taking it apart. You will most likely also put this Corvette together using the NCRS judging manual as a guide. When you're all done you have a beautiful Corvette that will not only win some tin trophies, but you will also have destroyed everything that was done by the original assembly line workers at the Corvette plant.

Both Bloomington Gold, a corporation that certifies Corvettes, and NCRS, a club that will also certify your Corvette as being original, use original condition as the criteria for judging. After you have totally destroyed all the original items in your Corvette you must very carefully attempt to match what you just destroyed. That's the nature of the modern restoration world.

This process caused a lot of people to reflect on the simple fact that if we went about destroying, or restoring, all the original Corvettes in the United States we wouldn't have any cars left that represented the actual original. The standard for judging a restoration would no longer exist. Thankfully, a number of top Corvette gurus reached this conclusion about 20 years ago.

This rather obvious realization led to the creation of the Survivor judging category. If your Corvette was original you would no longer have to have the car judged alongside a mega-buck restoration. A Corvette owner with an original car would be encouraged to keep it original. This was the origin of the Bloomington Survivor and NCRS Bow Tie classes.

Now several decades later we've all come to realize that these authentic survivors are the truly valuable Corvettes. An original Corvette cannot be re-created, although several restoration shops are trying really hard. It can only come off the assembly line once.

When it comes to the marketplace the original Corvette is always going to worth more than the restored car. This is one reason you're going to pay top dollar for a truly original Corvette. The only way you're going to one of these highly prized Corvettes is to write one very large check.

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